by Troy Sparks
One team handcuffed the WIAA and made history while the other team looked to break the track record of city schools bowing out early in the playoffs.
Messmer-Shorewood, or “Messwood,” qualified for the playoffs with their 4-2 record in the Midwest Classic North Conference, but they had to go to court to prove they belonged. That meant that the WIAA couldn’t release the playoff bracket for all seven divisions until the court case was settled.
Messmer, a private high school, combined with Shorewood High School to field a football team because there weren’t enough players to form separate teams. The two schools had a co-op agreement to include players from both schools, which they usually get 30-35. The co-op is for football only.
Shorewood was a member of the old Parkland Conference that disbanded a few years ago. The Greyhounds joined the Woodland Conference, but they opted to leave the conference, instead, playing an independent schedule for three years.
When the co-op decided to join another conference this year, they knew the rule from 2006 of waiting four years before being eligible for the playoffs. Messwood voluntary left the Woodland without WIAA approval. An issue of whether Messwood deserved to be in the playoffs came to light when their administration found a loophole in the interpretation of that rule. Messwood argued that the ruling applied only to independent schools. That wasn’t explained clearly in print. Neither school is considered independent. The football team just played a non-conference schedule for several years.
The criteria for a school making the playoffs is first based on the overall won-loss record and then a winning conference record. Most schools play two non-conference games and seven conference games, so a 4-3 record will get a team into the playoffs, or in the City Conference, a 3-3 record might result in a postseason spot.
After Messwood discovered the misinterpretation in the language of the rule, they took their case downtown to the Milwaukee County Courthouse. Both sides argued their cases, Oct. 17, but no decision was made. On Oct. 18, it was ruled that Messwood was eligible for the playoffs. And they got thrown to the wolves in their first round game, Oct. 21.
Milwaukee Riverside was more than happy to take the bait against Messwood at Pulaski Stadium. The Greyhounds knew they had no chance of beating the Tigers because they were outmatched and undersized. But they fought until the very end to give supporters from both schools hope for many years to come. Shorewood made it to the playoffs when they had their own team 30 years ago. The kids on this year’s team didn’t understand the legal stuff. They just wanted to play one more game.
“Everybody was extremely excited,” Messwood coach Drake Zortman said. “It’s something that the kids earned. There is only one spot on that plaque. We’re the first ever.” Zortman showed the team after the game the plaque indicating that they were the first to make the playoffs as Messmer-Shorewood. Said Zortman, “The excitement and the brotherhood and the comraderie that these guys have had, especially finding out that, ‘Hey, we are going to the playoffs. We earned it. We’re going.’ ”
It was nothing like Messwood giving it the old college try, but they lost to Riverside, 49-6. Next year it won’t be an issue if the team makes the playoffs again.
Riverside lost to Kenosha Bradford in the first game this year, barely beat Waukesha Catholic Memorial and steamrolled over seven of their City Conference opponents. They outscored their last three opponents, Tech, South and Milwaukee Hamilton by a combined score of 201-6.
If the Tigers are serious about erasing the myth that no city team can beat the suburban teams in the playoffs, they should back it up instead of talking about it. If they’re tired of hearing the same old song, then they should do something about it.
They did it before back in 2006 when they backed Arrowhead into a corner in the fourth quarter with a 20-17 lead with under 9 minutes remaining in the game on a cool November Saturday afternoon at Datka Stadium in Germantown. The Tigers carried the banner for the City Conference, and they were that close to reaching the state Division 1 finals in Madison. Arrowhead got the go-ahead touchdown and won, 24-20, crushing the spirits of the school, the conference and supporters from the City of Milwaukee.
Riverside had a good team last year that was supposed to make some noise in the playoffs. When they lost to Muskego in the first round, it became the same old swan song: The city teams, as usual, are one-and-done. Let’s hope that Riverside crush Homestead, their second round opponent, the same way they beat the city teams.
Milwaukee Blast Scrimmage
Milwaukee’s newest pro team, the Blast, will have a blue and white scrimmage at Nicolet High School, Sunday, Oct. 30, at 4:00 p.m. Come see the local players you grew up watching in high school and college showcase their skills. It won’t be long before the team begins their inaugural season in the ABA. The Blast will play all their home games at Wisconsin Lutheran College either on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays. Come support the team despite the NBA lockout situation. You can get more information at www.blastbasketball.com.