Early deficit, coverage problems keep Port trailing in catch-up game with Lutheran
Scoring 26 points and racking up nearly 300 yards in total yardage usually gives a football team a solid chance at winning.MARTY FRANZKOWIAK helped Port Washington collect 291 yards in total offense last Friday night, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a loss to Milwaukee Lutheran in the North Shore Conference opener for both teams. Photo by Sam Arendt
But shaky defense, turnovers and special-teams breakdowns will also unravel the best game plans, including the Port Washington Pirates’ effort against a quick-hitting opponent last Friday.
Although host Port moved the ball with regularity and had plenty of scoring opportunities, it fell victim to miscues in a 42-26 loss to Milwaukee Lutheran in the North Shore Conference opener for both teams.
Sparked by a 306-yard passing show from quarterback Jake Nelson, Lutheran seized control early and forced the Pirates to play from behind the entire night. Even after Port rallied to make a game of it in the fourth quarter, Nelson extinguished the comeback hopes by throwing a 69-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Kevin Folker.
Folker was the Red Knights’ most dangerous go-to man, finishing with 162 yards on just five catches.
“They have perfected their passing routes, and we didn’t do a very good job of defending them,” said Port coach Tim Greisch, whose team fell to 1-2 overall.
“Our defense really needed to get some stops, but we couldn’t do that often enough. Our offense can put points on the board, but if you can’t keep the other team from moving the ball, it doesn’t do much good.”
Falling behind early continued to bug the Pirates, who have trailed in the first half of each of their games this season. Lutheran (3-0) continued the trend by racing to a 35-6 lead midway through the second quarter.
In addition to three scoring passes by Nelson, the Red Knights had two touchdown runs and a 25-yard fumble return for a score when Port botched a punt attempt. The Pirates countered with a 17-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Taylor Devenport to Mick Clarke in the first period and a 2-yard scoring run by Roman Bailey late in the half that cut Lutheran’s lead to 35-12 at intermission.
Although the Pirates never got closer than 16 points in the second half, they made things interesting by coming up with several big plays of their own.
Linebacker Boomer Scheel recovered a Lutheran fumble late in the third quarter, setting up a 25-yard touchdown drive. When Devenport scored on a 3-yard keeper, Port pulled within 35-18 with 1:07 left in the period.
On their next possession, the Red Knights fumbled the ball away again, this time with lineman Tyler Griswold recovering for Port at its 25. However, Lutheran got the ball back when Brian Emo intercepted a Devenport pass early in the fourth quarter.
Two plays later, Nelson found Folker open on a crossing pattern over the middle for the 70-yard score that put Lutheran back in charge.
The Pirates’ final score came with 4:52 left on a 66-yard touchdown pass from Devenport to tight end Zach Hauser, who shredded two tackles on a sideline run to the end zone. Port recovered the ball on an onside kick but came up short on a fourth-down pass in the closing seconds.
“We had our chances. We got some turnovers and had a chance to put more points up there, but we didn’t make the most of our opportunities,” Greisch said.
Port was also hurt by the absence of place-kicker Kyle Pallo, who sat out due to an injury. After missing their first extra-point try, the Pirates went for two-point conversions on each of their next three touchdowns but failed twice.
“When they’re getting sevens and we’re getting only sixes, it comes back to haunt you,” Greisch said. “If Kyle is healthy, he would be automatic on those kicks, but we had to go for two points without him.”
Devenport finished 15-for-30 for 191 yards passing with two touchdowns and one interception. Nelson went 14-for-24 with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Clarke led the Pirates in rushing with 82 yards on 17 carries.
“We did some good things, that’s for sure,” Greisch said. “But we’ve got a lot of things to clean up.”
The Pirates’ clean-up task will be formidable this Friday when they continue conference play with a 7 p.m. home game against defending champion Homestead.
The Highlanders are coming off a 45-7 victory over Nicolet that extended their league winning streak to 62 games.