WESTPHALIA, Mich (WLNS) – The defending Division 7 state champion Pewamo-Westphalia Pirates came into their District Semifinal game on Saturday afternoon with a hand tied behind their backs. The Pirates were misses 14 starters due to injuries and COVID-19 quarantines.
Bad turned to even worse for PW on the first offensive drive of the game as starting quarterback Jacob Thelen injured his ankle and was sidelined for the rest of the afternoon. Coaches always preach about being ready for moments like this, looking for which player will rise to the occasion.
Sophomore quarterback, Troy Wertman, stepped up to the challenge completing seven out of his nine passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Wertman’s second touchdown pass was on a fourth-and-14 play for a 29-yard touchdown to Connor Thelen, giving the Pirates an 18-17 lead with seven minutes left in the game. Plenty of time for North Muskegon to make a game-winning drive but the Pewamo-Westphalia defense had other ideas.
The Norsemen drove the ball down to the Pirates’ 19-yard line but were stopped on a fourth-and-10 passing play that bounced off the hands of North Muskegon’s Bo Nedeau in the endzone. The Pirates’ next offensive drive was stopped forcing them to give the ball back with two minutes left.
North Muskegon’s quarterback, Brennan Pannucci, connected on two passing plays to get the drive started. But after a few misplaced passes, the Norsemen faced another fourth down situation. On fourth-and-two with 50 second left, Pannucci handed the ball off to Colin Schotts but a group of Pirates defenders wrapped him up in the backfield and brought him down.
The Pirates would kneel-out the rest of the clock and win their District Semifinal matchup 18-17. PW’s closest victory since their Regional Championship game against New Lothrop last season when they won 36-35.
After the game, head coach Jeremy Miller shared how proud he was of his Pirates for showing their resiliency in Saturday’s game.
“Between injuries and quarantine we finished the game with I think 18 different starters than we had two weeks ago,” said Miller. “North Muskegon’s a really good football team. I’m just so proud of the way…we had freshman playing at the end of the game in big moments and in big positions and the way they stepped up and beat a really good football team today…I’m as proud of this win as I have been of any.”
The Pirates will travel to Ithaca for the District Championship game.