Homestead football team holds off Grafton in wild finish
Highlanders host Nicolet on Friday
If anyone thinks that the North Shore Conference football race is a cut-and-dried thing with Homestead off to its umpteenth title in a row, then they haven't been paying attention through the first two weeks of the league season.
And especially after the results of last weekend, where four inches of a receiver's foot separated Germantown from victory over Cedarburg and Homestead had to pull a rabbit out of its hat that was the size of the trophy case in the Highlanders' lobby in its 35-28 victory over Grafton on Sept. 12.
They trailed, 28-21, with just over four minutes to go, rallied for two touchdowns in a three minute span, and then had to hold off repeated Blackhawks shots into the end zone in the final seconds, even getting a colossal break when an apparent Grafton TD pass was called back because the Blackhawks receiver had gone out of bounds and then come back in again.
Even veteran, well-bloodied in close games coach Dave Keel had to shake his head at this one.
"It's been an interesting season so far," Keel said. "Kids all over the place are performing well. There's all kinds of intensity out there."
The Highlanders improved to 2-0 in league play with the win and 4-0 overall. They are tied with Cedarburg (2-0, 3-1) for the NSC lead.
Homestead hosts Nicolet (0-2, 0-4) at 7 p.m. Friday.
Wheels come off
The Highlanders were stunned by the Blackhawks' ferocity last week because for much of the first half, it looked as if Homestead was on cruise control.
They took the lead with two first quarter touchdowns (a Bryce Juedes two-yard run and a 69-yard scamper by quarterback Nick Allen). And after a Juedes three-yard run, it was 21-6 Homestead midway through the second quarter.
That's when the wheels started falling off Homestead's smooth-running vehicle.
"It was still 21-6 and we were going in (to score again) when we put the ball on the floor (fumbled)," Keel said, "and then they turned around (and) took it right down the field and scored (to make it 21-13 at the half)."
The Blackhawks were just getting started. Grafton quarterback Choo Weisflog connected on two TD passes, one in the third quarter and another in the fourth. Add in a two-point conversion and all of a sudden, Grafton was was up 28-21.
Weisflog would pass for an impressive 278 yards on the night as Grafton battered the heretofore solid Highlanders defense for 461 total yards.
The Highlanders started mounting their comeback late in the fourth, and Allen snuck over from a yard out to make it a 28-27 with 3:44 to go, but Keel admitted to a rare tactical mistake when he decided to go for two on the conversion and the pass fell incomplete, leaving the Highlanders behind.
That's when the battered defense rose to the Highlanders' rescue, forcing a three and out to get the ball back.
"That was monumental," Keel said. "Two first downs by them and the game is over."
Clutch drive wins it
Homestead began its last drive around its own 40. Allen had a nice run as did Eric Wade and Vincent Wilkerson made a great catch of an Allen pass to create an opportunity to go ahead.
Wade eventually dashed across from five yards out to give the Highlanders a 35-28 lead with 53 seconds left.
"Their coach actually did a smart thing, letting us score in that situation to save time," Keel said.
And that almost proved to be brilliant strategy as Weisflog got the Blackhawks down the field in a hurry.
Keel said the final moments were chaotic, with a long discussion on the receiver going out of bound and coming back in and then there were some clock issues. After the penalty, Grafton had time for two tries into the end zone from the Homestead 20 before time ran out.
"It got a little out of control at the end," Keel said. "It was interesting, but we hung tough."
Wade led Homestead with 131 yards rushing on 19 carries while Allen had 98 on 11 tries. All told, the Highlanders rushed for 321 total yards. Allen hit seven-of-16 passes for 101 yards as Jack Popp had four catches for 69 yards.
Keel was impressed with how far Grafton has come in the last couple of years.
"They have come a long ways," he said. "They've done a good job over there. It's a tough climb, but now they're there....It's just going to be one of those kind of years."
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