A year after earning a playoff berth amid a storm of controversy, the Messmer/Shorewood football co-op entered this season hungry to prove it belonged in the discussion as a respectable program.
At Shorewood’s homecoming Friday night, the Greyhounds did nothing to hurt that newfound distinction with a 42-6 thrashing of Brookfield Academy in a game that many thought would go down to the wire. Instead, the outcome made it clear who the top dogs are in the Midwest Classic Conference: Messmer/Shorewood and Lake Country Lutheran, which defeated the Greyhounds 43-41 earlier this season.
The contest was as tight as advertised after a scoreless first quarter, but that would change in the second on the heels of an electrifying 76-yard touchdown run down the left sideline from Shorewood senior Donovan Freeman.
“I had the ball, I didn’t see any lanes, so I looked to the cutback and I saw plenty of room,” Freeman said. “So I started going that way, and once I got to the sideline I threw a few stiff arms and I just had free space.”
Fellow senior tailback Alec Grimmer added two rushing touchdowns to Messmer/Shorewood hold a 21-0 edge at half.
Brookfield Academy got on the board with a touchdown run from quarterback Dominic Ricci, but Messmer/Shorewood responded with another score from Freeman and two second-half touchdowns from quarterback Taylor Dennis, one rushing and one passing to Jonathan Carson.
Freeman was the night’s standout performer with 183 yards on nine carries along with 14 receiving yards. Grimmer added 84 yards on the ground on 84 carries and a 37-yard reception.
“Offensively, we were balanced tonight,” Messmer/Shorewood head coach Drake Zortman said. “We wanted to establish the run, and I think we did a little bit tonight. I have two seniors, Donovan Freeman and Alec Grimmer, two Shorewood seniors on homecoming, and they wanted to make sure that they got the job done.”
A packed student section watched as the Greyhounds improved to 4-1 in the Midwest Classic and 6-1 overall, an achievement many thought was impossible for the program just a few seasons ago.
“My freshman year, we were awful,” Freeman said. “Not much better my sophomore year. It’s a nice turnaround. It’s nice to have a homecoming win for my senior year. Hopefully, the program is going up from now. We lead the way, and everybody follows.”
Messmer/Shorewood’s performance has silenced critics of last year’s controversial playoff berth, when the team's playoff eligibility was settled in a courtroom after the WIAA initially contended the program still ineligible for leaving the Woodland Conference three years earlier. Zortman said that was never something on his mind.
“Any win is a nice win,” he said. “Everyone wants to constantly go back to last year. We’re past that as a program, I’m past it as a coach, and the kids are past it. We’re just trying to get better. To win four ball games in a league against some good teams, we feel pretty good about that. There’s one more next week and hopefully we get another one. We’ve come a long way in the last year and a half. I couldn’t be prouder of both schools, the parents, the administrations and certainly the boys. All the credit goes to these boys.”
Messmer/Shorewood finishes the regular season next week when it hosts Living World Lutheran (2-3, 2-5). Brookfield Academy (3-2, 4-3) visits St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy (3-2, 5-2) in a game that will likely determine which team earns a playoff spot.
With Messmer/Shorewood guaranteed a spot in the postseason, the Greyhounds are starting to look at the bigger picture.
“Last year, we got our first playoff attempt,” Freeman said. “Now we’re going to get our first playoff win.”
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