Still seeking a playoff berth:

Road loss has Port football team needing to beat an East Central leader to make the postseason
Ozaukee Press staff

A bad fourth quarter at Sheboygan Falls last Friday has the Port Washington High School football team still searching for its fourth East Central Conference win and a berth in the postseason.

Up, 25-21, heading into the final 12 minutes, Port allowed 21 points while scoring six in a 42-31 loss that moved them to 3-2 in the conference.

Injuries may have taken a toll. Port lost three-year starting quarterback Nate Uselding on Sept. 9, then lost three-year starting linebacker Kaiden Schumacher two weeks ago. Both are all-conference players and team captains.

“Kaiden has been averaging 12 to 15 tackles per game. It hurt to not have him out there,” coach John Bunyan said.

Without Uselding, the offense runs a little differently with speedy Ben Fritsch at field general.

Bunyan said “it’s next man up” and didn’t use injuries as an excuse.

“We’ve gotta shut down the running game in the fourth quarter — 21 points isn’t going to win,” he said.

“We’ve got to refocus and get better. We’ve got to tackle better than we did, that’s for sure.”

Field position also played a part. The Falcons’ kickoff returns put them in prime spots to score, while Port had to travel longer distances.

Fritsch ran for 178 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries and went 8-for-17 passing for 138 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

The Falcons took advantage of both mistakes, turning them into touchdowns, one on a 57-yard return and another that set up a four-play, 38-yard scoring drive.

Just before the fourth quarter, Fritsch scrambled for a first down on third and 11, then hit Ryan Burmesch across the middle to the 2-yard line. Fritsch took it in from there.

“We’re trying to do some read option and speed option. He’s always going to be a threat to run the ball,” Bunyan said.

In the fourth quarter, the Falcons answered with a 44-yard touchdown pass down the middle on fourth and two to take the lead.

On the ensuing possession, the Pirates went for it on fourth and two from their own 38-yard line and Fritsch was stuffed for loss.

The Falcons scored five plays later.

On the next possession, Fritsch was picked off across the middle on third and five. The Falcons turned that into a touchdown to take a 41-25 lead with just more than two minutes left.

Port added a late touchdown on a 13-yard pass to Matt Esselmann, but Port’s kick rolled out of bounds, effectively ending the game.

Esselmann caught four balls for 114 yards and two scores, including a 69-yarder in the second quarter. He caught a pass while standing near the right sideline, juked one defender and sprinted to the end zone.

Lleyton Allen ran 14 times for 70 yards.

“I thought Lleyton Allen had a decent game running the football, one of the best of the year for him,” Bunyan said.

For the Falcons, Caleb Plier ran for 106 yards and four touchdowns on 27 carries. Dane Nickolai went 9-for-11 passing for 202 yards and a touchdown. Austin Gebert caught three passes for 87 yards and a score.

“It was their homecoming. They played hard. I’ll give them credit,” Bunyan said.

Port now has to win one of its final two games against a quality opponent to make the playoffs, and the Pirates will have to do it without senior offensive lineman Lance Walker, who broke his hand in practice and is out for the rest of the season.

On Friday, Port, 5-2 overall, hosts Plymouth for homecoming. The Panthers, Berlin and Kewaskum are tied atop the East Central at 4-1.

Homecoming festivities increase the degree of difficulty to prepare, Bunyan said.

“It’s a challenge we talk about. It’s also a fun time for them to make great memories as high school kids. You’ve got to balance some of that out,” he said.

On Oct. 14, Port plays at Berlin to close the regular season.

“I still believe that we’re a really good football team. We have the opportunity to win all the games on our schedule,” Bunyan 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.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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