The De Pere football team has the opportunity to become playoff eligible with a win over Sheboygan South tonight.
That the Redbirds (3-2) are closing in on a third straight WIAA postseason appearance is even more impressive considering how many injuries they have sustained since the start of the season.
The list includes all-conference defensive back Blair Griffith (shoulder) and safety-punter Austen McGowan (torn anterior cruciate ligament).
“We have got a lot of young faces,” De Pere coach Chad Michalkiewicz said. “Overall, I think we have 11 kids out right now. The only silver lining to this, as long as we are continuing to progress and get better, we only have eight of 22 starters who are seniors now.
“We have 14 sophomore and juniors starting on our team, and six of them are sophomores. We are going to continue to get better every week.”
The Redbirds have won three straight since losing to Bay Port 40-0 and Green Bay Notre Dame 7-0, and are averaging 25.3 points during that stretch.
After a home game against the Redwings, De Pere will play its final three games on the road against Green Bay Preble, Green Bay Southwest and Manitowoc.
The Redbirds’ 30-27 win over Pulaski last Friday on a 37-yard field-goal by Chris Van Straten was a key victory in the playoff race, giving them a little breathing room in what could be a tough stretch of games.
“Absolutely,” Michalkiewicz said. “Those discussions remain in the coaches meetings, but as a staff we felt like this was one we probably had to have.
“What I said to the kids was, when we take that tough stretch down the road with three road games against good teams, we want that to be for an opportunity to improve seed or potentiality get a home playoff game. Not a must-win situation against traditionally great teams just to try to get into the playoffs. From that standpoint, last Friday night was a huge win.”
Bay Port enters Week 6 with the second-ranked offense in the 12-team Fox River Classic Conference and is averaging a league-high 38.2 points.
When Bay Port coach Gary Westerman was hired by the school before last season, he brought in former De Pere coach Greg Rabas as his offensive coordinator.
It appears the move has paid of handsomely.
“I love Coach Rabas,” said Bay Port senior running back Max Biebel, who has rushed for 480 yards and is averaging 7.4 yards per carry. “He kind of took me under his wing last year and he’s just a great guy.
“He calls great plays and he knows what to do. He can just attack the defense in so many ways. It’s an honor to play for the guy.”
Rabas went 64-39 during 10 seasons with De Pere, guiding the Redbirds to eight playoff appearances and three conference championships. He was a standout at Kewaunee before playing at Nebraska and the University of Wisconsin from 1977 to 1981.
“Greg has done an awesome job, our whole staff has,” Westerman said. “It has helped me be able to do other things, to be able to help out more on defense and offense. That’s been really important.”
Algoma is 5-0 for the first time since 2001 and just the third time since 1925. Since the football program started in 1899, the team never has started a season 6-0.
The Wolves’ conference title hopes in the Olympian/Packerland-Small, meanwhile, will be decided the next three weeks.
Algoma, which is tied with Reedsville atop the conference, will host third-place Manitowoc Lutheran (3-2) tonight before a showdown at Reedsville on Oct. 11.
The Wolves have a bye next week.
Algoma is seeking at least a share of the conference title for the second time in three seasons.