As satisfying as Whitefish Bay’s win over Homestead was last week, the Blue Dukes knew coming into Friday what they had to do to earn a share of the first conference title for the school since 1993 -- top Nicolet.
After perhaps a slow first quarter, Bay turned it on, allowing just 94 yards to the Nicolet offense on its way to a 44-0 North Shore Conference victory in the regular-season finale at Nicolet High School.
“I stressed staying focused in practice all week,” said Bay junior running back Rashadeem Gray, who had touchdown runs of eight, 21 and 25 yards. “A lot of guys were excited (after the 14-7 win over Homestead), thinking we were going to come in here and they were just going to roll over. It is the final game of the season, so I knew they were going to come out and hit us hard.”
Knowing what they had accomplished, and with Homestead’s 28-7 victory over Germantown on Thursday night setting up the possibility for the tie atop the conference standings, the Blue Dukes (6-1 North Shore, 7-1 overall) were all smiles after the victory.
“Most of us have been together since fifth grade,” said senior quarterback Grant Menard, who had a pair of touchdown passes from six and seven yards to senior tight end Jackson Weber in the first half. “We made a pact back then we would get it done in the big games and we did. I couldn’t be prouder.”
With emotions running high last week, things started shaky for Bay, which had a fumble and minus-5 yards through their first five plays. But the Blue Dukes looked like a well-oiled offensive machine from the second quarter on.
“Our offensive coordinator Jake Wolter has done a great job this season opening up the playbook as the season went on,” Menard said of the first-year addition to the Blue Dukes coaching staff. “You see that dynamic passing attack and rushing attack with the talent we have in the backfield (with him making the calls).”
With a defense that allowed just three first downs and had an interception to its credit in the first half, a 21-0 lead was in hand at halftime was more than enough.
“Our offense waits for the moment and then explodes while our defense just has to hang on until that explosion,” said Bay coach Jim Tietjen. “Once we got seven I knew we were going to be OK.”
Added Menard: “Coach Tietjen does a great job with that group, and we have a lot of tough players on that side of the ball. Our success this year has come from the heart of the defense. Our offense has special moments, but the success this defense has fuels this team.”
Nicolet coach David Quam knew his team needed to take advantage of its opportunities when it had them. A missed field goal after the early fumble and a failed fourth-down conversion gave Bay the opportunity to seize control.
“You always wish you get those first points to get momentum on the board,” said Quam, the fifth Knights coach in as many years, who plans to return to the sidelines next season. “We threw the kitchen sink at them and tried to keep them off balance, but that’s a good team and there’s a reason they are conference champs.
“I don’t think people understand how good, knowledgeable and hard-working (Tietjen) is. He is as good as there is in this state.”
The Blue Dukes know they can figure on hosting a game next week in Level 1 of the playoffs.
“It’s exciting having a home game,” Gray said. “Last year we had a home game, it was exciting and we’re hoping to go deep into the playoffs this time around.”