Failure to check Muskego rushing attack saddles Port with frustrating loss in opener
The methodical game plan of a run-happy opponent threw the Port Washington football team for a loss last Friday.
Although the host Pirates generated plenty of offense, they had few answers defensively on the way to a 42-20 loss to Muskego in their season opener.
“Our defense has to pick it up. We didn’t play well as a unit,” Port coach Tim Greisch said after seeing his team struggle to stop the Warriors’ rushing attack.
Content to stay on the ground, Muskego rolled up 416 yards in 52 carries, accounting for all of its offense. The Warriors attempted just two passes, both of which fell incomplete, but had little reason to go airborne.
The one-two punch of tailback Jordan Gruettner and fullback Luke Przybylka did virtually all the work for the visitors.
When Przybylka wasn’t busy pounding the ball inside, Gruettner caught the Pirates out of step on the corners, finishing with 236 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries.
Przybylka collected 174 yards and two scores on 32 carries.
Gruettner did most of his damage in the third quarter, sprinting for two touchdowns that put his team in control.
After Muskego took a 21-14 lead into halftime, Gruettner broke loose for a 59-yard scoring run, taking the handoff from quarterback Adam Schulz after an inside fake to Przybylka. On their
next possession, the Warriors duplicated the play, with Gruettner weaving through tacklers on a 21-yard touchdown scamper that made it 35-14.
“It wasn’t anything tricky. We just lost our assignments,” Greisch said of the defensive breakdowns.
“They had success gashing us with their fullback, and when we crashed down inside, they just faked it there and went outside. They executed their fakes well, and we over-reacted.”
To their credit, the Pirates kept battling. They cracked the Muskego defense for 316 total yards, including 190 rushing on 36 carries.
Senior Alex Multerer led the way with 95 yards and two touchdowns on 11 rushes. His biggest play was a 53-yard scoring burst midway through the second quarter that pulled Port into a 14-14 tie.
Quarterback Taylor Devenport also sparked the Pirates with his legs and throwing arm. In addition to rushing for 69 yards, he tossed an 84-yard touchdown pass to Joe McIlree for Port’s first score.
For the game, Devenport completed five of 14 passes for 126 yards. Split end Luke Schueller had three catches for 34 yards.
“Offensively, we did some nice things,” Greisch said. “We blocked well, Taylor ran and passed well, and Alex ran hard inside.
“But it was hard to keep coming back when we couldn’t stop them defensively. We have a lot of young players, and it’s a learning experience for them.”
Muskego never had to punt and didn’t commit a turnover.
Despite their problems, the Pirates had a chance to pull even in the final minute of the first half. On first down from his own 20, Devenport broke free on a keeper, spun away from several defenders and raced all the way to the Muskego 26 before being caught on a touchdown-saving tackle.
Port called a timeout to set up a play, but when Devenport’s pass for Schueller in the end zone was broken up, time expired with Muskego’s seven-point lead intact.
“We wanted to take a quick shot at the end zone, but we didn’t get it done in time,” Greisch said.
“We talked about trying a field goal, but our holder was injured, so we went for the touchdown.”
The Pirates never got any closer in the second half, as Muskego tacked on three unanswered touchdowns. Port’s final score came on a 2-yard touchdown run by Multerer in the final minute.
This Friday, Port will continue nonconference play with another tough test, traveling to Westosha Central for a 7 p.m. game.
When the teams met last year in Port, Central won, 20-0.
PORT WASHINGTON quarterback Taylor Devenport spun free of a tackler as he scrambled for yardage in Friday’s season opener against Muskego. After a close first half, Muskego pulled away for a 42-20 win. Photo by Sam Arendt