Bay Port, Pulaski both looking to advance to state semifinals
By Greg Bates
BROWN COUNTY – And then there were two.
Bay Port and Pulaski are the lone Green Bay-area football teams that survived past Level 2 of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association playoffs.
Both teams face tough tests this Friday, Nov. 5, as second-seeded Bay Port travels to No. 1-ranked and undefeated Franklin in Division 1 action, while No. 3-seeded Pulaski hosts upset-minded Hartford, the No. 4 seed, in Division 2.
The kickoff for both games is 7 p.m.
Not counting last season’s alternate spring campaign, Bay Port is making its fifth consecutive trip to the third round of the playoffs.
In 2019, the Pirates placed state runner-up but fell in Level 3 in 2016-18.
After Marquette tied the game at 7-7, Bay Port ran off 42 unanswered points.
It was the three-headed monster of quarterback Cole Bensen and running backs Tevyn Montgomery and Blake Buchinger that led the way for the Pirates.
Bensen rushed 14 times for 155 yards and three touchdowns.
He also tossed a 37-yard touchdown pass to Sam Barry.
Montgomery had 13 carries for 79 yards and three scores.
Buchinger added 87 yards on 16 attempts as Bay Port ran for 324 yards.
Bay Port’s rushing attack is leaving opposing defenses off-balance.
“It’s like thunder and lightning,” Bay Port Head Coach Gary Westerman said. “Tevyn Montgomery, he’s like a guard carrying the football. Blake Buchinger is like lighting in a bottle. You can’t tackle him in a phone booth. Then, Cole Bensen, I was proud of how he finished his runs this past week. It’s been something we’ve been talking about and then working with – don’t stop and get tackled and finish your runs. He certainly did.”
Bay Port will need to control possession and grind the clock against Franklin (11-0).
The Sabers eked out a 10-7 victory over Oak Creek in Level 2, overcoming monsoon-like conditions, Westerman said.
Make no mistake, 10 points is an anomaly for Franklin’s electric offense.
In its first 10 games, the team averaged 51.3 points per game.
“They throw the ball all over the place,” Westerman said. “For the most part, they’re a spread-type offense.”
Quarterback Myles Burkett, a verbal commit to Wisconsin, is having a phenomenal senior season.
He’s 148-for-208 through the air for 2,242 yards with 28 touchdowns to two interceptions.
Franklin has four receivers who have caught four or more touchdowns this season.
Reese Osgood leads the way with 40 receptions for 727 yards and 10 scores.
Running backs Tanner Rivard and Terrance Shelton have combined to rush for 1,108 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Bay Port’s defense has played solidly all season, allowing 14.3 points per game.
“We always want to pressure the quarterback, and we’ve got some good edge rushers who will play huge this week,” Westerman said. “Then, keep everyone in front of you, tackle. Continue to make a passing team drive the field. You don’t want to give it to them in a big chunk, that’s critical on defense. If you give up big chunks of yards, it’s hard.”
Getting healthy is a major priority Westerman said.
Fox River Classic Conference Defensive Player of the Year JoJo Azure is battling a hamstring injury.
The linebacker played early in the Level 2 game but was held out late.
Defensive back AJ Courchaine hadn’t practiced for two weeks but played last week.
Defensive back/linebacker Landon Gauthier has a cracked rib and played.
Offensively, wide receiver Brett Shipley was probable but didn’t play.
“We’ve had lots of kids step up down the stretch,” Westerman said. “We’ve had some injuries, but we’re fired up for the kids’ opportunity on Friday.”
The only time Pulaski football has advanced to Level 4 of the playoffs was in 1997.
The Red Raiders will have their shot to match program history against Hartford (8-3).
Pulaski (9-2) is coming off a grind-it-out, 10-7 victory over Slinger.
Hartford, which has posted tight victories in each of the first two rounds, outlasted top-seeded De Pere 43-42 in overtime.
De Pere beat Pulaski 17-14 in the regular season.
In the Red Raiders’ Level 2 win, they moved the ball well – running for 230 yards – but it could only get in the end zone once.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a handful of times,” Pulaski Head Coach Jerad Marsh said. “We had some drive-killing things happen inside the 30, and it would push us back to the 35. We’d get a holding penalty, or we weren’t sound on our blocking scheme. It kept us behind the sticks.”
The Red Raiders rely on their 1-2 punch in the backfield of Aaron Maroszek and Maverick Cole.
Maroszek ran 18 times for 120 yards and a touchdown last game, while Cole – the team’s leading rusher on the season with 1,005 yards and 14 scores – had 12 carries for 82 yards.
Pulaski runs a balanced single-wing offense.
“It’s neat that it’s an unselfish group,” Marsh said. “They want to see the success of other guys. If there’s a guy with a hot hand, they have no problem sliding that guy over and continuing to lead block for him.”
Hartford runs a similar offense (a double-wing scheme) and has a formidable 1-2 running punch in AJ Pepin and Noah Deibert.
Pepin was one of the leading rushers in the state during the regular season and has 1,403 yards and 16 touchdowns.
But it was Deibert, all 5-foot-5 of him, who terrorized De Pere.
He had 17 carries for 125 yards and three touchdowns.
On the season, he has 872 yards and 16 scores.
“As good as they are running their offense right now, I wouldn’t expect them to change a lot,” Marsh said. “That number 9 (Deibert) is an extremely hard runner. He keeps his feet going and has a low center of gravity. He’s impressive to watch.”
Marsh said he knows his defense will be up to the challenge.
It’s allowing 10.2 points per game on average and has held six teams to seven points or less.
“It’s a senior-laden group,” Marsh said. “Our linebacker corps is good. Our D-line has done a nice job, and they’re an athletic group. Our secondary, that’s where we start with everything. We have an intelligent group back there that gets everything set right. Having guys who are confident with what they have to do allows them to play fast, and our coaches do a nice job.”