The Verona football team can’t win a Big Eight Conference championship, but they can earn a top four seed and a potential home game in the Division 1 Level 1 playoffs next week.
Verona (6-2, 4-2 Big Eight) hosts Sun Prairie (8-0, 6-0 Big Eight) in the regular-season finale on Friday, Oct. 15, at Verona Area High School. With a win, the Wildcats could spoil the Cardinals’ chances of winning a conference title outright. Sun Prairie defeated Middleton 26-21 Oct. 8 to clinch at least a share of the Big Eight title.
Verona’s game against Madison East last week was canceled.
This is the final year Sun Prairie is in the Big Eight Conference. Next year, when the new Sun Prairie West High School opens both Sun Prairie East and Sun Prairie West will be in the Badger Large Conference.
“If we win we will probably be a top four seed,” Verona coach Dave Richardson said of the playoffs. “If we don’t we will probably be a No. 5 seed.”
There are three big keys for Verona to pull off an upset against Sun Prairie.
No. 1: Move the chains and eliminate turnovers
In Verona’s two conference losses this season to Madison Memorial and Middleton, the Wildcats have had a combined eight turnovers. Against other top teams in the Big Eight, it has been tough sledding for Verona to get their offense on track. Verona ran only nine plays in the first half against Middleton and 12 against Madison Memorial.
“The games we have lost in the conference we have kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” Richardson said. “We need to get ahead of the chains.”
Sustaining drives and eliminating turnovers are part of any recipe in upsetting the No. 2-ranked Cardinals. Sun Prairie is led on defense by 6-6, 230-pound senior defensive end Isaac Hamm, a University of Wisconsin-Madison commit, 6-5 senior Addison Ostrenga and junior Jayallen Dayne, a 6-0, 260-pound nose guard and former Badger running back Ron Dayne’s son.
“They are very aggressive defensively,” Richardson said. “With Hamm and Ostrangea they fly around.”
Hamm has two sacks and seven tackles for loss this season. Ostrenga has a team-high three sacks
“We feel like we have more firepower to get them isolated in situations,” Richardson said.
No. 2 Limit the Cardinals’ big plays
Sun Prairie has one of the most balanced offenses in the conference.
The Cardinals average 166.4 rushing yards and 164.9 passing yards per game.
Sun Prairie junior quarterback Jerry Kaminski is completing 65.4% of his passes and has passed for 1,370 yards with 21 touchdowns and two interceptions this season. He’s averaging 10.8 yards per completion. The Cardinals have a one-two running punch with Cortez LeGrant and Kolton Walters. LeGrant has rushed for 674 yards and seven TDs this season. He’s averaging 10.4 yards per carry. Walters has run for 457 yards and eight TDs.
Davis Hamilton is the Cardinals’ leading receiver with 24 receptions for 370 yards and six TDs. He’s averaging 15.4 yards per catch. Ostrenga (17-312 yards and five TDs) is averaging 18.2 yards per catch.
“We need to get them into second and third-and-long situations where we can make them a one-dimensonal passing team,” Richardson said.
No. 3 Play with a swagger, confidence
Richardson said Verona must play with a swagger and confidence that they can win.
In the alternate fall season last spring, two of Verona’s losses came to the Cardinals. In the second meeting, Sun Prairie held on to clip Verona 21-19.
Verona has lost its last seven meetings to the Cardinals. The last time Verona beat Sun Prairie came in in 2015 when the Wildcats knocked off the Cardinals 28-14 in Verona.