In the end Sept. 23, after their near-epic 32-25 North Shore Conference win over rival Germantown, the members of the Whitefish Bay football team trusted each other.
Coach Jake Wolter trusted quarterback Cade Garcia and the offense to bring the team back into the game after Warhawks defensive back Waymon McNeal scooped and scored from 70 yards out on a blocked field-goal attempt with 5:05 left to make it 25-16, Germantown.
After Garcia did just that, hitting ace receiver Alex Anthony on a 28-yard TD pass to cut the deficit to 25-23 with four minutes left, Garcia and Wolter trusted the defense to get a stop and give the Blue Dukes one last chance at a win.
The defense did, and then Garcia did it again, driving 53 yards and giving another opportunity for Bay kicker Zach Lichosik.
That's when the ultimate degree of trust came in.
Bay faced a 4th and 2 on the Warhawks seven with 39 seconds left. Wolter weighed his options carefully because Lichosik had not one, but two kicks blocked in the game, both by Germantown linebacker Colten Thomas.
Wolter's decision spoke volumes about his trust in Lichosik.
"I really thought about going for it," said Wolter, "But in the end, I had all the trust in the world in Zach."
Lichosik boomed the ball through for a 26-25 lead with 34 seconds left and two plays later, when Blue Dukes defensive back David Thompson picked off a Collin Sathe pass and raced in from 29 yards out with just 23 seconds to go, Bay was still unbeaten in the North Shore at 4-0 (5-1 overall).
Wolter said this was a big move forward emotionally for this squad.
"This team just can't show up and expect to win," he said. "They've got to play for each other and believe in each other. After we got down, we just told them to stop bickering and go out there and play."
Garcia, who hit 22 of 41 passes on the night for 245 yards and two touchdowns, including 13 for 165 to Anthony, said the trust was always there for Lichosik.
"I just told them (on that drive that led to the field goal) that we just had to make one last push, we just had to make them (the coaches and the Warhawks) believe in us," he said. "I said that if we get the ball down there (within field goal range), Zach will knock it through."
Lichosik admitted that he had to swallow hard before that last kick.
"I talked to Coach (Randee) Drew," he said, referring to his special teams coach, "and he just told me to trust the process and trust yourself."
This was the second straight year Germantown had lost in the final moments to Bay. An amazing Michael Kirkendoll interception sealed the outcome last season.
Germantown had used a combination of hard-core basics, pounding fullback Austin Mozdzen (20 carries for 84 yards) and outright trickery, including a perfectly executed fourth-down 24-yard option pass from McNeal to Jack Brzakala, to build a 14-3 lead at one point in the first half.
Coach Jake Davis, whose team is now 2-2 in North Shore play and 2-4 overall, thought his team did just about it all it could to win this game.
"We just can't escape one score games with these guys," he said. 'They're a very good team. We know that offense can put up a lot points. In the end, they got just one more play than we did. Hats off to them."
Bay's win kept it tied with Homestead for the league lead. The Highlanders were winners over Port Washington on Friday.
Wolter came back to what a test of character this game was.
The Blue Dukes had taken a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on a 21-yard Lichosik field goal, but after McNeal's option pass gave Germantown the lead, the Warhawks took advantage of a Bay fumble to drive 41 yards and score on a Sathe 5-yard run to make it 14-3 in the second quarter. Bay got back into the game a short time later on a 40-yard Garcia to Anthony pass.
"It was amazing that we were able to go into the half down just 14-10," Wolter said. "We stubbed our toe, and they stopped us when they had to, but we made plays when it counted."
That included a 52-yard drive early in the third quarter that ended on a 16-yard run for score by back Patrick Nau, but Lichosik had his point after blocked, which led to Warhawks' kicker Brzakala hitting a 24-yard field goal to make it 17-16, Germantown, with 11:49 left.
That set up the closing drama.
"It's tough," Davis said. "We still have some work to do. We have to get two wins (to get into the WIAA playoffs). We need something positive to happen. We'll go to practice and something positive will come out of this."
Meanwhile, Bay will continue to believe in itself.
"Coach (Wolter) just keeps preaching, keep fighting, keep playing together," said Garcia. "We trust him, and he trusts us to make the plays."