Germantown-Homestead football has new wrinkle
Old Homestead assistant Davis leads Warhawks
Mequon - Yes, both coaches are making all the appropriate noises that it's about the kids and the game itself and its ramifications on state playoff seedings.
It's also about the rivalry itself, Homestead at Germantown, and who is and who is not on the sideline, when the Warhawks, who lost in a heartbreaker to the Highlanders at the end of the last regular season but then beat them in the second round of the state playoffs, host the Highlanders at Datka Field at 7 p.m. today.
Homestead (6-0, 7-1) will be trying to finish off its ninth straight unbeaten North Shore season while Germantown (4-2, 6-2), will be trying to put a big exclamation point on its playoff resume, not to mention make a little history.
Adding fuel to the fire, long-time Warhawks Hall of Fame coach Phil Datka will not be there, having retired at the end of last season and is now an assistant coach at Brookfield Central.
No build-up needed
His place on the sideline will be taken over by a strong son of Homestead, as former Highlanders all-state center Jake Davis leads Germantown against his alma mater.
"I'm trying to look at it as a fun game," Davis said. "It's not necessarily a personal thing, though there are aspects to it that we can't ignore. It's a program I played for. A program I respect and it always turns out to be a heck of a game.
"Regardless of my relationship to it, it's still Homestead-Germantown and it doesn't need any additional build-up other than that."
Davis was at the heart of the first big Homestead push as he was part of an impressive offensive line from 1999-2001 that not only won Homestead's first state title in 1999 but also established a standard for the team that still remains, as only twice since 2001 have the three-time state champion Highlanders failed to reach as far as the WIAA state semifinals.
His coach, Homestead's Dave Keel, tries to downplay the significance of the personal relationship, which is amplified by Davis' friendship with Keel's step-son Jason Quale, who was a quarterback for the Highlanders while Davis was on the team.
"It is interesting," Keel said, "but it isn't about either one of us. No, it's definitely about the Homestead players versus the Germantown players. Jake was a great player for us. He (Davis) helped lead us to a championship.
"He's also come so far as a teacher (in the Germantown district), coach, husband and man so it ought to be interesting that way, too."
Keel misses Datka
But all the more so, who will not be on the Germantown sideline, the man named Datka, who was at the helm of so many epic struggles with Homestead and Keel for the past 22 years.
"I always liked going against Phil," Keel said. "We always had a natural level of respect. And I won't lie, I miss Phil, because we have been doing this for a long, long time. I respected what he did for Germantown football and for the sport in general.
"It still comes down to the players, though."
That is indeed the case. Germantown will come out passing with Josh Mongan (1,553 yards with 15 touchdowns and only two interceptions) and running with Alec Richmond (960 yards rushing with 14 TDs).
"We're about as healthy as we could be going into this one," said Davis, "and I attribute that to our strength and conditioning coach Dave Schmitz."
The Highlanders will counter with three-year starter at quarterback Cody Berger (1,384 yards passing with 10 TDs and only one interception) and a balanced rushing attack led by Antoine Easterling (574 yards rushing with 13 TDs).
Can Schneider play?
A wildcard aspect to it all is the status of star all-purpose back for the Highlanders Jay Schneider (17 catches for 513 yards and four TDs). He went out early in the Milwaukee Lutheran game two weeks ago with a leg injury and did not play in the win over Whitefish Bay last week, but could be seen in street clothes working on the sideline exercise bike freely and easily during that contest.
Davis said it's always something like that that influences this game because you just never know who will step up and be the star in a rivalry that's both so personal and also so universal in nature.
"It's also going to be our senior night," he said. "We qualified for the playoffs (with last week's 28-12 win over Nicolet), so we're just looking forward to a good game. It's always a good week, a fun week for the kids."
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