Verona hands Madison Memorial first loss
VERONA — Dylan Bourne is the linchpin of the Verona football team’s defense.
Averaging almost 15 tackles per game, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior middle linebacker provides the Bourne Identity for the unit.
But Verona coach Dave Richardson much prefers to see the total team effort the Wildcats’ defense exhibited in a 28-10 Big Eight Conference victory over previously undefeated Madison Memorial on Friday night at Curtis Jones Field.
“It was just everybody had a different energy to them,” Richardson said. “We kept rotating people, so everybody was fresh. (Bourne) is a great player. But he doesn’t have to be the only one, right? We love that Dylan is a great player, but he certainly doesn’t want to be the only one. When other people are involved, it makes his job a lot easier.”
The victory for Verona (4-2 overall, 4-2 Big Eight) came after Sun Prairie shredded the Wildcats for 43 points last week.
The Wildcats — led by Bourne, defensive lineman Skylar Hawkins, linebackers Jake Coshun and Jeremy Grim and defensive backs Cale Rufenacht and Sam Wood, who had an interception — held the potent Spartans (5-1, 5-1) scoreless in taking a 14-0 halftime lead.
“It was satisfying,” Bourne said of the team effort. “That’s why we did so well. It wasn’t just one person handling the load. It was the whole team.”
Bourne said Verona wanted to shore up its run defense after last week’s performance and pressure Spartans junior quarterback Jason Ceniti.
“We blitzed a ton,” Bourne said. “We were bringing heat. It was more of an attitude change, bringing the defensive backs down to be more aggressive.”
Memorial coach Michael Harris praised Verona, which rotated 20 players on defense in the first quarter.
“Hats off to Dave,” Harris said. “They did a fantastic job of containing our receivers and bringing the pressure.”
Running backs Keegan Lindell and Jackson Acker rushed for two touchdowns apiece for Verona, which warded off Memorial’s second-half comeback.
Junior Kole Kerkhoff kicked a 30-yard field goal and Ceniti scored on a 1-yard run, rallying the Spartans within 14-10 in the third quarter. The Spartans’ defense — led by senior defensive end Will Sprout, senior linebacker Jeremiah Jordan and junior linebacker Kyle Murphy — had buckled down, slowing Verona’s attack.
But Verona then maintained possession of the ball from 1 minute, 32 seconds left in the third quarter to 2:38 left to play – or 10:54.
“I’ll take one of those every week,” Richardson said.
The Wildcats had 21 snaps (including two penalties) and covered 80 yards. Acker scored on a 1-yard run, giving Verona a 21-10 lead with 2:38 remaining.
“We were not winning the third-down conversion battle and they controlled the clock,” Harris said.
After Wood’s interception, Lindell broke loose on a 57-yard run and powered in from 1-yard out for the final score with 1:45 left to play.
Memorial entered the game No. 10 in The Associated Press Large Division state rankings and No. 8 in Division 1 in the wissports.net coaches’ poll.
By night’s end, the Spartans were in a tie for first place in the Big Eight with Sun Prairie and Janesville Craig; Verona and Middleton were one game behind the leaders.
The Wildcats scored on their first series, driving 61 yards on 10 plays. Acker, a sophomore, swept left for a 1-yard touchdown run with 7:59 left in the first quarter.
A key play on the drive came on a third-and-6 situation when junior quarterback Adam Bekx completed a 32-yard pass to junior split end Shay Watson to the Spartans’ 25-yard line.
Memorial had an opportunity late in the first quarter when the Spartans took possession on the Verona 38. But the Wildcats’ defense rose up and took over on downs at the Verona 20.
Lindell, a junior, made a diving recovery of a fumbled punt at the Memorial 19 with 11:09 left in the second quarter.
On second down, Bekx completed a 13-yard pass to Watson to the 1-yard line. Lindell scored on a 1-yard touchdown run on the next play, increasing Verona’s lead to 14-0 with 9:53 remaining before halftime.
Spartans junior running back Kam Marshall rushed for 100 yards on 12 carries in the first half, but Memorial didn’t score.
“All week, we just amped it up a little bit,” Richardson said. “We got into their pride. ‘Let’s do this thing. You are better than you showed last week.’ My defensive coaches made this happen. They had the right game plan, they had the right attitude and the energy.”
Madison Memorial 0 0 10 0 — 10
Verona 7 7 0 14 — 28
V — Acker 1 run (Garcia kick)
V — Lindell 1 run (Garcia kick)
MM — FG Kerkhoff 30
MM — Ceniti 1 run (Kerkhoff kick)
V — Acker 1 run (Garcia kick)
V — Garcia 1 run (Garcia kick)
First downs — MM 11, V 17. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — MM 28-115, V 45-226. Passing yards — MM 116, V 78. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — MM 9-21-1, V 8-14-0. Fumbles-lost — MM 3-1, V 1-0. Penalties-yards — MM 6-57, V 6-55.
Rushing: MM, Marshall 17-132. V, Lindell 18-124.
Passing: MM, Ceniti 9-21-1-116. V, Bekx 8-14-0-78.
Receiving: MM, Hoeser 2-33. V, Watson 2-36.