Fear West De Pere:

Grafton gets steam rolled by Phantoms’ rushing attack in road playoff game to end its season

GRAFTON’S ZACH WEIR (top) rolled away from pressure to buy precious seconds and found Joe Birch (above), who beat his defender and went to the turf to make the catch at the one-yard line in the second quarter at West De Pere last Friday. Photos by Mitch Maersch
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

Grafton High School’s run in the Division 3 playoffs came to a close in West De Pere last Friday as the Phantoms ran all over the place.

The No. 1 seed racked up more than 500 yards on the ground and rolled to a 56-17 victory over the No. 5-seeded Black Hawks on a cool and slightly breezy but dry night.

Grafton, which came in with one of the top running backs in the state in Joey Giorgi, was forced to move the ball through the air as the Phantoms’ defense schemed to stop the running attack.

Giorgi twisted and plowed his way for 73 mostly tough yards after contact on 24 carries.

“I can say I left it all out there and I think my teammates can say the same thing,” Giorgi said.

 As a result, the passing attack opened up, and Zach Weir and his receivers, including Giorgi, shined.

Weir went 27-for-34 for 313 yards and two touchdowns. Dominic Voiland caught 14 balls for 170 yards and a score. Giorgi caught six passes for 71 yards and a touchdown.

“Those dudes have such a great relationship,” coach Jim Norris said, adding he remembers seeing them work on the passing game throughout the week in the snow after practice was over.

After a back-and-forth first half, the Phantoms kept the running game going in outscoring the Hawks, 28-0, in the second.

“Hats off to those guys. That’s a championship program,” Norris said.

Norris, who describes himself as an “offensive guy,” said he dove into defense in the offseason and hired a good defensive coordinator.

Offense, he said, is what puts fans into the stands and defense is what wins championships.

“The defense has to be better,” he said.

The Hawks closed to 21-17 with a minute to go in the first half on a highlight-reel play.

Weir sent a tall pass to a streaking Voiland down the right sideline. Voiland leaped and made the catch in stride in the back of the end zone.

“That was a fun play. I saw he beat the defensive back pretty bad. I gave him some air,” Weir said.

“Zach put a lot of air on it. He put it in a perfect spot. I was able to go up and get it,” Voiland said, still able to talk intelligently after getting nailed in the head after catching a slant pass on one of the game’s final plays and getting clocked by a Phantom defender who was flagged for targeting.

On the drive, Weir hit Giorgi for eight yards on a first and 10 from midfield on a play that would make Fran Tarkenton proud. Weir wanted Voiland deep down the right sideline but he was double covered, so he pulled the ball back and scrambled to his left. Weir lunged forward in faking a run, then pulled back and began to scramble right.

By then, sometime after coaches and fans had aged about four decades, Giorgi was open on the right side. Weir tossed him the ball and the star back took off for an eight-yard gain.

After Voiland’s touchdown, the Phantoms got their offense going again with less than a minute to play in the half.

Three runs and two passes moved them 48 yards to the Hawks’ 15-yard line. A play-action pass led to a wide open receiver in the end zone with 26.4 seconds left, and the Phantoms took a 28-17 lead into halftime.

That touchdown was a momentum shifter, stretching the Phantoms’ lead to double digits after the Hawks had gotten back into the game.

The Phantoms stopped Giorgi on fourth and one on the first drive of the third quarter and scored on their next four drives to put the game away.

Phantom running back David Vanderlogt ran for 348 yards and five touchdowns on 27 carries, and quarterback Josh Blount had 109 yards on 19 runs.

“Just a lot of the cutback lanes, and we just weren’t able to get there,” linebacker Jay Garza said.

“We were just getting gashed on everything. We were not focused or something,” linebacker Max Medvedev said.

Garza had nine tackles. Kenny Likins had seven, and Birch, Brock Heffner and Andrew Ovsepyan each had six.

Aside from the Hawks being stopped on fourth down four times, neither defense forced a turnover.

On the game’s first drive, the Hawks made a goal-line stand, stuffing Blount for a one-yard gain from the two-yard line on fourth and goal.

They answered with a drive of their own that looked to be heading for a touchdown. Voiland turned on the jets behind blocking after catching two quick passes for  gains of 23 and 51 yards.

On third and nine from the 28-yard line, Weir scrambled and lofted a ball to Birch, who caught the ball short of the goal line and rolled into the end zone.

On the next three plays, Giorgi was tackled for a three-yard loss, a no gain and a two-yard loss. On fourth down from the six-yard-line, Silvio Lanza hit a 23-yard field goal for the Hawks’ only lead of the game.

Friday’s performance wasn’t how the Hawks (7-4) wanted to go out.

“It’s a tough one for the seniors. I love these guys, love ‘em like brothers,” University of Wisconsin verbal recruit J.P. Benzschawel said. “It was a great season. It just didn’t have the outcome we wanted.”

Giorgi finished the season with a state-best 2,338 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns on 288 carries, according to wissports.net. Racine Lutheran’s Tyler Tenner, who holds the state career rushing yards record, has 2,286 and is still playing.

“I’ve been playing with these guys since fourth grade,” Giorgi said. “Personally, I’m pretty happy with how it went for me. I just wish it could have lasted a little longer.”

“It has been my family,” Garza said of the football program, “something I’ve looked forward to in high school.”

“For four years, we put it all on the line,” Medvedev said. “It was a very good season. We made a lot of improvements.”

The senior class, Norris said, has nothiing to be sad about what it accomplished.

West De Pere hosts No. 2-seeded Menasha  on Friday. The Phantoms won, 56-42, in the regular season meeting.

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