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Datka: Grafton

Oct. 19, 2010

It's sad to have seen the Grafton football program fall into the state of disrepair that it currently sits in.

Wins have been few and far between for the Blackhawks in recent years and they have been cellar-dwellers in the North Shore for far too long.

But there was a time, not all that long ago, when it was mighty WFCA coaching Hall of Fame member Kip Cramer stalking the sidelines for Grafton, winning two state titles, making two other finals and generally making life one massive headache for Germantown and its coach Phil Datka (along with many others).

The fabled "Black and Blue Crock" the teams fought for changed hands frequently back in the 1980s and 1990s but has now taken up near permanent residence in Germantown, since Grafton won the second of back-to-back victories in 1996.

But, oh, there were some games then.

TOP GAME

1992: Germantown 18, Grafton 6

The North Shore Conference race was a mess heading into the regular season's final week. Only the top two teams would qualify for the state playoffs but there was the possibility of a four-way tie for the title.

But things became clearer after Germantown earned this emotional victory. The Warhawks claimed it behind a stout defense that held a potent Grafton rushing attack in check and a lunch-bucket offense that was led by All-Suburban fullback Eric Brill and back-up quarterback Jason Johnson (filling in for the injured Doug Atkinson). The two teams had identical league records of 6-2 afterwards but Germantown claimed the all-important tiebreaker because of the head-to-head win.

And when word came down that Port Washington (7-1) had beaten Homestead (5-3), Germantown had the second seed in the conference and a state playoff berth wrapped up.

When asked at the time if he would have preferred a four-way tie for the title and no playoffs (which would have been the scenario had Homestead beat Port), defensive coordinator Dave Branske famously said: "Who wants that? The playoffs are a lot better."

His point would be proven in the coming weeks as Germantown earned spirited road WIAA playoff wins over Greendale and Port Washington (its first ever) before losing in the state Division 2 semifinals to eventual champion Monroe.

HONORABLE MENTION

1995: Grafton 14, Germantown 9

Germantown came into this game on a 4-0 roll, coming off an emotional overtime win at Port Washington the week before.

But the Blackhawks were in the midst of their last renaissance behind excellent quarterback Kyle Van Sluys. Van Sluys, who would lead Grafton to a share of the North Shore title that season (their last such crown), proved hard to defend and the Warhawks would commit some costly turnovers, including one sequence where they had an interception only to see the ball get fumbled right back to the Blackhawks.

The offense could never get going for Germantown and Grafton would have one of its last moments of glory (the Blackhawks would qualify for the state playoffs in both 1996 and 1997, but they haven't since).

1990: Germantown 34, Grafton 7

This game was part of the Warhawks' Cinderella 8-0 start to the season that only ended when eventual WIAA state D2 runner-up Port Washington beat Germantown in the conference championship game at the end of the regular season.

It is primarily known for the career-making open-field hit of Germantown safety Dave Bruss (a NOW All-Suburban selection in 1991) on the Blackhawks' all-state level running back Kevin Imler in the second half.

The violent torso-to-torso collision, which occurred just as it looked like Imler was going to break a long one, happened right in front of the Germantown bench and left the Warhawks players, staff and the large throng of fans who had made the trip up to Grafton on a cloudy Saturday afternoon, delirious with excitement.

1996: Grafton 26, Germantown 20

This game is best known for what occurred afterwards. The loss dropped the frustrated Warhawks to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in North Shore play.

The Germantown offense had sputtered against the better teams and needed a jumpstart, so the coaching staff moved all-world lineman Terry Stephan from center to tackle to give it a lift.

A game later, the Warhawks pulled off an epic upset of eventual league champ Homestead, a victory that would start a six-game winning streak and only end in a controversial loss to eventual state D2 runner-up Monroe in the WIAA quarterfinals.

- Steven L. Tietz

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