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Bay Port prevails over Ashwaubenon in wild finish

By Murray Gleffe

SUAMICO — Every time Bay Port and Ashwaubenon meet on the gridiron, you never know what to expect.

On Friday night, the teams combined for 885 yards of offense, 45 second-half points and five turnovers in a contest that wasn’t decided until the final play

Sophomore Blake Buchinger scampered 23 yards into the end zone with less than a minute remaining in the game to give Bay Port a 39-34 Fox River Classic Conference victory Oct. 15 at Bay Port High School.

“We battled and persevered through some injuries tonight,” Bay Port Head Coach Gary Westerman said. “The pick and onside kick were huge for them. We knew coming in it would be a battle. They are a good team … much different than from the beginning of the season. I’m proud of our guys. It was a helluva run at the end by a special sophomore running back.”

Pirates quarterback Cole Bensen went 8-of-12 passing for 184 yards and three touchdowns.

Buchinger rushed for 175 yards, while Tevyn Montgomery added 57 yards on the ground and two scores.

Defensively, Avery Avestruz had two interceptions for Bay Port.

The Jaguars were paced by their junior signal-caller Boone Kirst, who threw for 326 yards and a solo touchdown.

Wide receiver Rhett Jonas hauled in nine receptions for 217 yards and a score in defeat.

Bay Port struck first near the end of the opening quarter.

With several injuries at the skilled positions, Brett Shipley stepped up and caught an over-the-shoulder 36-yard touchdown reception from Bensen to give the Pirates a 7-0 lead after the extra point.

“Brett was a late move from cornerback,” Westerman said. “We’ve brought him along nicely. He showed his explosiveness in the first quarter.”

Ashwaubenon handed Bay Port the ball right back, but Alex Bostedt stepped in front of a Bensen pass and took the interception 25 yards to the end zone to even the game after the extra point.

Each team notched a score in the second quarter to make it 14-14 at the half.

The fun was about to get started.

The Pirates scored 88 seconds into the third quarter after Bensen found Sam Barry for a 69-yard touchdown and a 21-14 lead after the extra point.

The Jaguars responded with a Reed Deterville-Kehler 1-yard plunge into the end zone to even the score at 21 apiece after the extra point.

The Pirates built some momentum toward the end of the third quarter and into the final quarter with back-to-back scoring drives.

The first was an 8-yard touchdown run by Montgomery.

The second was a 17-touchdown reception by Buchinger who had to corral the ball three separate times before it was snug against his body.

That made the score 33-21 with 10:47 remaining in the game.

The extra point after the Montgomery score was blocked, and the 2-point conversion attempt after Buchinger’s score failed.

However, Ashwaubenon wouldn’t go away.

A Kirst-to-Jonas connection from 57 yards out cut the deficit to 33-28 after the extra point.

Then, with 1:09 remaining after a Bay Port punt, Andrew Pludeman dashed in from two yards out to give the visitors a 34-33 lead after the 2-point conversion failed.

With plenty of time still showing on the clock, Bay Port received a break after the Ashwaubenon kicker booted two straight out of bounds.

The Pirates eventually started their game-winning drive at their 46-yard line.

A couple of runs and key completions to Barry set up the game-winning touchdown with 26 seconds left.

A last dash trickeration play for Ashwaubenon ended with a fumble.

No. 2-seeded Bay Port (8-1) will host No. 7 Manitowoc Lincoln (4-5) Friday, Oct. 22, in a WIAA Division 1 Level 1 playoff game.

Despite its 3-6 record, the Jaguars advanced to the WIAA Division 3 playoffs as a No. 8 seed and will travel to No. 1 Luxemburg-Casco (9-0) Oct. 22.

“At this stage, it’s win or go home,” Westerman said. “We’ll prepare like we do each week.”

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