It was almost a mirror image of what the Whitefish Bay football team faced last week when the Blue Dukes turned back Germantown in the final seconds from their own goal-line and held onto victory in their North Shore Conference opener.
But Thursday night, the tables were turned as the surging Cedarburg offense completed a remarkable 22-point fourth quarter rally when quarterback Joey LePak hit end Zach Hetzel on a quick nine-yard hitch with 7.5 seconds remaining to lift the Bulldogs to a 25-21 victory.
"It was a crazy situation, emotions were just flying so high," said LePak, who completed 14 of 22 passes for 157 yards and two TDs. "We just dedicated ourselves to getting this done."
But Blue Duke coach Jim Tietjen instead saw an opportunity lost when Bay had a 14-0 halftime lead and a 14-3 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
"They made plays and their playmakers made them," he said. "We needed to make stops and we didn't. They exposed our corners (in the second half) and then they were able to run inside."
"...It's what high school football is all about."
Indeed, as the Bulldogs improved to 2-0 in NSC play and 3-1 overall while the Blue Dukes fell to 1-1, 2-2, respectively.
Bay had looked impressive in the first half. A 15-play, 80-yard drive opening drive culminated in a four-yard bootleg run by quarterback Grant Menard on fourth down to give Bay a 7-0 lead. The drive was done all on the ground.
Then later in the second quarter, running back Jordan Johnson took a nothing little running play on a second and 19 situation from the Cedarburg 36 and turned it into a dazzling TD dash and a 14-0 lead.
But the Blue Dukes also lost out on opportunities too. Thery started out one drive on the Cedarburg 41 and had to punt and also missed a 40-yard field goal.
They did catch a break when the Bulldogs were threatening with only seconds remaining in the half before Pat Rose recovered a Cedarburg fumble on the Blue Duke 12.
That stop preserved the 14-0 halftime advantage
But the tide turned early in the third quarter. Bay had a chance to bury the Builldogs on its first possession of the second half, driving from the Blue Duke 40 to a third and five situation on the Cedarburg 10.
But Menard's pass was intercepted by receiver/defensive back Joe Zuba in the end zone to end the threat.
"That was just a huge play," said Bulldog coach Brian Leair. "Joe (Zuba) is such a tough kid. He pretty much never comes off the field. Those are the kinds of plays that make the difference in winning or losing games."
There would be more from Zuba (seven catches for 68 yards) later.
Three sequences later, the Bulldogs finally got on the board as kicker Jason Seeke connected on a 26-yard field goal to make it 14-3 with just nine seconds left in the third.
Seeke would come big just moments later, as he bounced a perfect onsides kick to the right side of the Bay formation. Cedarburg recovered at the Blue Duke 48 and were back in business.
"That pretty much broke our backs," said Tietjen.
The Bulldogs indeed smelled blood and immediately went on the hunt. The vaunted Bulldog run game, which had been held pretty much in check by the Blue Duke defense in the first half, broke through as Hudson Walton (21 carries, 117 yards), would have five carries for 36 yards on the next sequence before Hetzel would bull over from a yard out with 9:38 remaining.
Bay committed a costly pass interference penalty on the series and then did so again on the two-point conversion as Hetzel would eventually run it in to close the gap to 14-11.
The Blue Dukes went three and out on their next series and Cedarburg took advantage of the short punt, going 45 yards in six plays as LePak threw a perfect front corner of the end zone deep out scoring strike to Matt Johnson (six catches for 80 yards) that covered 21 yards into tight coverage.
When Seeke hit the extra point, it was 18-14 Cedarburg with 6:10 to play.
But Bay fought back.
Fullback Deontaye Brown, who had to battle through illness this week, was inspired on the next series, carrying the ball six times for 54 yards, as the Blue Dukes went 80 yards in 10 plays before Brown burrowed in from a yard out to give Bay the lead back at 21-18 with 2:59 remaining.
"Deontaye had come in pretty fresh there and he showed a lot of pop," said Tietjen. Brown would finish with 56 yards on nine carries.
But after the Blue Dukes kickoff went out of bounds, Cedarburg took over at the 35 with an opportunity to win the game. LePak would complete five of six passes for 58 yards on the final sequence, including three for 19 yards and two critical first downs to Zuba.
A 30-yard strike to Johnson over the middle was the key blow.
An incompletion with 11.8 seconds left gave Cedarburg a chance to set up its last play.
"The way they were covering things, we saw that that play would be open," said LePak. "We called it specifically for that kind of situation."
And the throw into the outstretched hands of Hetzel was right on the mark.
"We knew that they'd come downfield," said Tietjen, "and we knew that we'd have to play some ball yet. We thought we had the experience to get it stopped, but they exposed a sophomore linebacker and called the right play. It was a good piece of coaching."
'Credit them (Bay)," said Leair. "We came out flat, not ready to play and they were ready to play. ...We thought that we were getting better each game but that wasn't the case in the first half. But we showed a lot of fight in the second half."
"We're a work in progress. We're not an experienced or polished team by any means yet but we're getting there."
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