Indians fall to nemesis Pewamo-Westphalia in district finals
By Jason Wesseldyk
WESTPHALIA—As Saugatuck football coach Bill Dunn posed for a picture with his team’s seniors following its Division 7 district final against Pewamo-Westphalia, one of the players asked if they were supposed to smile.
“Yes we’re smiling,” Dunn responded. “It’s been a great season. You guys have a lot to be proud of. You’ve accomplished a lot.”
And so they smiled—some of those smiles more forced than others—as they tried to focus on the positives from the season while dealing with the sting of a 42-20 setback to the Pirates.
“They’re just so good,” Dunn said of P-W. “They’re well-coached. They’re disciplined. They’re physical. They’re a tough match-up for any team.”
The Indians know as well as anyone how good the Pirates are.
This marked the fifth time in the past seasons Saugatuck has seen its season ended with a playoff loss to P-W. The first four of those came at the district level, while the Indians dropped a 21-0 decision to the Pirates in the Division 7 state finals last year.
Dunn was hoping his team would have the chance the play P-W later in the playoffs again this season.
“I was really hoping we were going to go south for districts as opposed to being in with (P-W) again,” he said. “I know we’d have to face them eventually, but especially with us having been the two state finalists last season it would have been nice to play them further down the line.
“I think that’s one of the things these kids are heartbroken about. We were state finalists last year and we draw them in a district final. There just doesn’t seem to be a fairness to that.”
P-W coach Jeremy Miller knew exactly what to expect from Saugatuck
“It’s almost like they’re a conference opponent now,” Miller said. “They play hard. They execute. They do what they do. They run the T and they run it well, so you have to be disciplined.”
The Indians ran their offense well late in the first quarter and into the second quarter as Nicholas Baumbach scored on a 13-yard run with 10:52 left in the opening half. The touchdown—coupled with Griffin Milovanski’s extra-point kick—capped a 72-yard drive that took 4:53 off the clock and knotted the score at 7-7.
“I thought we moved the ball well at times,” Dunn said. “We put that good drive together to tie the score early in the second quarter and I thought the kids looked confident.”
The Pirates had an answer, however, as they found the end zone on three rushing touchdowns prior to halftime to take a 28-7 lead.
Hunter Wirth accounted for the first two of those on runs of seven and 17 yards, while Cameron Wirth scored the third on a 3-yard run.
Wirth also scored the Pirates’ first touchdown on a 48-yard run early in the first quarter on his way to a 295-yard rushing effort.
Seventy-two of those yards came on the third play from scrimmage in the second half as Cameron Wirth broke free for another touchdown.
P-W made it a 42-7 score when Alec Thelen found Andre Smith for a 7-yard TD pass as time expired in the third stanza.
Although down, Saugatuck continued to battle, getting scoring runs of 21 and 66 yards from Brad Dunn in the fourth quarter.
“The kids never quit,” Bill Dunn said. “They could have hung their heads and mailed it in, but they didn’t. Even though we were down, they kept battling and made the score respectable. That says a lot about the character of these young men.”
Brad Dunn, one of the team’s seniors, finished with a team-best 154 yards on 23 carries. He finished the season with nearly 2,600 rushing yards and 41 touchdowns.
“Brad had a great season,” Bill Dunn said. “He’s been a leader for us and I was honored to have gotten the chance to coach him.”
Brad Dunn is the fourth son Bill Dunn has coached, joining older brothers William, Nick and Blake.
“Because of Brad, I’ve seen this group of seniors since they were in third grade, coming up through Rocket and then junior high and finally high school,” Bill Dunn said. “They’ve done so much to add to the legacy of our program. I couldn’t be more proud of a group of young men than I am of these guys.”
Baumbach, another senior, added 42 yards on seven carries, while sophomore Nick Stansburry had 30 yards on eight carries.