By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – Though the West De Pere football team jumped out to an early two-touchdown lead in its postseason opener, it was the defense that shined throughout.
The Phantoms had a nice mix of offense and solid defense en route to a 27-0 victory over Menomonee Falls in a WIAA Division 2 Level 1 game on Oct. 20 at West De Pere High School.
“The defense played phenomenal,” West De Pere Coach Chris Greisen said. “I was proud of how the guys played.”
With the victory, the No. 4-seeded Phantoms (8-2) advanced to Level 2 where they will take on No. 1 Kaukauna (9-1) on Oct. 27.
Kaukauna posted a 33-14 victory over No. 8 Brookfield Central in its Level 1 game.
In Week 2 of the regular season, Kaukauna escaped with a 25-22 victory over West De Pere in a game that came down to the wire.
“Kaukauna is a great team and well-coached,” Greisen said. “We’ll have to play well. Hopefully, we’ll be the ones to come out victorious.”
After Carter Schmitt took the opening kickoff to the Menomonee Falls (6-4) 38-yard line, Andrew Baumgart scored on the first play from scrimmage, but a penalty wiped out the touchdown.
Not to be denied, the Phantoms scored on their next play from scrimmage when Duke Shovald connected with Ben Lemirand on a 45-yard TD pass 29 seconds into the game.
Brandon Schaefer’s extra point attempt clanged off the right post to keep the score 6-0.
“We wanted to come out and be physical,” Greisen said. “We saw some man-to-man coverage we thought we could take advantage of, and we executed.”
On West De Pere’s next possession, it went 76 yards in five plays to go up 13-0 six minutes into the game.
The drive culminated with a 37-yard TD run from Baumgart.
Later in the second quarter, the Phantoms had another TD called back from a penalty.
“In the second quarter, we stopped executing,” Greisen said. “We had another touchdown and big plays called back – it was ridiculous. When we executed, we played well. When we didn’t, we looked like an average team.”
West De Pere went up 20-0 near the end of the third quarter when Shovald hit Joey Riesenberg on a 14-yard TD pass.
One play before Riesenberg’s catch, Baumgart bolted 54 yards to set up the score.
Menomonee Falls had its best chance to score halfway through the fourth quarter.
The Phoenix began the drive at their seven-yard line and advanced to the Phantoms’ four, but the defense stiffened and forced a turnover on downs.
“It all starts with our defensive coordinator (Kegan Wirtz),” Baumgart said. “He watches so much film and puts us in a good position based on the formation the other team is running.”
After a couple of penalties, West De Pere faced a third down from its one-yard line, but Baumgart bailed his team out with a 69-yard run out of the wildcat formation.
“Coach Greisen usually puts me in during the heavy set,” Baumgart said. “With two fullbacks in front of me, there’s not much a defense can do about it. I just have to follow my blocks and run.”
Later in the drive, backup quarterback Max Kozicke connected with Riesenberg on another 14-yard TD to end the scoring.
Baumgart said he and his teammates know what to expect from Kaukauna.
“We know what they like to do and what they don’t like to do,” he said. “Coach Wirtz will get us ready and make sure we know what they’re running and how to stop it.”