If there were any questions about how the Verona football team would bounce back after two heartbreaking losses, senior running back Haakon Anderson and the Wildcats answered them with authority.
Anderson rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns to help Verona beat Madison La Follette 54-13 on Friday, Oct. 4, 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.”
University of Wisconsin commit Jackson Acker rushed for 169 yards on seven carries and had two touchdowns. Graham Stier also scored two touchdowns in the romp.
“We haven’t had blocking like that since the Middleton game,” Acker said. “The focus for me this week was to build a better relationship with the linemen. If they trust me, then I can trust them.
“That was a point (Verona coach Dave) Richardson wanted to get across to me, and I think it really paid off.
“It feels great especially coming off two losses that we know we should have won, especially since it was Homecoming.”
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 to cap a five-play, 69-yard scoring drive.
On the WIldcats’ next possession, 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.
The Lancers responded with an 11-play, 61-yard drive, capped by Ben Probst’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Dakovin Prather to tie the game at 13 with 8:34 left in the second.
Verona’s defense then took over by forcing turnovers and giving the offense short fields. Defensive linemen Henry Tang and Tyler Laham each had one sack.
“We wanted to take away their passing game,” Verona coach Dave Richardson said. “They had two good receivers and their passer was leading the league, and our defense got in a rhythm and shut them down.”