How much confidence did Germantown football coach Jake Davis have in his defense when it was nursing a 14-13 lead late Friday night against North Shore favorite Whitefish Bay?
Especially when talented sophomore quarterback Dwayne Lawhorn, Jr., was stripped of the ball on the Germantown 31 with just 4:27 left?
"I wanted to give them all the confidence in the world," said Davis, "so I just told them, 'Go out and get me the ball.'"
Which the Warhawks did, as Bay committed a critical holding penalty on what would have been a third down conversion. Germantown then forced a deep incompletion on the replay of third down, making the Blue Dukes go for an impossibly long 53-yard field goal.
Bay sophomore Colin Downing gave it a good ride, but the ball came up about three yards short with 2:55 left.
Davis then extended his confidence onto Lawhorn. Bay was spending timeouts trying to get the ball one more time but on a third and eight, the 6-2, 172-pound Lawhorn did what he had done all game, making good in the clutch.
He buried a ball into the chest of senior end Curtis Williams for a 14-yard gain and a first down, which allowed Germantown to run out the clock and pull off an improbable upset.
"I was nervous before this game," said Davis, "but I went up to Dwayne, and asked him how he felt, and he just said 'I'm excited to play, coach' That surprised me for a sophomore in a game this big."
"So when it came down to that third down play, I just wanted to keep the ball in our hands. Bay is an explosive team. I trusted my defense, but I just wanted to keep the ball in our hands."
Lawhorn appreciated the trust.
"Telling us to go for it like that gave us a lot of confidence," saw Lawhorn. "It allowed us to get momentum and wind up with a victory."
Lawhorn, in just his second varsity start, finished his night an excellent 13 of 19 passing for 193 yards and two TDs.
The effort impressed craggy old Warhawk vet, senior linebacker/defensive end Joe Kretlow, who led a defense that was on the field a lot in the second half.
"We've been working for a win like this since sophomore year," said he said. "A lot of us have been playing together since sixth grade. We owed it to ourselves to go out and get a victory like this."
"And boy, did Dwayne come through."
The win gave the Warhawks a critical leg-up in the North Shore Conference race at 1-0 (2-0 overall), while the Bay team (0-1, 1-1), which had been much hyped in early pre-season conversation for the great many returnees it had back, could only gnash its teeth over the opportunities it squandered.
"We made mistake after mistake," Coach Jim Tietjen said tersely. "There's not to many other things to say other than that. You have to execute play after play and we didn't do that. I give them (the Warhawks) credit for stopping some of the things we like to do best."
"But you've got to make the plays, or all the stuff we read about ourselves won't mean a thing."
Germantown worked hard to finish this game. The Warhawks trailed twice. Returning All-Suburban running back Rashadeem Gray exploded for 54 yards off the right side for a Blue Duke touchdown with 7:54 left in the half.
But in a sign of things to come about the misfortunes of the kicking game, the extra point was missed and it was 6-0 Bay.
And the momentum would quickly shift back to Germantown, as just three plays later, Lawhorn took a deep drop from the Bay 41 and threw a deep strike to his favorite target senior end Jason Townsend.
The defender was in great position, but Lawhorn made a perfect pass, dropping the ball right over Townsend's shoulders and into his hands for a remarkable score just 1:45 after Bay had struck.
And when sophomore Carter Schmitz converted the extra point, Germantown had a 7-6 lead.
'That was just a perfect throw," said Townsend, en route to a six-catch, 99-yard day. "I have a great deal of confidence in Dwayne."
Bay had a chance at taking the lead late in the half, driving to inside the Germantown 10, but a missed blocking assignment allowed Warhawk senior lineman Tanner Zingsheim to block a short field goal attempt that would have given the Blue Dukes the advantage.
Nontheless, the Blue Dukes did seize control on the first drive of the third quarter, grinding out 65 yards in 13 plays, as Gray took a toss and scored easily from a yard out at the 6:15 mark.
After Downing's extra point, it was 13-7 Bay.
But as was the case all night, the Warhawks responded. Facing a a second and 16 situation from his own 14, Lawhorn dropped back and connected with Williams for 18 yards and another key first down.
That would jump-start an impressive 14-play, 83-yard drive that would include a precision six of eight performance by Lawhorn for 80 of those yards. These included the final eight to Townsend, who shook off a painted-on defender for a touchdown in the the right front corner of the end zone.
Schmitz's extra point would give Germantown the lead for good at 11:56 mark of the fourth quarter.
Davis could not say enough about the performance of his youthful signal-caller.
"Dwayne does such a great job," said Davis. "He is a sophomore and is prone to sophomore moments, but he just had confidence in himself with a big game on the line."
The defense then had to make it stand up, as on the next series, Bay went 46 yards in 11 plays. An ill-timed holding penalty wiped out a Gray TD run and a subsequent deep corner route pass by quarterback Grant Menard was just a touch long, but Bay had a chance at the lead with yet another field goal try.
Downing's attempt from 42 yards out was impressively long, but it drifted off to the left.
Bay would get two more stops of Germantown, including that forced fumble from Lawhorn that was recovered by defensive lineman Kelly Jackson.
But as noted, the Warhawk defense could be trusted to get the job done, and it did.
"It was a great effort by the defense," said Davis. "We talked about aggressiveness and execution and confidence and we had all those things tonight."
Gray had 118 hard-earned rushing yards on 18 carries, while Julian Posey had 74 on 18 for Bay, but the numbers didn't mean much to Tietjen, as he barked to his team afterwards:
"Live up to your potential, finish things!"
The Warhawks, who had a lot of rebuilding to do between last year and this one, are already doing that.
"We just have one goal," said Kretlow. "Get victories."
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