Homestead vs. Whitefish Bay: Will history prevail again in critical football showdown?
Blue Dukes have come close to knocking off Highlanders
No, Whitefish Bay football coach Jim Tietjen is not going to get caught up in the frustration of the near-misses his team has had against Homestead in recent years.
Like the one game where the Highlanders took advantage of a one-play injury to a starting Blue Duke defensive back to hit the game-winning touchdown pass, or another where in overtime, a Highlanders player lunged for the goal line on a fourth-down pass and it was called a touchdown, when many in attendance doubted that the player ever crossed the line.
Or any of a half-dozen other games that have helped Homestead stay atop the North Shore Conference for these past 11 years and which have kept Bay banging on the ceiling, hoping one day for some plaster to fall.
The Blue Dukes have not beaten the Highlanders since the days of the great running back Booker Stanley and friends a dozen years ago, but could this Friday be the day as Bay (4-1 in North Shore, 5-1 overall) celebrates its homecoming on the fast track at Lubar Stadium against Homestead (5-0, 6-0) at 7 p. m.?
"Obviously you talk to the kids about big games, they're how you define yourself," Tietjen said. "It's been all talk until now. Now it has to be about performance. We've been close, we know that, but a loss is still a loss."
Blue Dukes piling up points
And since their stunning 14-13 defeat to Germantown in the North Shore opener back in August, the Blue Dukes have not lost, nor has anyone come close, not even Cedarburg, which they buried 38-8 a month ago.
They have outscored opponents 164-15 in four games in that time including back-to-back shutouts of Port Washington and Grafton. All-Suburban running back and state track champ Rashadeem Gray loves the fast Lubar Stadium turf and the defense led by strong safety Jackson Weber has become stout.
Bay continued its run on Friday, with the slow-starting but fast-finishing 35-0 blanking of a game Grafton squad.
Meanwhile, Homestead, which blasted Milwaukee Lutheran, 43-7, on Friday, remains Homestead. The Highlanders have adapted to large graduation losses and an injury to their starting quarterback (Jake Laihinen), rotating a sophomore (Nick Allen) and a freshman (Jake Popp) into the position.
The Highlanders rely heavily on running backs Jay Schneider (breakaway threat as a receiver, returner or runner) and the sturdy Shaquille Colle. Jabree Washington and Josh Moore come in as nice change-of-pace backs.
Homestead's defense is not as threatening as it has been in the past, but remains functional.
If Highlanders defensive mastermind Fritz Rauch can conjure up some magic in these last few games (the Highlanders also host archrival Germantown, 4-1, 5-1, in the regular season closer on Oct. 11), there will be a 12th straight North Shore Conference along the eastern end of Mequon Road.
Or there could be, in the words of Monty Python, something completely different.
"The kids are excited about this game," Highlanders coach Dave Keel said. "We're playing on their homecoming on the carpet and, as usual, it'll come down to two things, defense and turnovers.
"It always does in big games like this."
"This is part of a progression," Tietjen said. "Homestead is currently undefeated and they are the best team so far. We'll find out how far we've come. We've gotten better since that (NSC) opener against Germantown, but then again so has everyone else.
"And I don't think homecoming will be a distraction. It'll just add to the excitement and the focus of what is already a big game. Everywhere they go, the kids will be reminded (of Friday night)."
Bay 35, Grafton 0: The turnovers that Keel referred to were a problem early for the Blue Dukes as three turnovers helped take one sure touchdown away (a questionable fumble) and stopped a promising drive (a pick inside the Grafton 15).
It was only 7-0 at the break as Gray ran six yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. It was still only 14-0 at the end of three quarters (a four-yard run by quarterback Grant Menard) before three fourth-quarter touchdowns finally broke the game open.
Gray took a 42-yard pass from Menard, Jacob Pandl ran it in from eight yards out and Gray rambled in from six yards for the final points of the game.
All told, Bay ran up 404 total yards, including 111 yards on 14 carries for Gray and a 149 yard passing night for Menard on seven-of-11 passing. Julian Posey added 83 yards rushing on 15 carries and Darien Walker caught four balls for 75 yards.
Bay helped itself by forcing six Blackhawks turnovers including interceptions by Jordan Johnson and Weber.
Homestead 43, Milwaukee Lutheran 7: The Highlanders steadily pulled away from the struggling Red Knights. It was 10-0 at the quarter and 24-0 at the half.
Ryan Stendler got the scoring going with a 32-yard field goal and then Schneider took it to the house with a 21-yard run.
In the second quarter, Washington added a one-yard score and then Allen connected with Popp on a 10-yard TD pass (Popp would finish with five catches for 109 yards).
And in the third quarter, Moore, who would lead the team with 85 yards rushing on six carries, scored on a one-yard run and then Washington broke off a 19-yard dash to pay dirt.
Moore finished the scoring with a 64-yard burst in the fourth quarter. Cole had 65 yards on 12 carries and Washington 62 on five tries.
Allen was an effective six-of-11 passing for 91 yards.
Keel said he was "thrilled" with the play of the defense, especially that of the defensive line, as on the first play of the game lineman Henri Shein leapt up and picked off a pass intended for a middle screen.
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