Top-ranked Homestead rallies for 44-21 win over Port
Football team visits Grafton Thursday
Homestead football coach Dave Keel wouldn't rank the halftime discussion the Highlanders held Friday after trailing feisty Port Washington, 14-13, in the same class of the now, nearly infamous roof rattler of 2007 against Germantown.
But his still youthful team, which may have still been basking in the afterglow of its tremendous upset of previously top-ranked Arrowhead the week before, got the point as the Highlanders rallied and pulled away for a 44-21 victory.
"I liked the way we battled back from the adversity of being down," Keel said. "The focus was getting back into the game....We knew that Port had a decent team, but trying to match that emotion and maintain that focus after such a big game (Arrowhead) was a bit of a challenge."
The Highlanders got the North Shore Conference season off on a good foot with the victory and improved to 3-0 on the young season. They were ranked No. 1 among large schools in the first AP poll of the year.
They try to keep that position when they visit a resurgent Grafton squad at 7 p.m. Thursday. The Blackhawks, long a doormat in the league and the area, are off to a 2-1 start including a 49-14 rout of Nicolet in its league opener Friday. They work with a large and physical defense and Keel and his staff are not taking them lightly.
"They're playing terrific ball," Keel said. "We have to be ready."
On Friday, it was clear that Port was ready. The Highlanders took a 13-0 lead on touchdowns from Bryce Juedes (six-yard run) and Vincent Wilkerson (41-yard pass from Nick Allen), but then the Pirates bolted back for 14 unanswered points before the half's end to take the lead.
Homestead answered with an entirely ground-based, 65-yard drive to start the third quarter that ended with Wilkerson racing in from six yards out. Allen's run for a two-point conversion made it 21-14 Homestead.
But Port kept coming, as another score shortly thereafter tied it up at 21.
Bad snaps sink Pirates' ship
However, the Pirates started having trouble with bad snaps in the kicking game. One, on a punt attempt, resulted in a Homestead safety that put the Highlanders up for good. Others set the Highlanders up with short fields as sophomore running back Matt Winters made his debut with TD runs of 23 and eight yards, respectively.
"Then our defense took over and that really helped," Keel said. "We had a little growing up to do on a couple of things, but we got back to what we do best (run the ball) and that was a credit to our backs and offensive line."
The Highlanders rushed for 230 yards on 35 carries while Allen hit only five of 17 passing but the hits went for 130 yards as Jack Popp had two catches for 53 yards. The rushing load was very balanced as Wilkerson had 67 yards on eight carries, Eric Wade 47 on nine totes and Winters 46 yards on five tries.
Keel praised the work of senior offensive lineman Jordan Lewinsky and of junior defensive lineman David Pfaff.
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