Verona relies on defense to win
Verona’s big man on the defensive line, Trayvonn Johnson, tallied three sacks and even more big tackles in the Sun Prairie backfield to lead the Wildcats to a 28-14 homecoming victory Friday night.
The Verona (6-2 overall, 6-2 Big Eight) defense played well all night and helped put the Wildcats offense in good position to finish short drives.
“He’s unreal,” Verona head coach Dave Richardson said when asked about Johnson. “If you watch him on every snap he’s going all out and he’s just gassed and he’s still going. He’s just fun to watch. He’s the real deal. I hope some big colleges take notice because I think he’s one of the best players in this state.”
However, it was Sun Prairie’s (4-4 overall, 4-4 Big Eight) defense that set the tone early when Nathan Coy intercepted Wildcats quarterback Max Fink and returned the ball to the 8-yard-line. Four plays later, Draven Peeples punched in the touchdown on fourth down from the 1 to put Sun Prairie up 7-0. However, not everyone agreed it was a score.
“That first score, on fourth down. I don’t think he got in,” Richardson said. “The referee took 7-8 seconds to (call the touchdown) and I thought that was a poor call.”
With just under four minutes left in the half, Verona would answer with a big run from Carson Parks. The Cardinals faked the handoff on a sweep play and Parks took it right up the middle, going 67 yards almost untouched to tie it up at 7.
Then it was the defense’s time to shine, as Brycen Smith intercepted Cardinals quarterback JP Curran and returned it to the 12-yard line. The next play, Verona running back Nick Lawinger took the sweep for the touchdown to give the Wildcats the 14-7 lead.
“That interception was a beautiful play,” said Richardson. “He undercut the route and made a beautiful catch and our offense finished the deal. That was huge momentum.”
Verona carried that momentum through the half and into the third quarter. Lawringer would score his second touchdown of the night from 1 yard out to put the Wildcats up 21-7. The touchdown was setup by a 39-yard run by Drew King that would have gone for a touchdown if not for a diving tackle just before King could cross the goal line.
Lawringer would put the game out of reach with his third score of the night, a relatively easy 9-yard scamper with a personal blocker in front of him who had no one to block. The touchdown gave Verona a 28-7 lead with just under 7 minutes left in the third quarter.
The Wildcats defense did not give up a first down throughout the third quarter, forcing Sun Prairie to put on its three offensive possessions.
Curran was off all night for Sun Prairie, finishing the game 7-for-22 with 111 yards passing and one interception. His one touchdown came in the fourth quarter following 30 yards of penalties on Verona. Even on the two drives the Cardinals scored, Verona’s defense played well. With around 10 minutes left in the game Verona forced Sun Prairie to punt, but were called for a roughing the punter penalty and unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on coach Richardson to set Sun Prairie up with good field position.
Curran capitalized for the final score of the game with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Andre Johnson.
While Verona is already in the playoffs, Sun Prairie is facing a must-win situation next week against Madison East (4-4 overall, 4-4 Big Eight). If the Cardinals want to make the playoff this year they have to win next week.