This time, there would be no letdown.
Showing plenty of the stamina and poise that eluded them the previous two weeks, the Germantown football team possibly rescued its playoff hopes on homecoming with a 55-36 triumph over Port Washington.
With a win next week at Milwaukee Lutheran, Germantown (3-5, 3-3) will clinch a berth in the WIAA Division 2 playoffs.
After blowing second-half leads against Whitefish Bay and Cedarburg, Germantown was in danger of seeing the Pirates (4-4, 3-3) effectively end their season Friday.
Germantown quarterback Collin Sathe and running back/linebacker Austin Mozden were having none of it. Mozden rushed 17 times for 201 yards and four touchdowns, including a 72-yard burst in the first quarter that tied the game at 14.
“We felt good after the week of practice that we had,” Mozden said. “We know what this team is capable of doing. We just haven’t put it together this year like we thought we would. But we’re still in this, and now we just have to keep it rolling into the playoffs.”
Sathe, who passed for 177 yards and a score and ran for 114 and two more, agreed.
“We know we’re a better team than our record,” Sathe said. “And once we close this out and make the playoffs, the records don’t matter anymore.”
Port’s defense can attest to just how good Germantown can really be. The Pirates had no answers and allowed Germantown to score a touchdown every time it touched the ball in the first half until a botched field goal attempt fell flat on the final play of the half. The Warhawks had 35 points at the break.
“You absolutely cannot play defense like that and expect to win games,” Port Washington head coach John Bunyan said. “Not against a team like that and not really against anybody.”
Port’s explosive offense kept the Pirates in the game as long as it could. Senior running back Matt Ruppel rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns, while quarterback Tanner Orten completed 11 of 19 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 51 yards and a score.
The Pirates struck first on the game’s opening drive when Ruppel scored on a gutsy run on 4th and 5 from the 13. It was one-upmanship from there until Germantown forced a punt in a 14-14 tie. But Germantown kept the offense coming and took its first lead on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Sathe to senior tight end Jack Brzakala.
Port tied it again at 21 when sophomore Deron Spicer scored on an 11-yard touchdown run, but Germantown again took the lead with the seventh touchdown of the first half when Mozden scored from 6 yards out.
Then came the defining moment of the first half when Port failed to convert a 4th and 1 at Germantown’s 13-yard line. Sathe took the Warhawks 87 yards back the other way and provided a 35-21 lead with 9 seconds left in the first half.
Port fumbled the ensuing kickoff, allowing Germantown a chance to kick a field goal before half. A bobbled snap rendered that moot, but the miscue typified the Pirates’ night.
“Poor execution at several critical points in the game,” Bunyan said.
Germantown’s lone scare of the second half came in the middle of the third quarter with a 42-28 lead and the Warhawks driving to seemingly put the dagger into the Pirates defense. But on third-down pass with Sathe rolling right, he fired near the end zone only to be intercepted by Spicer.
It was a scene that looked familiar to losses against Whitefish Bay and Cedarburg – the Warhawks with their foot on the pedal in the second half until the opposition gets a break.
Not this time. Germantown’s defense forced a quick three-and-out, and Mozden responded with his final touchdown to give the Warhawks a 49-28 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“I never doubted that we would come out on top,” Mozden said. “There was no talk about, ‘Here we go again,’ or anything. There was no panic, we knew we’d get it done.”
With Milwaukee Lutheran and Germantown sitting at .500 in the North Shore Conference, the stakes for next week’s finale couldn’t be higher. Germantown head coach Jake Davis likes the Warhawks’ chances.
“I’ve been telling them that we are a dangerous team,” Davis said. “We just had to start putting things together, and when we do, tonight is what happens.”
Germantown could be a sleeper going forward. All five of the Warhawks’ losses are against teams already in the playoffs, those opponents boasting a combined record of 29-11.
The Pirates, meanwhile, have alternated wins and losses each week this season. To clinch a spot, they’ll need to do it one more time when Nicolet (0-6, 1-7) visits next week