ESPN Madision

Big 8 Division 1 Semifinal Preview

Nov 08, 2012 -- 2:45pm
Big 8 Division 1 Semifinal Preview Lake Geneva Badger vs. Sun Prairie @ Arrowhead High School Friday, Nov.9 7:00 p.m. So this is it. The matchup has been set. The battle lines have been drawn and all that there is left to do is play the final game of the playoffs to see who will be advancing to play at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison for a state championship and the coveted gold ball trophy. Ok so the finality in which I speak of is not necessarily accurate. “This” technically is not “it,” but it is as it as it will get. Dr. Seuss and alliteration aside, when Sun Prairie and Badger square off this Friday night underneath the lights, this game will decide who will be representing one half of the D-I bracket in the state championship game. All season long these two teams have battled and clawed their way to this point and there is no looking back now. You loose this game, and the journey was really nothing more than a prolonged disappointment. Through eight regular season games and already now three rounds of the playoffs, to go home and end the season with a loss would quite simply be, a loss. Now a coach may tell you that there is no such thing as a disappointing season, and that every game teaches you something and reveals the teams true character, but this late into the season, they would just be simply lying to you. Football is a tremendous game. It teaches you sacrifice, determination, unity and a never ending will to win while the team suffers through what seems to be a never-ending season together as one. But with that being said, it can also be a cruel game. Just last week at the Verona vs. Sun Prairie game, Verona was sent home early and the Wildcat fans and players were both stunned and saddened at the prospect of saying goodbye to the seniors. As I was walking to my car, I trailed the team as each individual went through a sea of parents and students saying their last goodbyes of the football season. One girl remarked as the last athlete was hugged, “That was literally the saddest thing of my life.” Now disregarding the fact that everything these days is “literally” the most whatever it may be to happen to anyone, her statement couldn’t have been more on point. Sending the seniors home, and ultimately off to graduation without a ring on their finger is something no football team wants to do. If you win this game, you can at least guarantee some bling on the hand come seasons end. So without further a due, lets get right into the matchup. For starters, Sun Prairie is right where many have picked them to be at this point in the season. At the start of the year, everything is basically a toss up because no one can be certain how the season will play out, but the Cardinals disappointed no one on their way to the top of the Big 8 Conference, and are now poised to battle for the teams first state championship since 1996. As many folks have stated all year long, this Cardinal team has with out question the strongest defense in the entire state of Wisconsin and has one of the most balanced attacks offensively in the state as well. The Sun Prairie defense stonewalled Verona running back Dom Wise in last Saturday’s third round game and held him to just 52 yards on the day. Before that game, Wise was a top rusher in the state averaging 125.3 yards and just over two touchdowns per game this season. And if it weren’t for a final fourth quarter drive right at the end, Wise would have finished with just 15 yards on the day. But the Cardinal defensive dominance just wasn’t exerted last week, oh no. Sun Prairie has had only one game all year long in which this team has given up more than seven points in any contest. That one game came in the second round of the playoffs, against Madison West, when the Cardinals allowed 21 points, but seven came on a late drive against the Cardinals second-string players and another seven came on a kick return so technically, the pattern held true all season long. Led by players like UW-Madison recruit Craig Evans at defensive tackle and his partner Devin Webster right next to him in the trenches, along with Shane Seiter and Vernon Mems at linebacker just in front of Dylen Carter and Jeremiah “Say No Mo” (short for more) Bradley holding down the secondary, this defense has flexed it’s collective muscle game in and game out and will not stop until that gold ball is raised. Nothing offenses have tried against this Cardinal defense has worked all season; so many believe that trend will continue on Friday. But this team isn’t like those that have relied on defenses solely to win championships like the Baltimore Ravens or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowls past. No no no, Sun Prairie can rack up the points as well. The Cardinals have scored more than 34 points in eight of 11 ball games this season and 40 or more points in five of those eleven. Sun Prairie offensively is led by junior quarterback Ryan Curran, who has exhibited unshakable poise this season and can deliver a quick receiver screen or a deep ball over the top with near pin point accuracy. Currans favorite target is fellow junior Michael Marchese who must have caught about 25 passes in last weeks win against Verona and constantly moved the sticks with his receptions. But while this team’s passing attack is rather potent, it must have an established running game in order to feed off of defenses creeping up to stop the run. Donte Starlin-Merriam led the Big 8 in the regular season in rushing yards and currently has 1,367 yards on 220 carries along with 15 touchdowns on the season. He may be one of the quietest people you will ever meet, but he speaks loudly with his play on the field. So now over to the Cardinals opposition, the Lake Geneva Badger Badgers. The Badgers have relied heavily on the legs of senior quarterback Peter Krein to lead this team to nine wins this season compared to just two losses. Badger came in second place to Waterford in the Southern Lakes Conference after losing in a 6-3 game, but the Badgers have not looked back since. While Krein may be under center, he has only 326 yards with five touchdowns through the air this season but led the conference with 1,397 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. Running mate Robert Johnson is the Badgers main threat out of the backfield and has rushed for 1,151 yards and eight touchdowns this season. As highlighted earlier, Krein and Johnson will have their hands full with this Sun Prairie defense, but both men are hoping the feeling is mutual. The Badger defense this year has held opponents under seven points six times this year, including two shutouts, but have not had a signature contest in which the team has truly punished the competition like Sun Prairie has done all season long. Badger fans may point to a game like Waterford, but in no other contest did the Badger defense truly excel except maybe in last weeks game against Kenosha Bradford who only put seven points on the board. This contest will be a true test of wills on Friday night. Which team’s defense will hold strong throughout the contest? Which teams offense will put enough points up to eventually move onto Madison? These questions are still yet to be answered, but shortly all will be known. My pick: Sun Prairie all season has shut down some of the best rushing attacks and offensive power houses in the area by standing firm against teams like Middleton and Madison West along with both Madison Memorial and Verona twice, so I am picking them to once again not give up much of anything against a potent rushing attack employed by the Badgers. Final score: 34-14, Sun Prairie advances to Madison. By: Tyler Zavadsky Twitter: TylerZonESPN Prep Reporter ESPN 1380

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