Sun Prairie Advances with Emphatic Win
Showing or giving emphasis; expressing something forcibly and clearly.
That is the definition of emphatic. An eight-letter word that perfectly describes the display put on by the Sun Prairie Cardinals in the third round of the playoffs against Verona on Saturday afternoon.
The Cardinals sent the Verona Wildcats home earlier than the team had hoped with a convincing and dominant, 34-6 beating.
Coming into this game, Verona running back Dom Wise had rushed for 1,267 yards and 21 touchdowns and looked poised to have a big game against a team that in week one took him out of the contest after a handful of plays due to an ankle injury.
On Saturday, Wise had no such luck, and was simply stonewalled after every handoff and at every turn.
The Sun Prairie defense was sick and tired of hearing about how good Wise had been all year long and took out their anger on seemingly every snap of the ball game.
“A lot of our success is attributed to the work we put in during the offseason and regular season in the weight room,” said Sun Prairie head coach Brian Kaminski. “All week long we also talked about rallying to the football and getting there and kind of playing nasty. Football is not a nice game in that regard and we wanted to have that type of attitude with guys flying everywhere to stop Dom whenever and however we could.”
Wise finished with just 52 yards on 19 carries while also being kept out of the end zone for the first time all year. And to really put in perspective just how dominant the Cardinal defense was against the run, Wise had only 15 yards rushing before the final drive of the game for Verona when the contest had already been decided.
Sun Prairie, simply put, stifled Verona’s offense all afternoon long holding the Wildcats to just 148 total yards throughout the game and only one score on a one-yard John Tackett quarterback sneak at the goal line.
In the beginning, neither team could establish any bit of rhythm on offense as both defenses shined in the first quarter and held each other scoreless for the first 12 minutes.
“We struggled a bit early with the run but I think we were able to open up a couple holes with our pass game early on,” said Kaminski. “I really think Ryan Curran did a great job with the play action and making some audibles at the line which eventually led to us wearing them down a bit as the game moved along when the running game opened up for us.”
The scoreboard operator finally had some action after a long, methodical sustained drive of 75 yards by the Cardinals ended in an 11-yard touchdown run by Donte Starlin-Merriam. Sun Prairie would soon add another score to the board courtesy of a 20-yard field goal by Dustin Wunderlin right before the half. The score came off of an interception by Michael Garvey that put the Cardinals right into scoring position.
At the half, Sun Prairie led Verona 10-0 with the Cardinal defense holding Wise to under 20 yards rushing in the first half and keeping any Wildcat out of the end zone.
Turnovers are often the deciding factor in games and this contest was no exception. Right after the half on the opening kickoff, Wise fumbled and the Cardinals recovered the ball at the Verona 18 yard line. A couple of plays later Sun Prairie added yet another score with Starlin-Merriam’s second and final touchdown of the day on a six-yard run off of a counter that was set up by a fake handoff to big defensive tackle and master decoy, Craig Evans.
Verona would fumble once again on the Wildcats next possession after Tackett lost the ball on an option keeper that was recovered by Michael Hommerding after Malik Bondon forced the fumble.
“I think a lot of our points all year long have been attributed to our defense causing turnovers and putting our offense in tremendous field position,” said Kaminski. “I think our first three drives started at our own 20 yard line and we drove down the field but came away with nothing so the turnovers we forced all game long gave us the opportunity to put points on the board, and then we followed through with a couple of touchdowns.”
Sun Prairie this time took over from the Verona 10 yard line and the Cardinals added another field goal off the foot of Wunderlin to extend the lead to 20-0 with just over eight minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Wildcats promptly responded and began to show signs of life after driving down the field 60 yards inside the Cardinals red zone but Jeremiah “Say No Mo’ “ Bradley had a beautiful one handed interception near the goal line on a Tackett pass that ended the drive.
Eventually, Verona would score on the teams next drive on Tackett’s one yard sneak at the goal line after Sun Prairie fumbled near the 20 yard line but it was simply a case of too little, too late.
Another turnover by Verona on an incomplete pass behind the line of scrimmage was recovered by the Cardinals, which resulted in a two-yard touchdown run by Evans to put the game out of reach for the Wildcats at 27-6.
Zach Brink would drive the final nail into the coffin with a 20-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes left in the game that resulted in the final score of 34-6, and the Sun Prairie Cardinals advancing onto the semifinals of the WIAA State Playoffs.
The Cardinals will now take on Lake Geneva Badger for a chance to advance to Madison to fight for the state championship and the coveted gold ball trophy.
“It just feels great, I thought we played a complete football game today. All the coaches and kids in our program had just an unbelievable effort today and to come out and dominate like we did today against a terrific teams speaks volumes about our guys,” said Kaminski. “I don’t know much about Badger but I know they have a very talented quarterback that we saw last year so that will be another challenge that our defense will have to overcome.”
By:Tyler Zavadsky Twitter: TylerZonESPN
Prep Reporter ESPN 1380
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