Verona split its four games in Weeks 4-7, routing Madison La Follette on Friday, Oct. 4, and outlasting Madison West on Friday, Sept. 13, at home.
Sun Prairie scored with 15 seconds remaining to beat the Wildcats on Friday, Sept. 20, and Madison Memorial scored the game-winning touchdown as time expired a week later at Mansfield Stadium.
Verona 54, Madison La Follette 13
Haakon Anderson rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns as the Wildcats crushed the Lancers at Curtis Jones Field.
Verona (5-2, 5-2 Big Eight Conference) became playoff eligible with the win, as it rushed for 282 yards and scored on all five of its first-half drives.
“We don’t want to take getting into the playoffs for granted,” Anderson said. “We have one more opportunity added to our season. These last couple of games we have to have a playoff mentality. We are do or die and have to stay alive once it’s playoff time.”
Jackson Acker rushed for 169 yards on seven carries and had two touchdowns. Graham Stier also scored two touchdowns in the romp.
The Wildcats broke the game open with 21 points in a 3:27 span from late in the second quarter to the opening drive of the third quarter.
Anderson took a counter and bolted for a 62-yard touchdown with 1:12 left in the second. The Wildcats then blocked a punt, and quarterback Adam Bekx connected with Aubrey Dawkins on a 5-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left in the first half to put Verona up 34-13.
Verona opened the third quarter with a six-play, 57-yard drive, ending in Stier’s 2-yard touchdown run.
Cam McCorkle made a diving interception midway through the third, which led to a 12-yard touchdown run by Acker. Mason Fink tossed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Spencer Lokken in the fourth quarter.
The game had the makings of a shootout early on when La Follette’s Jaylend Brown broke loose for a 34-yard touchdown run on the Lancers’ first possession, and moments later, Anderson raced for a 45-yard touchdown run after La Follette opened the game with a touchdown. Acker rumbled his way through the Lancers’ defense for an 83-yard touchdown run to give the Wildcats a 13-7 lead with 1:02 left in the first quarter.
Madison Memorial 27, Verona 24
The Wildcats’ Ben Cramer and Xavier Howard hit Spartans running back Kabaris Vasser at the goal line, but Vasser got a push from his offensive line and used a second effort to power in for the game-winning score as time expired.
The Spartans charged onto the field after finishing a rally from a 17-point second-half deficit.
“We had a chance to put them away and we didn’t do it,” Verona coach Dave Richardson said. “It’s a game we should have had and in the second half, I got too conservative and I allowed (Memorial) to get back in the game. We are a good team that has lost two tough games. We will be a tough out in the playoffs.”
The Wildcats’ defense forced four turnovers (three fumbles and an interception by Jake Poller), and used a mix of short passes to keep the Spartans off balance early, marching 80 yards in 10 plays on their first drive that ended in Stier’s 25-yard touchdown run.
Acker scored on a 1-yard plunge in the second quarter. Bekx found Dawkins for a 36-yard touchdown pass, and Mason Armstrong later booted a 28-yard field goal right before halftime to increase the lead to 24-7.
Bekx completed 11 of 17 passes for 136 yards. Dawkins had four receptions for 59 yards, and Stier had three catches for 43 yards.
Sun Prairie 27, Verona 21
Brady Stevens scored on a quarterback sneak with 15 seconds left to hand the Wildcats their first loss of the season.
“(Sun Prairie) did all the right things on that final drive,” Richardson said. “They looked how we looked in the third and beginning of the fourth quarter. They played with urgency and overcame our defense. I give more credit to them than I take away from us.”
Anderson tied the game at 14 with a 24-yard rushing touchdown on the first drive of the second half. Anderson scored a 30-yard touchdown on a counter play to give Verona a 21-14 lead with 8:49 remaining.
“We kept running Jackson (Acker), and the counters worked because the linebackers were flowing to stop him,” Anderson said. “Jackson’s success and the offensive line opened up opportunities for me, and I took them.”
Verona’s James Rae blocked the first punt of the game, and Tyler Laham scooped up the bouncing ball and ran to the Sun Prairie 2. Acker ran in for a score on the next play to tie the game at 7 with 6:23 left in the first quarter.
Bekx was 13-for-24 for 109 yards, while Dawkins caught four passes for 43 yards. Anderson racked up 90 yards on eight carries and 30 more yards on three catches. Acker ran for 116 yards on 23 carries. Stier added five carries for 36 yards and three catches for 25 yards.
Laham and Keegan Lindell recorded a sack and a half each.
Verona 21, Madison West 6
The Regents turned the ball over on downs four times against the stingy Wildcats.
“We rotate a lot of kids in. We were fresh,” Richardson said. “We tried to make West tired because they have a lot of two-way guys. I think we wore them down a little bit and got to their quarterback.”
Verona’s Cale Rufenacht intercepted a tipped pass by Ezra Thompson at the West 48-yard line in the waning moments of the first quarter, setting up the game’s first score. Cole Zoromski caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Bekx with 7:28 left in second quarter. Acker’s 38-yard run gave Verona a 14-0 lead three minutes later.
“We shot ourselves in the foot several times,” West coach Brad Murphy said. “We ran the ball effectively at times, but we have to complete the easy passes.”
Acker capped the first drive of the second half with a 1-yard touchdown run.
West matriculated the ball down the field using a zone read of Thompson and Nazier Jones to get on the board. Jones capped a long drive with a 4-yard touchdown run with 10:08 remaining.
Acker was held to 88 yards on 18 carries. He also caught two passes for 33 yards. Bekx was 14-for-21 for 151 yards, and Dawkins caught five passes for 71 yards.
“I was really impressed with our defense,” Murphy said. “They executed what we were trying to do and fought their hearts out. That’s all we can ask of them.”
Thompson found some success as a runner (16 carries for 67 yards), but not so much as a passer (10-for-23 for 88 yards). Jones rushed for 69 yards on 14 carries, and caught two passes for 15 yards. Khaki Sanford had four catches for 41 yards, while Dayne Armwald rushed for 25 yards on eight carries.