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Attitude, hard running lead Greyhounds to win in opener

Trio of tailbacks pace Shorewood/Messmer

Aug. 23, 2011

Shorewood - Shorewood/Messmer football coach Drake Zortman was thinking about his old mentor Homestead coach Dave Keel last Friday, when his Greyhounds were facing an 'and goal' situation from the Brookfield Academy three-yard line with only six seconds left in the first half.

The Greyhounds were down 12-6 and could have used the momentum a score would bring going into the half.

"I thought, wouldn't Dave be proud if we just punched it in here," said Zortman. "We'd get that score and then get the ball first in the second half and be in real good shape. But we tried a short fade pass instead, and their kid did a nice job of knocking the ball away.

"In retrospect, I just wish I had just given it to one of my running backs and let him work his way in."

Zortman didn't make that mistake in the second half, as backs Antoine Davis, Alec Grimmer and Xavier Johnson fueled a 20-point third quarter explosion as Shorewood/Messmer made the new coach a 32-20 winner in his debut.

"We took a lot of small steps tonight," said Zortman, "and they were almost all in the right direction. There's still a long ways to go but this is a good start."

The Greyhounds used a fast start in the second half to fuel the rally and to help with that, Zortman turned to another old Homestead hand, his running backs coach Andy Moriarty.

Moriarty, a top-notch running back a decade ago for the Highlanders, who went on to become the WIAC's career rushing leader while at UW-Oshkosh, motivated Davis, Johnson and Grimmer and it paid off big time.

Grimmer broke an off-tackle play and made a couple of quick moves to go 57 yards and tie the score early in the third quarter. Then on the next two possessions, Davis worked his way in for a pair of scores from four and six yards out.

By the time the period ended, the Greyhounds were up for good, 26-12.

"Andy got those guys together at halftime and talked about pad level and breaking tackles and it really paid off," said Zortman. "What a great young coach."

Johnson then broke the Blue Knights' backs with an 88-yard explosion in the fourth quarter. All told, the Greyhound backs turned in an imposing collective effort as Johnson had 118 yards on 10 carries, while Grimmer had 102 yards on 10 carries and Davis 99 yards on 22 carries.

"Antoine was the real workhorse," said Zortman. "He really set the tone."

As did the defense, set up by coordinator Chad Hofmann. Shorewood/Messmer forced six Academy turnovers including four interceptions (two by Grimmer from his middle linebacker's slot) and two fumble recoveries. Zortman said the defense did a great job adjusting to the Blue Knights' spread offense set and noted that end Jordan Eastern and linebacker Justino Rodriguez had great games.

Zortman was pleased with the overall effort as the Greyhounds had close to six players going two ways. The only real issue the team had to deal with was a bit of cramping from the warm August weather.

"We were able to string together a bunch of little things and it added up to one big thing (a victory)," he said.

Quarterback Taylor Dennis hit Nate Wickstrom with a 21-yard touchdown pass for Shorewood/Messmer's first score of the game.

Zortman is pleased with the camaraderie that's being built in the small program.

"We've made it a point to practice the varsity and the junior varsity together as much as possible," he said. "We suited about 20 varsity and 10 junior varsity guys for this game and we got a lot of contributions from everyone."

The Greyhounds will be in Hartland at 2 p.m. Saturday for a date with Midwest Classic power Lake Country Lutheran.

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