Port, Grafton win first-round playoff games

Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington High School football team forced five turnovers while committing one in its home playoff game against New Berlin Eisenhower last Friday, but the game still went to the wire.

No. 2-seeded Port (8-2) recovered a fumble with less than three and a half minutes to play on their own 28-yard line, then ran out the clock to secure a 20-17 victory over the No. 7-seeded Lions (6-4) in a Division 3 level 1 game.

“It was a little closer than I wanted but I knew they were going to be a good team,” coach John Bunyan said.

Quarterback Ben Fritsch ran 28 times for 152 yards and two touchdowns in his first playoff start. He went 9-for-15 passing for 128 yards and a score.

Matt Esselmann caught four passes for 52 yards, and Josh Arnold caught two for 50 yards and a score.

“We did some good things but we didn’t exactly offensively have that explosive of a game either. We left some points out there we should have got,” Bunyan said.

Port took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 16-yard Fritsch run. The Lions fumbled the kickoff, and 22 seconds later Fritsch hit Arnold for a 43-yard score to make it 14-0.

The Lions cut the lead to 14-7 at half, then kicked a third-quarter field goal to make it a four-point game. Fritsch’s 26-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter gave Port a 20-10 lead. The Lions scored on a 32-yard pass with less than 10 minutes to play.

On defense, Pirate Anthony Backhaus intercepted a pass in the end zone with less than a minute to play in the first half, and Cael Eernisse picked off a pass in the third quarter that led to Fritsch’s score. Peyton Anderson, Brady Krueger and A.J. Mrozek each recovered a fumble.

“That was the difference,” Bunyan said of the turnovers. “We had a hard time stopping them.”

After the final fumble, Port’s offense got three first downs to end the game.

“I’m proud of the offensive line,” Bunyan said.

Port improved on penalties as well, only getting flagged for three.

“That was absolutely big for us,” Bunyan said.

A game that perhaps could have had a larger margin of victory was impacted by the events of last Thursday. Port High School was evacuated after Port police received what turned out to be a bogus call about a school shooting around 8 a.m.

Emergency services kicked in, and the school day was soon canceled, and all after-school activities were called off.

The team did a walk-through Friday morning.

“It was difficult for a lot of people going through what we did on Thursday. Our teachers and our families did some good things, stepping up,” Bunyan said.

After the victory, Bunyan asked his players how they felt coming into the game. He said they told him they were exhausted after Thursday’s stress.

“Mentally, it takes a toll,” he said.



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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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