Playing with drive and intensity, the Grafton football team nearly toppled Whitefish Bay in the season finale on Oct. 14 before ultimately falling, 42-40.
The Black Hawks, who had trailed by as many as 15 points, trimmed their deficit to two points when Jack Birch threw a halfback-option pass to Evan Agnew for a 9-yard touchdown with about 3 minutes, 50 seconds remaining. Jack Orlowski nailed the extra point to make it 42-40.
"We made it look like a triple option," coach Shaun Behrend said. "We pitched to Birch, who waited until Evan got open and threw it to him."
Grafton elected to kick off rather than try an onside kick, and the choice worked when the Hawks stopped Bay on the next possession. After a punt, the Hawks had the ball at their own 40-yard line with 1 minute, 40 seconds remaining, hoping to move within Orlowski's field-goal range.
On the first play, though, quarterback Hayden Proefrock threw an interception, and Bay ran out the clock.
"That (the interception) is the one thing you can't do on first down," Behrend said. "We have a great kicker. We wanted to give him a shot, and we didn't do that."
The Hawks certainly moved the ball well throughout the game. Proefrock completed 15 of 31 passes for 214 yards and one touchdown, with Birch catching five tosses for 109 yards. Caden Knauer paced the running game with 108 yards in 16 carries.
Birch got the Hawks started with an 11-yard touchdown reception for the only score of the first quarter, but Bay came back with four touchdowns in the second period to go up 28-13.
Knauer provided Grafton's lone score with a 92-yard kickoff return that made it 13-7 for Grafton at the time.
John Kluck opened the second half with an interception return for a touchdown that drew his team within 28-20; then Bay answered with another score to go ahead 35-20.
Knauer tallied from 44 and 34 yards to bring Grafton within 35-33, with a two-point conversion try missing after the second score.
Bay responded with a 69-yard touchdown run by Bo Bassindale for a 42-33 lead; then Birch and Agnew hit their scoring pass to set up the final minutes.
Grafton finished the season at 1-6 in the North Shore Conference and 1-8 overall.
"We are getting better," the coach said. "We battled most of the teams in the North Shore. Homestead was the class of the conference, but everybody else was fairly even."