Big 8 Expectations for the Rest of the Season
1.) Sun Prairie: Season Record 6-0
The Sun Prairie Cardinals are, without question, the best team in the Big 8 Conference this season. This teams combination of a potent rushing attack, headlined by Donte Starlin-Merriam, and one of the best defenses in the entire state of Wisconsin makes the Cardinals one of the perennial contenders for a state championship come seasons end. The Cardinals were picked to be right near the top of the conference at the beginning of the year, but the way in which this team has dominated the competition truly has folks believing they could hoist the golden ball trophy at the end of the year. Sun Prairie has scored 45 points in two contests this season along with a 35-point game. The average margin of victory so far this season has been 26 points per game and the defense has earned two shutouts on the year coming in the last two games. The first, coming against arguably the conferences most explosive offense in Madison Memorial, was a 35-0 affair and the second shutout just last week was against Middleton in a 17-0 contest. Along with these impressive shutouts, Sun Prairie’s defense has yet to allow more than seven points in any game this season, which makes the possibility of advancing deep into the playoffs an attainable goal for the Cardinals. If the old adage is true that “defense wins championships,” then Sun Prairie could very well be on the road to glory come November in Madison. Junior quarterback Ryan Curran has exhibited an ability to both throw the ball exceptionally well and lead his team to victory, which is just another ingredient to the winning combination. Again, the combination of the Cardinals potent rushing attack and brick wall type defense will prove invaluable when the temperature drops in the playoffs. Look for the Cardinals to wrap up the Big 8 undefeated and have an extended run in the playoffs.
Expected finish: 8-0 regular season finish with a long playoff run… (Possibly to Madison)
2.) Verona Wildcats: Season Record 5-1
The Verona Wildcats have solidified themselves as one of the top teams in the Big 8 Conference for the past couple seasons and this year is no different. Despite a week one loss to the aforementioned Cardinals, Verona has looked every bit like the team from last year that went deep into the WIAA playoffs before losing to Kenosha Bradford. Running back Dom Wise is finally healthy and is as explosive as advertised at the beginning of the season and has carried the Wildcats the past five games. Verona is tied for second in the conference and has an outside chance of regaining the conference crown from last season but will probably have to hand it over to Sun Prairie come seasons end. Although this may be painful for the Wildcats to do, this does not mean the team cannot make a run at Madison like the team did last season. Quarterback John Tackett along with Wise have led the charge offensively for the Wildcats who have outscored opponents by an average of 23.8 points per game in victories. The only question mark about this team maybe what is needed most to win a championship, DEFENSE. Although the Wildcats have been coming on strong defensively the past couple of weeks, allowing only 29 points in the past three games, the overall performance so far this year hasn’t been strong enough to guarantee playoff success. Verona will have one final test to see if the Wildcats are truly ready for a playoff push in the last game of the season against the other second place team in the conference, Madison West. This late season contest should separate the “boys from the men” so to speak and give great incite as to who may be able to make a late season push.
Expected finish: 7-1 season finish with a possible extended playoff run… (The beauty of the playoffs and the big dance is once you’re in; you gotta dance like no one is watching)
3.) Madison West: Season Record 5-1
The Madison West Regents are a classic rags to riches story. Last year this team finished 1-8 and couldn’t wait for the season to be over. Fast-forward to 2012 and this team can’t wait for the playoffs to begin. At 5-1 this season, West has already knocked off cross-town rivals in Madison Memorial and La Follette along with a 40-6 drumming of Madison East last week. Because of the odd schedule, West will not have to contend with the likes of Sun Prairie and the teams only challenging game left is against Verona in the last game of the year. West could do the remarkable and potentially knock off the Wildcats in that contest and capture a second place finish in the conference as well as have a little fun in the playoffs. Alex Brown, the Regents quarterback, is one of the better pass throwers in the conference and has already spearheaded the Regent turnaround this season. The only loss this season for West came at the hands of Middleton in a 35-21 finish, but the Regents were never really out of the game. Looking ahead, I expect West and Verona to both take 6-1 records into the final game but the Regents to lose in a close battle that final game. Personally, I feel something special with this team could come at playoff time and as long as West does not have to take on one of the top teams in the state in the first round or so, the Regents could continue to be the Cinderella of the ball.
Expected finish: 6-2 with an unexpected playoff appearance… (Anything can happen come late October and early November if this team continues to believe)
4.) Middleton Cardinals: Season Record 4-2
With two consecutive losses to both Verona and Sun Prairie, the Middleton Cardinals may have been put in their place in the conference. This team exhibited signs of a possible conference champion against Madison West earlier in the year but followed that performance with two lackluster games against two of the conferences best teams. The Cardinals still have the second best rusher in the conference in Jevarious Rockmore and what looks to be a solid enough of a defense to compete in the playoffs. If it were not for a strange play on a punt return last week against Sun Prairie that extended the lead to 17-0, anything could have happened in the final two quarters of that game and the outcome could have been completely different. I have seen this team play three times this year and I must say I really like quarterback Luke Schafer and how he controls the offense as a junior. He may not be a Joe Ferguson quite yet but if the Cardinals can close out the year with two victories and ride a bit of a wave into the playoffs his maturation may be accelerated, which can only spell good things moving forward.
Expected finish: 6-2 with a playoff appearance… (This team has everything needed to make a run, like defense and an effective rushing attack, but will the Cardinals put it all together?)
