Fierce Greyhound effort not enough as they fall to Lutheran in 43-40 thriller
Shorewood/Messmer falls from unbeaten ranks
Shorewood - The tough, thrilling, 43-40 loss the Shorewood/Messmer football team absorbed in its Midwest Classic Conference first-place showdown with Lake Country Lutheran on Friday is something the Greyhounds will learn from, coach Drake Zortman said.
But it is a hard lesson to take, he said.
Especially before a packed home crowd in a regular season game of such importance the likes of which Shorewood has not seen in decades. It had great plays, extraordinary efforts and a thrilling finish.
"I feel bad for the boys," Zortman said. "Quite honestly, Lake Country has some players who could compete on any team in any division in this state. They have just so many weapons. We focus on the one, two and three (offensive threats) and then they go to the four, five and six guys and they get touchdowns from these guys. Then you don't know who to focus on.
"But I tell you, when Mr. John F. Nicholls donated the money (to refurbish the stadium a few years back) this is the kind of game he meant it for. It was packed. People were standing around the edges, and I don't normally pay attention to the crowd, but even I could tell that it was loud all night long.
"… Now our next step is to go out and win a game like this."
With the loss, the Greyhounds fell to 3-1 in league play and 4-1 overall while Lutheran improved to 4-0 and 5-0, respectively.
And in a game in which both teams lived up to their offensive capabilities, it came down to the Lightning defense making a play.
After trailing much of the second half, the Greyhounds closed to within 43-40 on a Jonathan Carson 35-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Dennis with just under three minutes to play.
And defying all probabilities, Shorewood/Messmer recovered the onside kick giving it the ball at the 47-yard line.
"The first down play was OK, the second down play was a negative and then on third down, they got a pick," Zortman said, "and the pick is partly on me, because Taylor (Dennis) and Jonathan (Carson) weren't on the same page. It wasn't a play we practiced a lot, and I should have had them better prepared."
Lutheran was then able to convert a third down and run out the clock.
Both teams came into the game averaging more than 40 points per game, and Lutheran proved it was going to be a high scoring affair on the first drive of the game. The Lightning took just three plays and 36 seconds to move 69 yards and score the first points of the game. A 46-yard run by sophomore Adam Tovar set up a 26-yard touchdown connection from senior Jacob Simons to junior Murphy Shannon giving Lutheran a 7-0 lead.
From that moment forward, it was a race to 40, with each team taking risks on fourth down, attempting onside kicks and throwing the ball down field. The epically long first half featured seven lead changes and 55 total points with the lead exchanging hands three times in the last two minutes of the second quarter.
Sophomore Nate Coss scampered in from 12 yards out to give LCL the lead with 1:37 left in the first half. That drive featured two fourth down conversions for the Lightning and seemingly gave them the halftime lead. The Greyhounds quickly answered a minute later with a drive capped off by junior Mykyo Evans taking it in from eight yards out. That score gave the Greyhounds their last lead of the night at 26-22.
But before they could celebrate, the lead was gone, as 20 seconds later, Simons connected with junior Charlie Jacques for a 45-yard touchdown pass to give the Lightning a 29-26 lead at the break.
"The plays sandwiched right around the half were clearly the difference in the game," Zortman said. "I thought we were in pretty good shape when we scored with 34 seconds left in the half but they came right down the field and scored with 20 seconds left."
The first Lutheran drive of the second half was a length-of-the-field mixture of passing and run plays. Eventually, it would provide the separation the Lightning was looking for all night. Tovar finished the drive with a 25-yard touchdown run to give Lake Country Lutheran a 36-26 lead late in the third quarter, but the Greyhounds would continue to fight through.
An eight-yard TD run by Alec Grimmer closed the gap to 36-33 just moments into the fourth quarter, but then the Lightning pounded out a drive and pushed the cushion back up to 10 courtesy of a 17-yard run by Simons with 7:32 remaining.
Offensive numbers staggering
Carson finished with six catches for 150 yards while Grimmer rushed for 121 yards on 16 carries and Evans 93 on 15.
Zortman recognized the great play of Lutheran while giving credit to his team for playing strong and never backing down. He also recognized the importance of this game in the conference title race.
"I think everybody knew that these are two quality football teams and that the winner of this game had the best chance to win the conference title," Zortman said. "Hats off to Greg (LCL coach Brazgel) and his crew. He's got some great players, they're disciplined, they're polite, they work really hard, they do it the right way over there.
"They have so many weapons that I think if they continue on the path they are on and continue to improve they have a chance to win five playoff games (and a state title)."
The Greyhounds will try to get back on track when they visit Milwaukee South at 7 p.m. Friday.
-With additional reporting by Steven L. Tietz
RENOVATION UPDATE: Athletic Director Bill Haury said John F. Nicholls generously donated the money that began Shorewood's recent D2D (Drive to Distinction) fundraising effort. He gave another large sum that enabled the district to finish the stadium bleachers that concluded Phase 2 of the drive. Haury said money still needs to be raised to finish what's underneath the bleachers. That will include restrooms, concessions and team rooms. "All those facilities are temporary at this time until we raise some more money," he said.
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