By Greg Bates
SUAMICO – Bay Port had just taken a 14-0 first-quarter lead, and West De Pere football coach Chris Greisen needed to have a word with his players on the sideline.
“Coach Greisen took us aside and basically just said, ‘If this is how you want this game to be, this is how it’s going to be,’” West De Pere quarterback Duke Shovald said. “It was on us to change it. We flipped our energy and everything and everybody just started to click.”
West De Pere got right back into the game with a touchdown, defensive turnover and touchdown. Tie game.
And with a flip of a switch, a possible blowout turned into an exhilarating game between two undefeated teams.
“I didn’t think we were out of it, but I wanted them to wake up,” Greisen said. “I challenged them, the whole team. I said, ‘I don’t know who you guys are, because it’s not the Phantoms. Where’d the Phantoms go?’
“They responded well. I’m proud of them.”
Ultimately, West De Pere, the No. 3-ranked team in Division 2, fell to the top-ranked team in Division 1,
34-27 on Friday night.
Greisen has talked to his players all season about G.R.I.T. On the back of the players’ helmets is an acronym which stands for Grind, Responsibility, Intensity, Trust.
The Phantoms team showed a lot of grit with adversity starring them right in the face.
“It shows that we trust in each other, we trust each other to do our jobs,” said West De Pere linebacker Thomas Mudd, who had an interception and fumble recovery. “Everyone plays for everyone. No one plays selfishly. I really appreciate that from my team.”
West De Pere dug itself a hole after the tough start. It had to play catch-up the entire game as the Phantoms never led.
“We didn’t play real well early,” Greisen said. “We weren’t fundamentally sound. We got out of our gaps defensively. We missed some shots early on — we had open receivers — we just didn’t hit. But I give the kids credit, they battled. We talk about grit all the time, and they started doing a pretty good job. Credit Bay Port, they played better than us at the end and we just didn’t make enough plays.”
Shovald believes the loss provided the West De Pere players with a learning lesson.
“Probably how good we are and how good we can be,” Shovald said. “I didn’t make plays down the stretch and it affected us.”
West De Pere defensive back Carter Schmitt knows he plays on a solid team. The Phantoms’ performance in the final three quarters against Bay Port just further solidifies that the junior knows.
“When you can play with the number one team in the state, I think we can play with anybody,” Schmitt said. “I think we’re all just looking forward to seeing who we play and getting to work right away. I think we’re really built to make a really deep run in the playoffs this year.”
The playoffs will offer West De Pere a clean slate and the opportunity to start another winning streak after its eight straight victories was snapped in Week 9 of the season.
“It gives us a chance to redeem ourselves,” said Mudd about playoffs. “We don’t ever want to feel like this again, so let’s get it done in the playoffs and get that gold ball.”
By Greg Bates