The timing of the mistakes couldn’t have been any worse for Bay Port on Friday night.
Seemingly every time the Pirates were building momentum, a self-inflicted miscue helped take it away in their 21-13 loss at Green Bay Southwest with the Fox River Classic Conference title on the line at Dahlin Family Stadium.
“We turned the ball over, which is uncharacteristic of us and that made it difficult,” Bay Port coach Gary Westerman said.
A lot of things were uncharacteristic of the Pirates in a clash of unbeaten teams.
After not throwing an interception since a season-opening win at De Pere on Aug. 24, senior quarterback Colton Peterson threw two.
The offense that was averaging a league-best 403.7 yards per game, was limited to 258. The defense which had been allowing 133.0 rushing yards per game, was gashed for 271 in giving up a season-high in points.
It also had to play from behind for a majority of game after previously only trailing twice the entire season.
“Our defense played great early on,” Westerman said. “They kept us in the ballgame. We weren’t able to get anything going. We moved the football and then had a mistake or missed assignment.”
The Pirates advanced to the Southwest 23-yard line early before it was stopped on downs and then had to punt on their next drive with 38 seconds remaining. Besides a Peterson interception to Khan Balushi, the Bay Port offense didn’t touch the ball again until there was less than 2 minutes remaining in the first half.
Its offense found its footing in the third quarter on a drive that ended with senior receiver Peyton Armstrong catching an 8-yard scoring strike. But Southwest answered with a TD of its own and another Peterson interception helped put the Pirates in a 21-7 hole with under 6 minutes to play.
A key to the Trojans’ defensive success was their ability to put outside linebackers Nathan Paup (6-foot-5) and Jarrod Thill (6-5) in press coverage to counter the Pirates’ trio of tall targets in Peyton Armstrong (6-foot-2), Steven Minzlaff (6-4) and Drew Neuville (6-4).
Peterson was still able to throw for 158 yards, but the coverage limited bigger gains down field from happening.
“I’ve known Peyton for a long time and he’s a great athlete, but I wasn’t sure how fast he was so we decided to throw Nathan out there and see what happens,” coach Paup said of the conference’s leading receiver.
“The one play early where he was trying to run a wheel out of the backfield, Nathan was stride for stride with him and that gave me a lot more confidence with that.”
The task for Westerman now is to get his team back up for the playoffs, where Appleton North has ended Bay Port’s year four of the past five seasons.
“This stings and this hurt,” Westerman said. “But we got to come back and make some noise in the playoffs.”