Homestead's journey to another title begins this week
Playoffs start Friday for the outright North Shore Conference champions
A three-touchdown performance from senior running back Eric Wade highlighted the night for the Homestead football team as the Highlanders shut out Whitefish Bay on Friday, 24-0, and capped an undefeated season and outright North Shore Conference title.
The defending Division 2 state champion once again head into the playoffs as the team to beat. Bay beat Homestead last season as the teams shared the North Shore crown.
"I thought our kids were really ready to play football," said Homestead coach Dave Keel. "We were frustrated last year that we went over there and didn't play as well as we wanted to. They beat us last year over there, so I think our kids remembered that and came out ready to play, and they played well."
As for the conference championship, Keel said it meant a lot to his seniors.
"It's an honor for our seniors; it's their team," he said. "They've worked hard to be successful, and they were successful, and they did a great job. So we're awfully proud of what they did."
Homestead (7-0, 9-0) dominated the game from the beginning, getting the first points at 5:45 in the first quarter when Wade scored on a 1-yard run to cap an 11-play, 53-yard drive. The senior finished with 25 rushing attempts for 157 yards.
"He's an awfully good running back," Keel said. "He's quick and he's tough in there, and he gets the hard yard, and he makes people miss."
Keel referred to Wade's second score of the game, a 17-yard run to end the first quarter and put the Highlanders up 14-0.
After struggling to make a stop, Whitefish Bay (6-3, 4-3 North Shore) appeared to get some momentum back after stopping a Homestead drive on its own 32. However, the Blue Dukes found themselves pinned deep in their own territory after a Homestead punt was downed on the 1-yard line.
On the third play of their drive, Blue Dukes running back Ben Lehrmann fumbled the ball on the 8-yard line, and Homestead recovered. Two plays later, it was Wade getting his third touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run to make it 21-0 with 4:58 left in the first half.
"Chalk that up to the O-line, because they just do a great job every week of just pounding people and pushing them back and opening up big holes," said Wade about the offense's performance. "The lead blockers like Vince Wilkerson and Matt Winters, too, getting through the holes and hitting the backers."
"I think our offensive line is pretty special," Keel said. "We've got five guys up there that are all pretty physical, that play hard. Those five guys have all played well. We like those five kids."
Winters rushed 10 times for 68 yards, and Cole Murphy added nine carries for 59 yards. Junior quarterback Nick Allen threw 19 passes, completing 5 of them for 45 yards.
Luke Neuson kicked a field goal at 11:51 of the fourth quarter to cap the scoring.
Homestead's defense dominated the game. The Blue Dukes were unable to gain a single first down in the game, rushing for just 24 yards on 19 carries. and could never seem to establish a rhythm.
"There's a reason they're ranked where they are," Whitefish Bay coach Jim Tietjen said. "There's reasons that they've beaten the teams they have. I thought our kids scrapped and competed. We just couldn't match their strength."
Tietjen sees room for improvement for Whitefish Bay as it looks ahead to the playoffs.
"First of all, we hope we don't see Homestead next week," Tietjen said. "We've got a few things to deal with. We have some things to correct, fundamentals. At the end of the day, we just need to get better, that's all."
As for Homestead, it comes down to taking it one game at a time when the playoffs start.
"Now the intensity increases; it's one-and-done time," Keel said. "Now it really gets to a fun time of the year. We have to play every game like it's the last game, because it is. We'll really come out hopefully firing on all cylinders and get after it."
WIAA PLAYOFFS SET
Homestead earned the top seed in its eight-team Division 2 pod and will host Milwaukee Madison at 7 p.m. Friday as it opens defense of its state championship. If the Highlanders win, they will likely host the winner of Brookfield Central and Sussex Hamilton in a Level 2 game Nov. 1 or 2. Fellow unbeaten Kimberly is the second seed in the eight-team group. Bay is in a separate eight-team pod in D2 and is the fifth seed. It will visit fourth-seeded Wilmot at 7 p.m. Friday. If the Blue Dukes win, they will likely play top-seeded Waukesha West in a Level 2 contest.
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