Messwood football team clinches title share, tries for outright crown
School seeks move to Woodland Conference
There was no fire-and-brimstone, no incendiary "What the heck were you thinking?" kind of speeches for the Shorewood/Messmer football team Friday when the Greyhounds fell behind to a determined underdog Brookfield Academy, 16-7, at the half.
Instead, there was just calm discussion with both the offense and the defense, followed by a sense of purpose, and then a knowing that they could do better.
Which is what they did in a big way, rolling up a stunning 42 points in the second half en route to a 49-16 victory.
A victory that put them within a game of an outright Midwest Classic title.
In short, Messwood (6-0 in league, 6-2 overall) is now a team on the move. They can complete a 7-0 run through the league when they visit Living Word Lutheran (3-3) in the regular season final at 3 p.m. Thursday. Then they await their fate in the WIAA seeding meetings that occur over the weekend.
Then they will think about the tentative decision that was made last week to move the program back to Shorewood's bigger, more competitive home conference of the Woodland.
It's all a great deal for third-year coach Drake Zortman to take in.
"This is part of our growth process," he said. "It's been one of my goals to move us to a different league. We've had a great time in the Midwest Classic, but what happened a week or so ago (the forfeit win over Kenosha Christian Life) can't happen if we want to get better.
"...The Midwest Classic has been very generous to us and I've made a lot of good friends, but we can all see the writing on the wall.
"There will be another meeting (of school administrators) on Oct. 23 and then others in December and February," Zortman said. "Hopefully it won't take that long because we'd like to have a decision soon."
But one can't blame the Greyhounds if they are in a hurry. Under Zortman, they've come from virtually nonexistent as a program to almost full legitimacy in three short seasons.
Zortman said that process has had support from throughout both schools. He said as the team has pursued its first conference title for Shorewood since 1981 and its first for Messmer since 1947, he's gotten great backing from powerhouse state championship coaches at Shorewood such as Rob McCabe of the girls swim team and Dominic Newman of the boys cross counttry team.
He also said that new soccer coach Andy Baisch has also been very helpful.
In return, the Greyhounds have played well and rewarded everyone with this rare journey to the top.
"It's just great to be in a school so supportive," Zortman said.
A slow start
Not that it's been easy. Academy, using a methodical offense, took time off the clock and scored to start a game, then snuck an onside kick past Messwood and before anyone could blink it was 13-0 and the Greyhounds still hadn't touched the ball.
It got worse. After taking the next kickoff, the Greyhounds fumbled on the very next play. They held but then they went three and out on the next series.
The defense took it into their own hands, literally, as defensive end Tywan Ramsey ripped the ball out of an Academy runner's hands and that finally set up a 23-yard Taylor Dennis to Louis Williams TD pass.
Messwood got one final stop before the half, but it still resulted in an Academy field goal and a 16-7 deficit.
At that time, Zortman pulled out his old mentor Dave Keel's playbook and kept things within reason.
Coach stayed positive, calm
"At the peak of adversity he always tries to be as calm and positive as possible," he said. "We hadn't played a game in two weeks (because of the forfeit) and it showed, but give credit to Academy, they had a good game plan."
Talent, however, finally won out in the second half. Williams scored on a three-yard run to start the third quarter and that was start of a three-TD effort in the period that put Messwood up for good.
DeAngelo Stewart added a 20-yard run and Dennis a 63-yard burst on what was ostensibly a quarterback sneak ("He put on his track shoes for that one," Zortman said) and it was 28-16 at the end of three quarters.
Fourth quarter TDs followed from Stewart (30-yard run) and Sellinger (seven- and 40-yard runs) as the locals pulled away.
The Greyhounds finished with 300 yards rushing on 35 carries as a team as Stewart had 96 yards on 15 carries, Williams 89 on 12, Sellinger 68 on four and Dennis 47 on four.
Now the chance for glory and an outright conference title awaits.
"There was no hollering," Zortman said. "We just got back to doing what we were doing and made adjustments.
"There's a hunger in this locker room. The seniors, they know. They know what's at stake."
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