"Did we really pass the ball that little" was the question Whitefish Bay football coach Jake Wolter asked of one of his assistants after the Blue Dukes' 48-31, not-as-close-as-it-looked WIAA D2 Level 2 playoff win over Greenfield on Oct. 28.
Known for their pass-happy attack led by junior quarterback Cade Garcia and junior receiver Alex Anthony, the Blue Dukes rushed 38 times for 223 yards and four touchdowns on the night.
In comparison, Garcia only put it up 14 times for the game, still completing nine for 165 yards and three scores against the overmatched Hustlin' Hawks' defense.
"I guess we did," Wolter answered himself, "but it does help when 33 percent of the catches go for touchdowns."
The victory improved the junior-laden Blue Dukes to 8-3 and a 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4 Level 3 rematch at defending D2 state champ and archrival Homestead (10-1). This is only the third time Bay has advanced to Level 3, with the others in 2011 and the great state semifinal season of 2012.
Homestead stands in their way of another state semifinal berth.
The Highlanders overpowered the Blue Dukes, 29-12, on Oct. 7. It was a game where Bay could not take advantage of some early opportunities, the Highlanders ran for 360 yards and the Blue Dukes were generally frayed around the edges a little bit.
Wolter would love to get into a ball-control mode like the team did against Greenfield. One other thing also has to happen in Wolter's eyes.
"As I look back on it," he said, "we need to keep our composure better. We let certain things get to us (as coaches). The kids saw it then they picked up on it. If we also cut back on the mental mistakes, that will help, too."
Count on the Highlanders to be in the same ground-control mode they were the first time with Bay. They passed only twice in a 31-7 Level 2 throttling of Germantown on Oct. 28 to get to this game as quarterback Eric Zoeller and back Bradley Woldt each went over 100 yards rushing.
"We'll do what we do best and see if we can hang in there with them," Wolter said. "See if we can force them into things they don't like doing."
After a shaky start against Woodland Conference East champ Greenfield, during which they fell behind, 7-0, at the quarter, the Blue Dukes used a 75-yard wind-aided punt from Zach Lichosik to get them rolling in the second quarter. A 29-yard TD pass from Garcia to Maurice David Lee III then formally brought the offense to life.
After that, Bay scored 41 unanswered points, including taking a 21-7 lead at the half, to firmly take control of the last game at Lubar Stadium for the season.
Garcia followed the Lee TD pass with a 26-yard strike to Anthony, and the first-half scoring was finished off by a 1-yard run from Bo Bassindale.
Bassindale led the reborn rushing attack with 124 yards on 20 carries, while sophomore Patrick Nau added 85 yards on 11 tries.
"They're sort of like thunder and lightning" Wolter said. "Patrick's a bigger kid, and he usually gets better with each carry ... he's been a huge help in recent weeks."
Hawks hang on
Bay expanded the lead to 34-7 in the third with the help of an 11-yard Garcia to Lee pass and a 9-yard run by Bassindale. It was 41-7 at the start of the fourth on a 2-yard Bassindale run. Subs started to filter in like crazy at that point as Greenfield scored 24 points in the quarter, the last with just 23 seconds left.
Nau finished off the Bay scoring with a 44-yard burst.
Anthony continued his remarkable season with four catches for 97 yards, while Lee had three for 45. Anthony has 73 catches for 1,132 yards and 12 TDs.
Wolter was pleased with the effort, especially for seniors like tight end Chris Caspari, defensive back/receiver Michael Kirkendoll, first-year defensive back David Thompson and linebacker Andy Oates.
"It was a pretty good game once we got into it," Wolter said. "We knew with Cade, Alex and Maurice that we could go over the top, but we wanted to establish the ground game. We really wanted to get it going. We wanted to control the line of scrimmage because the offensive line has been awesome lately."