Sun Prairie controlled the line of scrimmage and time of possession on its way to a 51-28 victory over Verona in the first round of the Division 1 playoffs on Friday, Oct. 25.
It was the last game the Wildcats will play at Curtis Jones Field.
“They didn’t do anything different scheme-wise, they just beat us up front,” Verona coach Dave Richardson said of Sun Prairie. “We couldn’t stop their run game, and then you’re in big trouble because you have to add a guy to the box and then they can pass. They just had a little more juice than us, and we couldn’t respond.”
Sun Prairie (7-3) beat Verona 27-21 on Sept. 20, using a similar formula. The Cardinals ran 75 plays to the Wildcats’ 47 in the playoff matchup, and held a 29-17 advantage in first downs.
Sun Prairie finished with a balanced 441 yards of offense, with 233 coming on the ground and 208 through the air. The Cardinals scored on all four of their second-half drives to end the Wildcats’ season.
Brady Stevens rifled a 20-yard touchdown pass to Colin Schaefer, giving Sun Prairie a 30-13 lead with 8:51 left in the third quarter.
Verona’s Xavier Howard muffed the ensuing kickoff, but gathered the ball in time to run 90 yards for a touchdown.
“I scooped it up and my first instinct was to look what I have in front of me,” Howard said. “I saw Cole (Zoromski) block two guys, so I took it up the sideline. That play was made because of him blocking two guys and the guys in the front line.”
Verona (7-3) had a chance to cut it to a one-possession game on its next drive. Kyle Krantz ran 11 yards on fourth-and-2 to the Wildcats’ 29-yard line, but Adam Bekx was intercepted by Jacob Hellenbrand on the next play. The Cardinals took advantage with a 10-play, 55-yard drive, capped by Jamel Stone’s 3-yard touchdown run to make it 37-20 with 5:21 left in the third.
The Wildcats worked their way to the Sun Prairie 28 on its next drive, but Stone forced a fumble of Krantz and Addison Ostrenga recovered.
The Cardinals marched 65 yards in 10 plays, punctuated with a 2-yard touchdown run by Nathan Schauer on fourth-and-goal with 10:29 left in the fourth quarter.
Krantz had a 39-yard touchdown burst up the gut with 8:41 left, and ran in the two-point conversion. He led the Wildcats in rushing with 73 yards on four carries.
Stevens capped a 12-play, 49-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run with 2:13 remaining.
Sun Prairie began the game with a 12-play, 65-yard drive. Stone ran two yards on fourth-and-1 to keep the drive alive, and Schauer plunged into the end zone from a yard out. The two-point conversion failed, and the Cardinals led 6-0 with 8:06 left in the first quarter.
Verona’s 14-play drive stalled at the Sun Prairie 7, as the Cardinals tracked down Howard for a loss on fourth-and-goal.
Sun Prairie marched 93 yards in 12 plays, as Schauer ran into the end zone from two yards out with 11:42 left in the second quarter. Owen Konopacki converted the extra point to give the Cardinals a 13-0 lead.
The Wildcats got on the board a little more than two minutes later. Haakon Anderson had catches of 15 and 42 and a 7-yard touchdown run on consecutive plays.
Howard caught a quick slant from Bekx and ran 75 yards up the Verona sideline for a touchdown with 5:25 left in the second. The Cardinals blocked Mason Armstrong’s extra-point attempt to keep the game tied at 13.
“Our guys know we’re capable of scoring quickly,” Richardson said. “We have some athletes on offense that are capable of making plays, and that’s what they did. It was one of those games where if you could hold serve, you’d stay in it.”
Konopacki missed a 43-yard field goal on the next possession, but the Wildcats’ offense went three-and-out. An 11-yard punt gave the Cardinals the ball at the Verona 32. Stevens found Dominick Landphier for a touchdown on the next play to give Sun Prairie the lead for good with 1:51 left in the first half.
Another Verona three-and-out and short punt led to more points for the Cardinals. Stevens connected with Landphier for 16 yards and Schaefer for 21 yards, and Konopacki made a 39-yard field goal with five seconds left in the second to put Sun Prairie up 23-13 at the half.
Stone finished with 127 yards on 19 carries, and Schauer rumbled for 93 yards on 27 carries. Stevens completed 14 of 19 passes, Landphier had four catches for 77 yards, and Schaefer added five catches for 70 yards.
The Cardinals will play at Fond du Lac (9-1) in the second round of the playoffs.
Howard had four catches for 98 yards and three carries for 14 yards. Anderson also served as a versatile option with four catches, five carries and 105 all-purpose yards (77 receiving, 27 rushing).
Bekx completed 12 of 24 for 208 yards, while Aubrey Dawkins was limited to one catch for 16 yards. Jackson Acker was held to 36 yards on 10 carries, and left the game in the third quarter after reaggravating an ankle injury that caused him to miss the final two games of the regular season.
Verona’s James Rae and Ben Cramer had a sack each, and Adam Vandervest recorded a tackle for loss.
Thirty-nine seniors played their final game for the Wildcats.
“They’re a really great class, not only in football, but in all of their sports and classes,” Richardson said. “Every teacher loves having these guys in their classroom, and I haven’t said that about a class in a long time.
“I wanted to hang out with these guys another week or two or three. They’re a cool group that is going to be very successful. They’re going to be great dads, husbands and community leaders. I hope football had a little bit to do with them becoming who they are.”