Pewaukee Pirates win first-ever WIAA football state title
PEWAUKEE, Wis. (BVM) — Pewaukee High School finished the 2021 WIAA football season as Division 3 state champions. The first in program history and the culmination of years of work.
“It’s something we’ve been working for for a really long time… It’s a credit to all of the kids and the coaches that have done so much over the years,” Pirates head coach Justin Friske said. “To build the foundation that we were finally able to finish the job.”
According to Friske, what it took for the Pirates to get the gold ball was a belief in themselves and an ability to step up in the big moments after years of coming up short. In 2019, the Pirates went 6-5 and lost in the second round of the playoffs. That season, all five of their losses were within a touchdown. Last year, Pewaukee went 3-5 and four of their five losses were once again by one score or less.
Both the players and the coaching staff at Pewaukee knew they had the ability to be a great team and this year they banded together to get over the proverbial hump, turning those close losses into wins.
“Enough’s enough with the close losses now it’s time to make critical plays when it’s necessary and as we went through the playoffs I think you saw that,” Friske said.
In the playoffs, it started almost instantly. In their first game against Grafton, the Black Hawks were able to march down all the way to the 10-yard line on their first drive but on 4th and 1, the Pirates got the stop. From there it only took four plays and a 67-yard touchdown run from Nick Dettlaff for Pewaukee to get on the board. The Pirates would win that game 21-0, but that early turnover on downs undeniably changed the attitude of the game.
“We made plays when they absolutely had to be made and with that, we then were able to use that momentum and parlay that into some success on the other side of the ball,” Friske said.
That formula led them all the way to a state championship and it was on display in the final minutes of their game against Rice Lake at Camp Randall.
With about four minutes left in the game, Pewauke led 8-6 but Rice Lake was driving down the field. On 4th and 2 near the 50-yard line the Pirates once again made the play, junior linebacker Andrew Jones made the tackle that gave the ball back to Pewaukee, leading to a 26-yard touchdown run by senior Carson Hansen with about a minute and forty seconds left in the game. The Pirates went up 15-6 but as if that wasn’t enough, senior defensive back Nathan Schroeder got an interception during the ensuing drive.
Their state championship win capped off a postseason run that saw a five-seed shutout three of their opponents and then only give up a combined 20 points to the other two teams they played. It was a defensive dominance that had been on display all season.
“We became a unit that took a lot of pride in shutting people down,” Friske said.
Led by a veteran linebacking corps, the Pirates held all opponents to under 20 points and had six shutouts on their way to 12-2 overall record.
“Our linebacking corps has been together for two seasons… They started to believe in themselves in a way I haven’t seen in a while,” Friske said.
However, Friske was also quick to say that the unselfish nature of his team allowed his linebackers to shine. The defensive line chewed up blocks all season allowing the Pirates’ linebacker and free safeties to make big plays that would then translate to big plays on offense.
The unselfish play and willingness of the individual to make sacrifices for the betterment of the team was a common theme for the Pewaukee Pirates this year and it stemmed from the seniors.
“We had a senior class that was incredibly unselfish and was just more worried about us being
successful than any of them having the accolades or statistics or anything like that,” Friske said. “When you have a senior group that is wired that way it just makes it so much easier.”
Their unselfishness maximized the talents of every player on that football team and allowed the Pirates to be the kind of team that could win a state title.
That dominance displayed by the Pirates on defense and the offense’s abilities to take advantage of the opportunities created by the defense gave the team a belief in themselves that came in hand when they were named as a five-seed.
The Pirates did not dwell on it but used it as motivation. They knew they were good, they knew that they could’ve been a higher seed but that didn’t happen so they decided to just go down the path laid out for them and win.
“I think they began to relish the opportunity to prove it,” Friske said.
Pewaukee did prove it but once the Pirates finish their well-deserved celebration of their first-ever state title, they are ready to prove they can build off of this success.
“The next challenge is to maintain a high level of success,” Friske said.
It’s a challenge the Pewaukee Pirates are both excited for and believe they can accomplish.