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West De Pere eyes return trip to state behind potent passing attack

After a state runner-up finish last season, the Phantoms are ready to make another run behind their star quarterback/receiver duo and an "intense" defensive attack.
Posted at 9:35 PM, Aug 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-15 22:35:46-04

DE PERE, Wis. (NBC 26) — Nearly nine months after the state championship game, West De Pere's second place finish still stings.

"I don't know if I'll really ever be over it just because we had an opportunity and we didn't make the most of it," senior quarterback Duke Shovald, who threw the Phantoms only touchdown in the game, said.

"I know this year all the guys are ready to make another run like that and go get the gold ball," Shovald added.

Last November, the Phantoms jumped out to an early lead over Kettle Moraine, but allowed 24 unanswered points and lost 27-10 in the Division 2 title game.

Now, as a new season dawns, they have a clean slate.

"Each year you start off anew," head coach Chris Greisen said. "We make the analogy, you start off at the bottom of the mountain. We're at the same place everyone else is."

As any good team does, the Phantoms lost several key players. The list includes star running back Najeh Mitchell, who amassed more than 4,000 total yards and scored 60 total touchdowns in a West De Pere uniform.

"You can't replace that dude," Greisen said. "That guy was super talented and at the end of his career was one of the hardest working guys that we had one our team."

With Mitchell gone, West De Pere lean more on its passing attack this season.

The duo of Shovald and Langdon Nordgaard, his top receiver, could be dangerous. Both players are receiving college interest; Nordgaard has a preferred walk-on offer from Wisconsin.

"That's my guy," Shovald, who also described the 6'4" Nordgaard as a "freak," said. "Like they say. Lang's down there somewhere..."

"He's really good," Nordgaard said of Shovald, who is already West De Pere's all-time leader in passing yards. "He reads everything well. He moves well in the pocket. He's just a really good quarterback."

A pairing like that doesn't come around every year. It's enough to make a coach like Greisen - a former pro quarterback himself - smile ear to ear.

"When you have two college-level guys playing the quarterback and wide receiver position, that's pretty nice," Greisen said.

Defensively, there's plenty to be excited about, as well. The defensive line includes one of the state's best at the position, Andrew Baumgart, who Greisen compared to a future Pro Football Hall of Famer.

"(It starts with) Andrew Baumgart who's arguably one of the best 3-technique (players) in the state of Wisconsin," Greisen said. "Just an explosive, explosive player. I would say kind of like an Aaron Donald-type player."

With comparisons like that, it's obvious the talent is there. But everyone is in agreement: talent alone doesn't win championships.

"(We have to) win every day," Nordgaaard said. "Day by day. Practice. Game. Just do everything right."

"Win every week," Shovald added. "Just week by week, day by day."

"Doing the ordinary things in an extraordinary way," Greisen said. "Every single day."

West De Pere opens its season at Hortonville Friday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.