5.) Madison Memorial: Season Record 3-3
The Madison Memorial Spartans boast one of, if not the most explosive offenses in the Big 8. The spread offense attack headlined by quarterback Joe Ferguson and wide receivers Jester Weah and Daurice Fountain have compiled 205 total points this year with a 67-point explosion early in the season against Madison East. Despite the high-powered offensive attack, Memorials achilles heal this season has been on the defensive side of the ball. Three straight losses right in the middle of the season turned what could have been a fantastic year into an average season. In those three losses, Memorial gave up 28, 41, and 35 points along with being shutout in that final game against Sun Prairie. Ferguson, Weah and Fountain all play defense so the constant grind of a game may wear on them come the fourth quarter. Overall, this team has the offensive firepower to make a run in the playoffs if they can just simply outscore every opponent.
Expected finish: 5-3 with a playoff appearance… (No defense may be the undoing of the Spartans)
6.) Madison La Follette: Season Record 3-3
The Madison La Follette Lancers have had a season of ups and downs. In week one, the Lancers steamrolled Madison East 41-0 but then lost in week two to Madison West 14-6. Then back to back losses to Verona by a score of 65-34 and to Sun Prairie, 13-6, left some scratching their heads. What is La Follette’s true identity? This team could very well have sent shockwaves through the Big 8 with victories over West and Sun Prairie. Both games were very close and the Lancers did enough on defense to slow opponents down, but then the Wildcats hang 65 points on the board. A team looking for a playoff chance needs to be consistent and sound both on offense and on defense. Lancer quarterback Troy Teigen is the second leading passer in the conference so offensively the team can rely on him to get things done, but on defense the verdict is still out. Is this team the one who has had close, tough, grind it out battles with the likes of West and Sun Prairie, or the team who let 65 points get scored on them. La Follette’s final two games against Madison Memorial and Middleton are going to be perfect measuring sticks for this team possibly getting into the playoffs.
Expected finish: 3-5… (If the Lancers can just win one more game then a playoff berth may come knocking at the door)
7.) Janesville Parker: Season Record 2-4
Janesville Parker so far this season has been one-dimensional. Actually, to say one-dimensional would be a drastic understatement. The Vikings only have 32 yards passing this season. That’s right 32… some teams get that production on a single play from scrimmage. Although the Vikings passing attack is nearly nonexistent, rushing the ball has not been a problem at all. The team has 788 total yards on the ground this season with 13 touchdowns. Running back Dai-Von Vance-Jenkins is third in the conference in rushing and has undoubtedly been the Vikings main source of offense. Defensively this team has struggled as well in some contests but that rushing attack has mitigated some of the damage done by opposing offenses. Parker’s next game is against Sun Prairie, so in all likelihood that will not go the Vikings way, but the final battle of the year is the Parker v. Craig contest which is the perfect end to the season for both teams.
Expected finish: 3-5… (A win in that rivalry game may be what Parker holds on to in the long offseason as the Vikings prepare for next year)
8.) Janesville Craig: Season Record 1-5
Janesville Craig has had a disappointing season this season after finishing in the middle of the pack of the Big 8 last year. The Cougars only win of the season came against conference punching bag Beloit Memorial. Unfortunately for the Cougars, that may be the only win on the year as well as the conferences bottom feeder in Madison East is not on the schedule either. Craig has had arguably the toughest conference schedule seeing as the Cougars have played all of the conference’s elite teams in Madison West, Verona and Sun Prairie, all of which led off the season, and then the team has also played Madison Memorial and is set to still play Middleton. A bright spot for the Cougars this year has been the play of quarterback Andy Miller who has filled in nicely this season. Darian Sharifi is one of the best wide receivers in the conference as well and is relied heavily upon by Miller to get the work done through the air. Overall, the combination of a daunting schedule and key injuries has been too much for Craig to overcome but all may be forgotten if the Cougars can finish out the season with a win over crosstown rival Parker in the last game of the year.
Expected finish: 1-7… (If this team can win the rivalry game it will take away some of the pain of a tough, disappointing season)
9.) Beloit Memorial: Season Record 1-5
What can you say about this Beloit Memorial team? The Purple Knights came into the season riding a losing streak that was extended to 29 games at one point this year before Memorial finally snapped the streak against Madison East. A win on the season was probably enough for this team to hold their collective heads high after seasons end. Other teams in the conference aren’t necessarily more talented than the young men that make up this team; there are just simply more talented individuals on other teams than this one. Denzel Barnes has led this team at quarterback all season and has had a fantastic junior campaign. Barnes has thrown for 643 yards and eight touchdowns this year as well as running for two more scores. It was going to be a tough year heading into the season, but on the bright side, the Knights picked up a win for the first time in nearly three seasons and that is something this team can build off of in the future.
Expected finish: 1-7… (Hey, they won a game, maybe next year this team can add a couple more)
10.) Madison East: Season Record 0-6
I’m not about kicking dirt on a team that has been in the mud for the whole season, so I’ll try not to. Madison East has simply just been over matched in every contest. The Purgolders have only scored seven total touchdowns this season and have allowed at least 35 points in every game. This team’s one chance at a victory was against Beloit Memorial and that game didn’t end well for East after Memorial scored 16 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to take the victory. With remaining games against Verona and Sun Prairie, it is all but inevitable that this team will finish without a victory on the season. The Purgolders just need to work extra hard in the offseason to not allow this to happen again and strive to improve every week in the offseason. Hey, maybe basketball season will fair better for East.
Expected finish: 0-8… (Long, cold winter for this team)
By: Tyler Zavadsky
Prep Reporter ESPN 1380
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