Why the Verona v. Sun Prairie Game Will Not Disappoint
To say this game will be “one for the ages” would probably be a gigantic cliché of a statement to make, but with that being said, this game could very well be one of the best contests played in the entire state of Wisconsin this year to date. Saturday’s battle, which was recently switched to a 12:30 kickoff during the week, has all the makings to be remembered for generations to come.
For starters, revenge is a dish best served cold. Lets go through a very, very brief history lesson on these two teams. Last season, Verona won the conference championship. A title that was spear headed by the Wildcats week one victory over Sun Prairie. Verona then rode that wave throughout the regular season and into the playoffs where this team met the Cardinals once again in the third round of the playoffs and took care of business and sent Sun Prairie home early. That game ended in a 24-21 barnburner of a contest. This years late season matchup promises to be just as exciting as the one fought 364 days ago, if my math is correct considering the “leap day” we experienced this past year.
So now push play on this season. Week one opens up with a Sun Prairie victory over Verona by a score of 27-7. Then, the season continues with both the Cardinals and Wildcats winning out the rest of their games, to eventually meet once again in the third round of the playoffs. I hope you are sensing a bit of a pattern here.
Last season, Verona won the week one matchup, won out, won the conference crown, and then beat Sun Prairie once again in the playoffs to advance. Now this season, Sun Prairie has a chance to return the favor by already winning the week one contest and the conference crown, and now can potentially knock Verona out of the playoffs like the Wildcats did to the Cardinals last season. Both teams here can attain sweet revenge Saturday afternoon.
First, Sun Prairie can avenge the last loss of the season a year ago by ending Verona’s season early like the Wildcats did to the Cardinals. Or the Wildcats can avenge the team’s week one loss to the Cardinals by sending them home early. A perfect storm of possible revenge.
And people say there is no such thing as a football God…
It’s a classic scenario that must have X amount of things happen just right for this matchup to take place once again. It is a perfect culmination of a near perfect season for both of these teams to meet on the gridiron to see who will be advancing to play in the semifinals and have a chance to earn a trip to Madison.
This week’s game is unlike any other throughout the state as well. No other contest pits two back-to-back conference foes against one another. And no other game this week has this much history behind the matchup.
On Saturday afternoon you can expect a dog fit. Both Verona and Sun Prairie have two of the best defenses in the state.
Verona was able to contain one of the top rushers in the entire state of Wisconsin last week in Drew Patterson from Hamilton just enough to get the victory. While the Wildcats struggled in the first half to slow him down, halftime adjustments limited Patterson to just 41 yards on 14 carries in the second half along with zero touchdowns, a feat that ended up being the difference in that ball game.
Sun Prairie a week ago nearly shutdown a very potent offense in Madison West en route to a 40-21 victory. A win that looked just a tad less impressive thanks to a very late score by the Regents after the game sat at 40-14 for much of the second half. All season long, Sun Prairie has exhibited what I have been calling the best defense in Wisconsin. For the first time all season last week, the Cardinal starters gave up more than seven points in a game. This unit has been the proverbial immoveable object and rarely do the Cardinals allow a touchdown, let alone two, to any opponent.
Offensively these teams mirror each other in many ways.
Verona’s offense is reliant upon Dom Wise, a talented back who has impressed many throughout the season. The Wildcats lean heavily on Wise and depend on his legs to carry Verona to victory week in and week out. Junior quarterback John Tackett is also very talented and has shown incredible poise throughout the year. While this team may not pass the ball all that often because of the dominant running game, when the Wildcats do it is extremely effective because Tackett has a tremendous arm that can get the job done in any scenario.
On the Sun Prairie sideline, the Cardinals also have a one two punch of an effective passing game that feeds off of a bruising rushing attack. Running back Donte Starlin-Merriam sits just behind Wise in total rushing yards this season and knows how to reach the end zone as well. And much like Verona, the Cardinals passing attack is led by yet another budding junior star in Ryan Curran. Curran is both an effective runner when he needs to be, and an extraordinary pocket passer. Right when the defense thinks yet another bruising run is coming, the Cardinals dial up a play action pass and torch the defense for a 60-yard touchdown pass. Just ask Madison West about that from a week ago.
But this game will surely be different from any other these two teams have played to date. Not only does this contest carry the added weight of a playoff game, but also the added weight of truly testing who deserves to be called the elite team in the Big 8.
Sun Prairie did win the conference championship outright, but Verona star running back Dom Wise was injured in that week one game so many believe had he been healthy throughout, the game could have possibly finished with a different outcome.
But who knows, no one can tell, and that’s why this Saturday’s game is sure to be epic.
By: Tyler Zavadsky Twitter: @TylerZonESPN
Prep Reporter ESPN 1380
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