De Pere beats Southwest on late touchdown
By Greg Bates
DE PERE – The first three weeks of the season, De Pere’s offense struggled.
The Redbirds couldn’t muster scoring drives longer than 30-40 yards. But now that quarterback Easton Arendt and his teammates are feeling more comfortable five weeks into the schedule, results are showing up and points are lighting up the scoreboard.
Those first three weeks, De Pere didn’t win a game. The last two weeks, the team hasn’t lost.
Against an evenly-matched Green Bay Southwest squad on Friday night, De Pere coach Ben Strickland knew his team would have to put up some points because the Trojans can do the same on offense.
With the game tied 21-21, De Pere got an interception and cashed in with a late touchdown. Then the Redbirds’ defense held on to score a 28-21 victory in Fox River Classic Conference (FRCC) play.
“It really helps winning a game like the way we won tonight,” Arendt said. “It will obviously motivate and make us push even hard to keep winning.”
The game came down to the final possession, something Strickland anticipated.
“We knew watching on film that it was going to be a four-quarter game,” Strickland said. “They’re a team that we felt we matched up well against and I’m sure they felt the same way with us, so we knew it was going to go the distance. I’ve felt like our kids have continued to grow week to week.”
Southwest (1-4, 1-2 FRCC) had a chance to take the lead late on the road, but quarterback Mason Meyer put up a jump ball to his receiver and De Pere’s Grant Faber corralled an interception.
Starting at the Southwest 44-yard line with just 4:03 remaining, De Pere’s offense went to work.
Up to that series, Michael Alexander only had one carry in the game. The senior bruising runner ripped off runs of 20 and 16 yards to give the Redbirds first-and-goal at the 10.
In the shotgun, a bad snap hit the turf next to Arendt and Alexander at the 15. Both guys struggled to put up the ball, but Arendt scooped it up and somehow found a whole in the Green Bay Southwest defense. Arendt scampered 10 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:49 remaining.
That play happened just the way you drew it up in practice, right, Coach?
“We’ve had a couple fumblerooskis in practice and so that was good to see them execute that in the game,” joked Strickland.
“I was trying to get it and do whatever I could with it, and then I saw the hole cutting back and I’m like, Oh, glory. Touchdown,” Arendt said.
Southwest got the ball back and marched down to De Pere’s 31-yard line and time winding down.
Quarterback Mason Meyer launched a pass to the end zone, but De Pere defensive back Greyson Fezatte hauled in an interception with just 3 seconds remaining.
Southwest co-head coach Aaron Van Eperen was happy with how his players battled, but he was disappointed in the loss.
“That was a true you don’t know how the ball is going to bounce at the end of the game and that’s what happened down there where they fumbled the snap and they pick it up and it’s kind of scramble mode and they made a nice play and scored,” Van Eperen said. “Other than that, it felt like a back-and-forth game, and the ball didn’t bounce our way at the end.”
In a seesaw evening, De Pere (2-3, 2-1 FRCC) struck first when Hayden May took a pitch, raced around the edge and scored from 13 yards out.
Southwest (1-4, 1-2 FRCC) answered as Meyer scored on a 3-yard touchdown run midway through the first period to make it 7-7.s
On its next drive, Southwest took the lead as Connor Pytleski took a simple swing pass on a third-and-2 and raced 47 yards for a touchdown.
The Trojans’ lead didn’t last.
A 20-yard Arendt to May connection set up the Redbirds at Southwest’s 16. A couple plays later, Arendt scored a 2-yard touchdown run to tie it.
In the third period, Arendt hit Grant Hohol across the middle of the field for a 16-yard touchdown pass.
Southwest, again, scored when Jacob Hanson ran for a 29-yard touchdown to make it 21-21.
That set the scene for De Pere scoring the go-ahead score.
Both teams’ stats are nearly identical in many areas. Southwest actually outgained De Pere, 316-309 yards.
Arendt finished 10-for-19 passing for 103 yards and two touchdowns.
Koskey had 102 yards on 19 attempts to lead the Redbirds runner. May was the top receiver with four catches for 46 yards and one touchdown.
For Southwest, Meyer was 13-for-19 for 138 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown.
Hanson had his second straight big game with 22 carries for 143 yards. He also led the defense with nine tackles, including two for loss.
The win gives De Pere a little momentum heading into its showdown at West De Pere next Friday.
With the Phantoms coming into the game 5-0 and state-ranked, that might give De Pere a little extra to know it could knock off one of the best Division 2 teams in Wisconsin.
“I think you don’t ever have to pump up the rivalry anymore and I think for our guys, they know and grew up playing with those guys and against those guys, so it will be a fun week preparing for them and obviously they have some explosive kids on offense and they’re stout all the way around,” Strickland said. “We’re excited for the challenge to be able to prepare for them this week and have a great battle.”
Arendt is looking forward to his first time playing in the De Pere-West De Pere rivalry.
“It’s big because it’s east and west,” Arendt said. “Winner gets all, I guess.”