LEVEL 2 PLAYOFFS: Bay Port advances with big second half
By JOSH STALOCH
SUAMICO – The Bay Port Pirates were behind by a touchdown early on Friday night at home against Wausau West but came right back at the visiting Warriors and scored 21 unanswered points on their way to a 35-14 victory in a WIAA Division 1 Level 2 game.
“(Wausau West) is a good football team, right? I mean, they’re (9-1) and they’ve been running teams over,” Bay Port coach Gary Westerman said. “So, I thought we really stayed with it tonight, and now we’re going to get to play Appleton North.”
After a slow start and a scoreless first quarter, it was the No. 4-seeded Warriors that got on the board first on back-to-back big plays from Ray Reineck.
Reineck blasted through the middle for a 55-yard run to the 4-yard line before punching it in on the next play to make it 7-0 following the extra point by Allison Raasch.
Top-seeded Bay Port started the ensuing possession on its own 40-yard line. Quarterback Cole Bensen began settling in, hitting Blake Buchinger with a nice pass on a second-and-6 to move the chains. On first down, Bensen, who finished the game 9 of 16 for 212 yards and three touchdowns, evaded pressure and tossed one downfield to a wide open Brett Shipley, who had no trouble getting into the end zone to tie the score at 7-7 with the extra point made by Owen Bellisle.
“I just watched it all the way in, then tried to score,” Shipley said of his first touchdown reception on Friday. “But yeah, I definitely had my eyes on it, you don’t want to drop one of those, pretty important.”
With time winding down on the first half, the Warriors found themselves in good field position at their own 47. However, on first down, quarterback Vince Hanz tried to get a pass downfield to Brett Butalla, but Bay Port defensive back AJ Courchaine won the battle for the ball, coming up with an interception to give the Pirates the ball at their own 27.
Bensen came up with a first down using his legs before, on a first-down play with time winding down, he found Carter Kallies with a deep ball that got the team down to the Wausau West 8.
On second down, Bensen made a great read to find tight end Collin Gehl — who had a step on his defender moving to the left corner of the end zone — with a good pass for a 14-7 Bay Port advantage heading into halftime.
The Pirates showed no sign of letting up to start the third quarter. Bensen’s ability to run the ball was making things difficult, picking up multiple first downs on the opening drive. A deep pass to Shipley drew a pass interference call and then Tevyn Montgomery battered the Warriors’ defense with several hard runs, including a big one on third-and-4 to move the chains.
Montgomery’s gritty runs paid off later in the drive when he got the nod on a second down from 3 yards out, taking it up the middle for a Bay Port touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
Before the satisfaction of that sustained scoring drive to open the third had worn off, the Warriors cut the lead to one score thanks to Reineck tearing his way up the sideline on the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown.
Rather than get rattled, though, the Pirates put together another scoring drive, capped off by another big-time pass from Bensen to Shipley for a 54-yard touchdown.
“We’re getting it together play by play, week by week,” Bensen said after the game Friday. “We’re playing very physical football right now and that’s what it’s all about this time of year.”
The Bay Port defense did its job to hold the visitors scoreless the rest of the way and Buchinger, who finished a big night with 150 yards on 27 attempts, scored from 9 yards out late in the fourth to wrap things up.
Bay Port will now host No. 6-seeded Appleton North, which beat No. 2 Hudson, 17-0. The Lightning feature an exceptional defense that hasn’t allowed a point this postseason.
“Everybody’s really good at this point. When you get to the state quarterfinals, everybody’s got a chance,” Westerman said. “We get to play at home against an excellent team. So, our kids are going to practice well this week and be ready to play on Friday.”