The 2012 NSC football season could mirror the great 2002 campaign
Three-way tie was the result back then
There's a magnificent train wreck coming at the end of the 2012 North Shore Conference football season starting this week as Homestead, Germantown and Whitefish Bay all have a full head of steam and are taking dead aim at a league championship.
Going into this weekend, Homestead is 5-0 in league play (7-0 overall) while both Bay and Germantown are 4-1 and 6-1, respectively. The die will be cast in the next week as Homestead visits Bay on Friday and then turns around and hosts Germantown on Oct. 11.
There's little chance, barring a surprising outside upset that there will be a three-way tie, but a two-way knot is distinctly possible as is the possibility of any one of the three claiming an individual title if some unusual things happen.
Whatever happens in those games will likely be compared to the great year 2002, a season where Homestead, Germantown and Cedarburg all wound up tied for the North Shore title largely as a result of three of the greatest games the league has ever seen, each with the visiting team winning.
In the North Shore opener that year, Germantown and Homestead went off on a scoring festival in the first half, but then after the Highlanders scored on the first series of the third quarter, the spigot for both teams got shut off. A last-second bomb by the Warhawks' great all-around athlete David Pietrowiak came dangerously close to completion as Homestead held on for a 29-21 victory.
Bulldogs pull off upset
Just after that, Cedarburg visited Homestead and the legend of Bulldogs quarterback Joe Patek was born. Homestead, which just started its current run of 11 shared or outright league titles in a row in 2001, was nursing a 17-14 lead late, when Patek, the first great quarterback in Cedarburg's long history of the run-first double-wing offense, led a last-second drive for the ages.
He and the Bulldogs converted not one, but two fourth and longs before Patek connected with hard-nosed tight end Mike Drifka on a short TD pass with less than 20 seconds remaining to pull off the 21-17 upset.
"We had a lot of ability on that team," said Patek, who went on to a stellar career at UW-Oshkosh, where he frequently handed the ball to former Homestead running back and rival Andy Moriarity, who merely went on to be the WIAC's all-time career rusher. "We had all been best friends since youth ball. For years our goal was just to be able to compete with Germantown and Homestead, but by then, we were out there to beat them.
"It was a drag pattern along the back of the end zone. There were a couple of missed assignments along the way, but it was crazy how it all turned out. It was the ultimate realization for us that we could actually beat those teams. It was a great source of pride for us."
And they almost did it again the next week against Germantown, as that may have been the North Shore's game for the ages (with all due apologies to the great Homestead victory over Germantown in the regular season finale a year later).
The Bulldogs outplayed the Warhawks most of the game, but a huge option run for score by Pietrowiak got Germantown close and when Pietrowiak found running back Willie Albiero on a deep out pass that Albiero took in for a score to make it 18-15 Germantown, it looked like the Warhawks were home free.
But not so fast, as Patek and the Bulldogs were not going away on their home field that easily. With only seconds to go, Cedarburg stood near midfield where Patek uncorked a beautiful rainbow of a ball deep down the middle.
His teammate Derek Moore had gotten a step on swift Germantown defensive back and future state champion quarterback (in 2003) Jeff Treslley, and Patek's ball hit him perfectly in stride.
Bulldog Stadium went berserk at this moment as Moore looked to be racing in easily for the game-winning and for all practical purposes, conference title-clinching TD. Visions of being the most popular guy in school no doubt danced through his head.
Don't give up on the play
But Treslley, who was a state place-winning hurdler in track, didn't give up on the play, and what happened next is still the stuff of horror stories in Cedarburg and of legend in Germantown.
All of a sudden, the screaming throng watched in amazement as the ball went flying out of Moore's hands skittering all the way through and out the back of the end zone, resulting in not a touchdown for Cedarburg but a touchback for Germantown.
Treslley had raced up behind him and punched the ball out.
The Warhawks were able to run out the clock and add a potent footnote to a league history that was already rich in marvelous detail and which would get richer still in the years to come.
As it turned out, the three teams would wind up winning out that season, and finishing in the three-way tie for the title. In a second-round state playoff game, a rematch between Germantown and Cedarburg wound up being anti-climatic as the Warhawks outmuscled the Bulldogs, 30-16.
"The season had been such an emotional roller-coaster that it finally caught up with us then," said Patek, whose now back teaching and coaching at his Alma-mater.
"There were such good athletes who played in those games," former Germantown coach Phil Datka said, "but man, minutes seemed like hours in those games. And we had so many juniors playing in those games, too. That experience really set us up well for next year (and the state championship)."
Both Homestead and Germantown would eventually lose in the WIAA state D1 and D2 state semifinals, respectively, to the respective champions in those divisions, Marshfield and Menomonie, but their strong finishes solidified an already good reputation for the league.
It got better the following year as Germantown and Homestead played that epic conference championship game. The Warhawks then extracted vengeance on Menomonie in the D2 state final while Homestead would again fall in the D1 semifinals to the eventual champion, this time D.C. Everest.
"Germantown got us started in 1998 (with a D2 state crown) and then we got one in 1999 (in D1)," Homestead coach Dave Keel said. "That's when the state started recognizing the North Shore as a good league, that we could compete at the upper levels. It was important for the North Shore to have teams like Germantown, Homestead and Cedarburg who could do that on a consistent basis."
Good luck teams of 2012, see if you can keep up.
North Shore football history
State glory hard-earned
A quick history of the NSC in the WIAA state playoffs (state semifinals or better)
1985 - Port Washington, D2 state champion
1987 - Port Washington, D2, state semifinals
1990 - Port Washington, D2 state runner-up
1992 - Germantown, D2 state semifinals
1995 - Homestead, D1 state semifinals
1997 - Germantown, D2 state runner-up
1998 - Germantown, D2 state champion
1999 - Homestead, D1 state champion
2001 - Homestead, D1 state semifinals
2002 - Homestead, D1 state semifinals; Germantown D2 state semifinals
2003 - Germantown, D2 state champions; Homestead, D1 state semifinals
2005 - Homestead, D1 state semifinals
2006 - Homestead, D1, state champion
2007 - Homestead, D1 state runner-up
2008 - Homestead, D1 state champion
2010 - Cedarburg, D2 state runner-up
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