Late rally allows Port to edge Grafton for bragging rights in NSC football finale
It was a dogfight to the end — a fitting tussle between two football teams trying to end disappointing seasons on a high note.FORCE MET FORCE when Port Washington running back Mick Clarke collided with Grafton linebacker Alex Marshall during Friday’s North Shore Conference football game. Photo by Sam Arendt
After rallying from a fourth-quarter deficit, Port Washington withstood a last-ditch scoring threat by host Grafton and emerged with a 22-20 win in the North Shore Conference finale for both squads.
Grafton was poised to notch its first victory of the year when Alex Teich raced 59 yards for a touchdown with 8 minutes, 34 seconds to play. Although Port stopped quarterback Matt Weisflog’s try for a two-point conversion run, the Black Hawks led, 20-16.
After having their five previous possessions end in turnovers or failed fourth-down plays, the Pirates finally broke through. They drove 65 yards on 12 plays, capped by quarterback Taylor Devenport’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Roman Bailey that put Port up with 2:01 left.
But Grafton kept its deficit at two points by stopping Mick Clarke on a conversion run and mounted one last drive. The 36-yard march, kept alive by a fourth-and-16 completion from Weisflog to Teich, carried the Hawks to the Port 17, where they lined up for a potential game-winning field goal.
When Tim Grams’ 35-yard attempt sailed wide, the Pirates had officially escaped.
“We were happy to come away with a win,” said Port coach Tim Greisch, whose team finished 2-5 in the league and 3-6 overall.
“To Grafton’s credit, their kids played hard. Our kids played hard, too, but maybe they were pressing a little bit. We had a chance to build a big early lead but didn’t, and that gave Grafton a little motivation.”
For Hawks coach Ben Chossek, the loss ended a second straight winless season, but represented his team’s best performance in recent memory.
“It was an excellent effort by our team,” Chossek said. “We felt like this was a game where we could compete.
“Port came out very strong and got some points on us, but we started to figure some things out. When we started to come back, you could feel the kids believing they could win.”
Grafton (0-7 NSC, 0-9 overall) faced a familiar scenario when it fell behind, 14-0, early in the second quarter.
Devenport put the Pirates up, 6-0, when he threw a 38-yard scoring pass to Bailey in the first period. Bailey, who had all three of Port’s touchdowns, added another score on a 10-yard run on the first play of the second quarter.
When Clarke added a conversion run, the Pirates appeared to be in control.
This time, though, Grafton fought back quickly. After recovering a Port fumble, the Hawks pulled within 14-7 when Weisflog scored on an 8-yard touchdown run and Grams added the extra point.
Late in the period, Port turned the ball over on downs, and Grafton drove 54 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the half. Weisflog’s 1-yard scoring keeper and another Grams’ extra point left the teams deadlocked, 14-14, at the break.
“It could have been 28-0, but we made some costly mistakes,” Greisch said. “Grafton took advantage of them, and it turned into a real battle the rest of the way.”
The third quarter was played to a virtual standstill — except for one defensive play that became a game changer.
After the Pirates drove 67 yards to the Grafton 3, they lost the ball on a fumble. However, on the next play, defensive end Zach Hauser broke through the line and tackled Weisflog in the end zone for a safety that gave Port a 16-14 lead.
“Hauser played a whale of a game,” said Greisch, who also singled out tackle Andrew Drake, Joe Burbach (interception) and Nate Kitzerow (fumble recovery) for strong performances.
“I’m just happy for the kids to be able to go out with a win. It was a nice reward for all their hard work this season, espeically the seniors.”
Grafton had three takeaways, with Sam Zarling and Kevin Collins recovering fumbles and Teich intercepting a pass.
Port finished with 213 yards rushing, led by Clarke with a game-high 116 yards on 20 carries, and Bailey with 57 yards on 13 attempts. Bailey also had two catches for 59 yards.
Teich led Grafton with 73 rushing yards on just four carries. Weisflog had 63 yards on 17 attempts.
Chossek was disappointed with the outcome of the game, but not his young team, which relied heavily on underclassmen at key positions throughout the season.
“I’m really proud of the way they played,” he said. “Even though we didn’t have any wins, they kept getting better all season. They never gave up.”