Even healthy, South Milwaukee had its hands full with Whitefish Bay. With senior standout quarterback Jake Simuncak still sidelined by an injury, the matchup had the potential to get out of hand.
And it did.
The No. 2-seeded Blue Dukes made easy work of the No. 7-seeded Rockets, 56-21, in their WIAA Division 2, Level 1 playoff matchup.
The Blue Dukes (7-3) will remain home next Friday as they face third-seeded Greenfield (7-3), the Woodland East Conference champion, which defeated Milwaukee Bay View, 38-10.
“Greenfield has two of the most explosive athletes in the state of Wisconsin,” Whitefish Bay head coach Jake Wolter said, referring to Greenfield’s senior quarterback-running back tandem of Rayvon Bartlett Jr. and Ezekiel Banks.
Bartlett has completed 66 percent of his passes this year to go with 2,800 total yards and 34 touchdowns.
“They are legit,” Wolter said. “We will have our work cut out for us with those two. We’ll be doing a lot of planning on the defensive side this week.”
But against South Milwaukee, with Simuncak and his 2,600 total yards and 30 touchdowns watching from the sideline, it was Bay’s offense that took center stage. Bay’s big three of quarterback Cade Garcia, running back Bo Bassindale and wideout Alex Anthony were far too much for the Rockets to handle.
Anthony caught all three of Garcia’s touchdown passes for 49, 39 and 27 yards.
“Alex and I just have great chemistry,” Garcia said. “We were able to hit some of the big ones tonight. When the blocking is there and I get time, I know exactly where he’s going to be and I just have to make the throws. A lot of the guys are very comfortable in the offense, and it comes from the offseason work that we all put in.”
On the ground, Bassindale ran 19 times for 145 yards and two scores, while sophomore Patrick Nau added 11 carries for 97 yards and two scores as well. Senior Michael Kirkendoll added a 22-yard touchdown run.
Nau scored Bay’s first touchdown just 26 seconds in to play, and the Blue Dukes never relinquished the lead. They took a 49-14 advantage into halftime. The Rockets left little on the table, choosing frequently to forgo punts and opting for onside kicks after scores.
“We knew this was going to be a challenge for us,” South Milwaukee head coach Mike Bertok said. “It’s not the way you want a season to end, but we were a young team that improved as the year went on. We had several games that could have gone the other way. We like where we’re headed as a program.”
Bay, while dominant most of the night, had a few of the defensive lapses that have marred its season at times. Rockets quarterback Joel Reyes hauled in a 59-yard pass from Collin Mahn on a wide receiver pass in the first quarter.
In its three losses, Bay surrendered 50, 35 and 29 points, uncharacteristic of its traditionally defensive-minded teams.
“It’s been an issue at times,” Wolter said. “It’s a product of having a lot of young guys on the field. And frankly, it’s sometimes guys out there doing their own thing, and that’s unacceptable. It’s going to be a point of emphasis this week, and we’ll address it, again.”
Reyes accounted for both of the Rockets’ offensive touchdowns, a 2-yard run and a 9-yard pass to Nate Sielaff. South’s final score came on a 57-yard fumble return on a botched handoff. But by then, Bay’s five-touchdown lead had the continuous-clock mercy rule in effect.
Wolter credited his team’s difficult schedule with their preparation for postseason play.
“Playing in this conference, it’s a big advantage,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, if you make the playoffs from the North Shore, you’ve got a chance.”