West De Pere pounds Holmen in playoff opener
By Greg Bates
DE PERE – Six days after learning they were snubbed with their playoff seeding, the West De Pere football players took out their frustration on their opponent. And in a big way.
West De Pere scored on its first seven possessions of the game and its opportune defense created three turnovers against Holmen in a 56-7 victory in a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) Division 2 Level 1 playoff game on Friday night at West De Pere High School.
The Phantoms, which were seeded No. 3 in their sectional, feel like they deserved at least a No. 2 seed after an 8-1 regular season and their only loss coming to the top-ranked team in Division 1, Bay Port.
“This proves we shouldn’t be a 3 seed,” West De Pere wide receiver Ryder Lesage said. “Going out and winning 56-7 just goes to show it.”
The chip on the shoulder of the West De Pere players is real. It just gives the Phantoms more incentive to have a strong postseason.
“We know what we’re capable of. We know how good of a team we are,” West De Pere defensive back Thomas Walder said. “They might have (under seeded) us, but we’re just going to keep playing and make a run in the playoffs.”
West De Pere coach Chris Greisen liked how his guys were prepared for the game and the postseason.
“It was a total team effort, all phases of the game,” Greisen said. “Proud of the kids, the way they came back after a tough loss with Bay Port. But they were focused this week and we talked about seizing the day and seizing the moment, and that’s what you have to do in the playoffs. They did a great job of
West De Pere (9-1) didn’t waste any time striking on offense.
After a pitch to Lesage, Phantoms quarterback Duke Shovald snuck out of the backfield untouched and Lesage floated a 5-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Shovald in the end zone.
“Working on it all week, really excited about it,” Lesage said. “It almost got taken out of the playbook, but then we executed it. We’re really happy.”
After West De Pere’s defense forced No. 6-seeded Holmen (5-5) into a three-and-out, the offense went to work again.
This time, Phantoms running back Najeh Mitchell had a 21-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0.
“We knew we had the capability of doing that and now it’s just a matter of actually doing that,” said Greisen about jumping on Holmen early and often. “By being focused in, and we made a few adjustments because we made a few mistakes, but we were able to overcome them. Boy, I thought
Duke just played really well tonight. Minus a few short throws to Langdon.”
Holmen fumbled on its next series and Isaac Kaster recovered for the Phantoms.
On the very next play, Shovald connected with Kaleb Cameron for a 16-yard touchdown.
Another defensive stop by West De Pere and the ball was back in the offense’s hands. Lesage took a pop pass from Shovald and raced 12 yards for a touchdown to give the Phantoms a 28-0 advantage.
After getting the ball back, Shovald threw a perfect pass down the left sideline that Lesage caught in stride for a 32-yard score.
Lesage joked that he threw a dime to Shovald and his quarterback returned the favor.
“That’s how it goes,” Lesage said. “That’s how it’s going to be the rest of the rounds.”
Holmen scored right before half, but West De Pere needed just 19 seconds to respond to that touchdown. Shovald threw a screen to Mitchell, who did the rest, racing 36 yards for a score and it was 42-7 at halftime.
Mitchell, who finished with 13 carries for 104 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, rumbled 41
yards for a score early in the third quarter.
Greisen kept Holmen’s defense on edge by having Mitchell run the wildcat, taking direct snaps a number of times throughout the game.
“With our offense, we like to say we have a full holster of bullets,” Greisen said. “Our kids are so smart when it comes to football. They’ve learned a ton over the last couple of years, so they understand what we’re trying to do and that we can get different looks running the same plays that we normally do. Ken Golomski (former Ashwaubenon football coach) told me one that when you get in the playoffs, ride your house. That’s a good horse to ride. What a great game he had.”
Patrick Greisen hit Keon Kirk for a 40-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter to finish off the scoring.
Shovald finished 11-for-13 passing for 163 yards, four touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
Langdon Nordgaard had six catches for 71 yards to lead the Phantoms.
For how impressive West De Pere’s offense was, the defense smothered Holmen’s potent rushing attack. They were held to 136 yards on 38 attempts.
Holmen’s option offensive scheme was neutralized by West De Pere. Greisen said the main reason for that was because his guys read their keys.
“In an offense like this, the option, you better read your keys,” Greisen said. “They would admit, they did not do a good job of reading their keys last week against Bay Port, against a really good team. Arguably, we had one of the worst games defensively we’ve ever had. But this week, Kegan (Wirtz,
defensive coordinator) told me on Thursday, ‘We’re ready.’ I’m like, ‘OK.’”
“Coach Wirtz, he came up with a good defensive scheme,” Walder said. “We had to trust in our teammates and all play for each other and do our job. We went out there and executed and we got the W.”