Zortman and Sommers still friends after Shorewood/Messmer routs USM, 42-7
Greyhounds depth too much for Wildcats
Right before the kickoff of their Midwest Classic Conference football opener on Friday, Shorewood/Messmer coach Drake Zortman and his University School mentor Brian Sommers walked out to midfield to shake hands and exchange pleasantries.
"And we both said 'I hate this,' " said Zortman about playing his old friend and longtime coaching companion. "It's really hard when you care about somebody that much to have to do something like this (play against one another), because somebody has to lose."
Only it wasn't Zortman's Greyhounds, as they turned in an impressive effort in knocking Sommers' game, but much too young Wildcats for a loop in a 42-7 decision.
And in Sommers' mind, he's not going to hold the outcome against his old pal.
"Naw. We go back to something like 2002 at Homestead," he said. "I still remember sitting in Drake's apartment in Thiensville and him teaching me parts of the Homestead offense, and now, here we are going against each other.
"We both like to do things a certain way, and we both like to win (a lot), but this is how it works and it just happened that we were on each other's schedule for this week."
With the win, Shorewood/Messmer improved to 2-0 while USM fell to 1-1.
Greyhounds program is tough
And Sommers only sees the Greyhounds getting better.
"The days of Shorewood being at the bottom of any conference they're in are long gone," he said. "They're big, physical, and Drake has them mentally prepared every time they go out. Both administrations are big backers and give him great support. He's just the right guy at the right time for that program."
But all that praise didn't mean that Zortman's kids were going to go easy on the Wildcats.
And it started right from the beginning, as, in an odd turn of injury turned opportunity, the night got off to a great start for the Greyhounds and a bad start for the Wildcats. They were going to punt, but because the Greyhounds' top punt returner (also defensive back, offensive threat, etc.) Donovan Freeman was out with an injury, Zortman decided not to put a man back.
That confused the USM kick team and to make a long story short, the exchange between snapper and punter wasn't the cleanest. That resulted in a fumble that Shorewood/Messmer's Darren Thomas-Virginia recovered for an easy touchdown.
"The only reason I did that is because Donovan was hurt, and our second best returner is Taylor (Dennis, the team's quarterback) and I wasn't about to put him back there in just the second game of the season," Zortman said. "Trust me, it wasn't brain surgery on my part (laughs). I just didn't have anybody."
And that decision on Dennis proved to be a good thing, because the junior quarterback had a career night hitting nine-of-nine passes for 179 yards including a 25-yard second half touchdown strike to Alec Grimmer.
"He actually had an incompletion but it was called back because of a penalty," Zortman said.
The Greyhounds built a 21-7 halftime lead with the help of a 10-yard run by Dennis and a two-yard run by Grimmer.
USM made an effort to stay in the game in the latter stages of the first half with an impressive 16-play drive that concluded with a two-yard Michael Tucker TD run.
"That was a great drive on their part, they converted three or four downs and we just could not get off the field," Zortman said.
But in the end, Zortman and his group had a little too much for his old friend's team.
"We really had to execute because this was a better opponent (than Milwaukee Hamilton) and because of the respect we had for their (the Wildcats') program," Zortman said. "We were a little fatigued early but gradually as the game went on, we were able to take control. We got our legs under us."
Grimmer has solid outing
Grimmer, who went on to have two more TD runs in the second half (one and 24 yards) finished with 157 yards on 22 carries while USM quarterback Zach Erickson completed 13-of-27 passes for 115 yards.
"Losing nine seniors from our team last year just hurt," Sommers said. "We have 33 total players and 25 of them are freshmen or sophomores. Our upperclassmen are phenomenal but there are just too few of them."
And Sommers was disappointed in one more respect.
"I just wish we would have been able to give them a little more," he said of the outcome, "but Drake's team came out ready to go physically and mentally."
Zortman was pleased with the effort, too, and noted that it's great to have a player like Grimmer, who never leaves the field, on his side.
"The kid is in such great physical condition, I just do not worry about him," Zortman said. "He's as fresh at the end as he is at the beginning."
But he knows this win is just a beginning.
"We have a sign (in the locker room) that says 'We're going to be 1-0 tonight,' " he said, "and if we string enough of those kinds of nights together, we'll get back to the (state) playoffs."
Shorewood/Messmer visits St. John's/Northwestern Military Academy for a 2 p.m. game Saturday while USM hosts Oostburg in a nonconference game at 7 p.m. Friday.
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