The whole forest:

Grafton’s football team, already with a share of the Woodland Conference title, wins it outright, restoring the roar from 1984
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

1984 is no more for the Grafton High School football team’s last outright conference title.

The Black Hawks completed an undefeated Woodland Conference season in spectacular fashion with a 45-21 win over Greendale (5-2) at home last Friday, and the players and coach knew the significance.

“It’s unreal. You get to see some people from the community come up and say hi to you if they played in high school,” senior running back Chase Norton, who is back after dislocating elbow early in the season, said.

“Good start to 18,” senior lineman Josh Lee-O’Bryant said on his birthday as he sported stylish shades. “I wanted this more than I wanted to breathe, so this is amazing.”

Senior linebacker Ben Birch stopped a family curse, of sorts.

“It feels great. I’ve had four brothers go through Grafton football and they had multiple one-win, zero-win  seasons,” he said.

“It’s surreal. Our goal all year was to get here and it happened,” linebacker Dalton Reindl said.

“It feels amazing,” wide receiver Jaeden Tiegs said. “I did not think we’d get here this year. I just can’t put it into words.”

“It’s wonderful. I’ve dreamed of this since I started playing football my freshman year,” senior Nathan Krause said.

Coach Jim Norris led the Black Hawks to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons at the helm in three different conferences, but this was his first title.

“This is huge for the community. This is huge for the kids. It’s a testament to everyone building,” he said, rattling off names of  former standout players such as Owen Wiziarde, Nathan Skebba and Preston Bonk, some of whom have brothers on the team.

“This group is absolutely outstanding but it’s been brick by brick by brick by brick for the last five years. This is what we’re working for. This is what they’re building.”

Construction on Friday started early with a little luck in concocting a 21-0 Black Hawks’ lead. A Greendale receiver dropped a bomb in light rain and brisk conditions on the first play from scrimmage.

Krause and Jackson Heinle combined to tackle a Panther for a seven-yard loss on the next play, and after an incomplete pass, Grafton went to work. Four running plays and one pass covered 51 yards, capped by a Norton six-yard scoring run.

On the next possession, Heinle tackled a Panther for an eight-yard loss, then Lee-O’Bryant snuffed out a screen pass and tackled a Panther for a seven-yard loss. Mason Lempke broke up a third-down pass, and Grafton got the ball on the Panthers’ 47 after a punt. Seven runs later, Norton scored from nine yards out.

Then Greenfield got its offense going, but the Hawks held on fourth down, forcing an incomplete pass.

They then embarked on a 13-play, 69-yard drive that ended with Tommy Lutz scoring from three yards out.

The Panthers managed a score before halftime, but Grafton had the upper hand with a 21-7 lead.

The defense, Norris said, “came out and played with their hair on fire. Whenever that happens and you’re able to run the ball, that puts us in a really good position.”

In the second half, the Hawks scored the first 17 points to build a 38-7 lead with less than nine minutes to play, and the game was decided.

Jackson Schulz hit a 22-yard field goal, sophomore quarterback Brady Hilgart found Tiegs with a 51-yard touchdown pass and Connor Robinson returned a tipped pass 31 yards for a touchdown.

Hilgart has been worked into games later in the season, giving senior starter Vince Cameranesi a break and time to focus on playing cornerback, where he has made three interceptions.

“We can both run the offense efficiently. It doesn’t matter who’s in,” Cameranesi said.

All night long, the Hawks’ defensive backs and linebackers hit Panther receivers as soon as the ball would arrive or shortly after, either breaking up passes or preventing large gains.

“Our defense held strong. Our varsity defense held them up to 14 points. We made a lot of goal-line stops. It’s amazing,” senior linebacker Itaza Manzoor said.

“We knew they had big-play capability. They have athletes all over the place,” Norris said.

So do the Black Hawks. Sophomore Tommy Lutz has been an explosive fill-in for the powerful Norton, and now the two have created a formidable running tandem.

“One of the coolest things I’ve seen is Chase gets in for the first two and Tommy gets in for the third and Chase is going wild on the sideline for Tommy,” Norris said.

The pair runs behind three seniors and two sophomores on the offensive line. Norris, a former national title-winning offensive lineman at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, knows why the unit succeeds on Friday nights. It’s led by Lee-O’Bryant, who “Holy Moly, is absolutely the real deal,” Norris said.

“You guys see Friday nights. I see what they do Sunday through Thursday. There’s a reason why they’re good on Friday nights.”

“I knew we were going to be here. I had no doubt that we were going to be here,” Lee-O’Bryant said of the conference title. “I trusted my teammates and knew what we were capable of when people were doubting us.”

Lutz had 20 runs for 107 yards and a touchdown, and Norton ran 17 times for 100 yards and two scores.

Hilgart and Cameranesi combined to go 5-for-7 passing for 114 yards and a touchdown. Tiegs caught four balls for 114 yards and a score.

Heinle led 18 players with at least one tackle with six. Birch and Krause each had five.

For the Panthers, Blake Goelmann went 15-for-21 for 87 yards with one touchdown and one interception. They were held to 48 yards rushing.

Grafton got a 3 seed in the Division 3 playoffs and hosts Wisconsin Lutheran on Friday, Oct. 21, in a rematch of a Sept. 2 game that Grafton won, 28-12. That was the Vikings’ only Woodland Conference loss of the season and the game when Norton got injured.

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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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