Grafton football falls to top seed

But program has turned the corner after historic season that included first playoff victory since 1995
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

Grafton High School’s historic football campaign came to a close at last year’s state runner-up New Berlin Eisenhower on Friday, but the Black Hawks gave the top seed one of its toughest games of the season.

The Vikings beat the No. 4-seeded Black Hawks, 24-7 in a division 3 level 2 playoff game and next host No. 2-seeded Greendale, which beat No. 3-seeded Plymouth, 31-21.

The Hawks held the Vikings to their second-lowest point total of the season, and only allowed one touchdown in the second half.

“We really did a good job defensively. I was really happy with the game plan we had and how we executed it,” coach Jim Norris said.

After allowing a touchdown pass in the first quarter, the Hawks tied the game in the second, taking advantage of a turnover.

Senior quarterback Brady Ward hit athletic sophomore receiver Bryson Clague for an 11-yard touchdown.

The Vikings answered with a 36-yard field goal and 45-yard touchdown pass to take a 17-7 halftime lead.

Norris said the coaches decided they needed to do something to slow the Vikings’ pass offense. Junior Zach Weir, who had traded off with Ward at quarterback, took over as field general so Ward could focus on defense.

“He did that for the entire half and was phenomenal,” Norris said.

The Hawks’ offense, however, sputtered for much of the game, thanks to the Vikings.

“They have a really good defense. It’s unreal the amount of talent they have on that defense,” Norris said.

“We moved the ball a couple of times. They were able to wrap up and get things done.”

Junior Joey Giorgi and senior Caden Knauer again split time at running back.

“Caden earned his right to get in there,” Norris said.

Norris credited all of his seniors for their play and poise.

“They all had a really good last couple of games. I was really proud of how they stepped up. They took advantage of having a home playoff game and stayed focused and prepared, doing a lot of good things for us,” he said.

On the road at the house of a top-seeded team, the Hawks’ seniors maintained their composure.

“The way they handled themselves was awesome,” Norris said.

The Hawks finished the season 6-5 under their first-year head coach, advancing to the playoffs for the first time since 1997 and winning a postseason game for the first time since 1995.

It took a season-finale victory over rival Port Washington — a postseason qualifier itself — to make the playoffs, after the Hawks dropped games to Slinger and Hartford.

 Norris said he was happy with how his team responded to tough games, including losses to Homestead and Whitefish Bay.

“Every week was a new week for them. They didn’t let the previous game bother them. They got back to work,” he said.

The seniors survived three coaches in four years and helped turn the program around.

“To get behind me and this coaching staff — what we’re trying to do — and get better is phenomenal,” Norris said.

The school and community followed their lead.

“It’s been phenomenal — everything from administration, the teachers, the parents, businesses who donated team meals and wanted to be part of the change and the season,” Norris said.

Beyond the postseason run, the change was evident on Friday night.

“This junior class immediately following the game was asking when the weight room was open. They already wanted to get started,” Norris said. “It hasn’t been like that in previous years.”

Different expectations come with those changes.

“We set the bar pretty high for Grafton football. Now it’s going to be our job to maintain that expectation and take steps in the right direction,” Norris said.

“I’m really happy with how our kids played and performed this year. I couldn’t be more excited for next year.”

 

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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