#3 Madison West (9-2) at #1 Sun Prairie (11-0) - 6:45pm Friday - Division 1 Quarterfinal
Last Year: Earlier this year, Sun Prairie blew out Madison West at Mansfield Stadium 37-7, getting running clock in the second half of a rout in what was a game for first place in the Big Eight back in Week 7. Madison West hasn't lost since that game, winning four straight.
Last Week: Sun Prairie built up a 38-0 lead before giving up two scores in the final six minutes of a 38-14 win over Kettle Moraine, while Madison West pulled the upset and took down Middleton 30-27 on a Keishawn Shanklin touchdown run on fourth and goal with 15 seconds left.
Season To Date: Madison West is all the way back from a 1-8 season prior to Brad Murphy's arrival last year from Monona Grove. Murphy has led the Regents to the playoffs in back-to-back years, and for the second straight year, picked up the Madison City Coach of the Year. Now, the Regents have won four in a row heading into their rematch with Sun Prairie... Sun Prairie has had about one half of contested football this season, that being the first half against Middleton all the way back in Week 2. Sun Prairie is rolling over opponents, giving up only 5.5 points per game this season while scoring at least 31 points in every game this season.
Coaches' Corner: Madison West will have questions about their ability to stay fresh into the fourth quarter, but in game #12, it's pretty clear the Regents aren't as worried about it as outsiders. They do work to shorten games with read-option running, and when they go straight between the tackles, they have capable athletes that can get 10 yards at a pop. Keishawn Shanklin took over the Middleton game in the second half, answering the Cardinals with big run-pass option keepers that gashed Middleton for 20 yards in spots. Jaden Stephens was a threat out of the backfield and hit the edges hard for big gains. West will need to rely on more than misdirection in this game, as Sun Prairie has stars at every level, whereas Middleton was built to push the play to their outstanding linebackers. It's an odd point to make, but they will need to play much differently against Sun Prairie than against Middleton to pull another upset, and it will start with creating space at the second level to run towards... Sun Prairie's defensive tasks, in order, are to control the edges, then focus on the three-headed monster in the backfield. It wouldn't be surprising to see multiple players assigned to key on Jaden Stephens, especially out of the backfield, with one designated to cover the flats and outside run with another player helping out over the top to prevent the wheel routes that sprung the Regents' offense forward against Middleton. Offensively, Sun Prairie needs to keep doing what they've been doing, and that's finding something that works and running with it. Madison West has a good balance of size and speed, and a dominant linebacker who has racked up more tackles than any two players combined for either team in David Maravilla.
Three Keys: 1. The team that controls the edges will probably win this game. If either team can start hammering the numbers for big gains, look out. If both defenses can turn plays inside, the stout defensive lines of each team will have to clog running lanes. It all starts on the outside, however, and both teams will work to create space there. 2. The safeties in this game, Caden White for Sun Prairie and Jaden Stephens for West, will be extra important in corralling the respective offenses by being in a position to knock down passes or fill up a running lane. Both players have loads of talent in front of them, but it's a rare opportunity to see the impact that these players will make, since the middle of the field will be in front of them and they'll have chances to make plays. 3. Madison West drops its stars back on returns, while Sun Prairie has enjoyed the play-making ability of Orlando Fenderson. However, with Fenderson questionable for the game, the battle for field position changes a bit if he can't go. Both teams have outstanding kickers, so getting points from anywhere won't be a problem.
Five Players To Watch: Keishawn Shanklin might not be a first-team all-conference quarterback again, but he is the most important piece of the Regents' offense. He took over the Middleton game in the second half and scored the game-winning touchdown. He's a threat no matter where he lines up, and he may not leave the field at all on Friday... One of the most interesting battles will be Alex Okelue against Josh Dinga (and Okelue against Anthony Villanueva). It's hard enough to face one all-conference first-team player, but how about facing two of them, with each getting to rest in-between those battles? Okelue was named the Madison City Offensive Lineman of the Year and made first-team All-Big 8 himself, but he will be a very important piece in this game... Marty Strey leads the star-studded defense of Sun Prairie, which features all 11 starters earning some form of All-Conference recognition. He'll be counted on to hem in Shanklin and the Regents' offense from making some big plays... Jaden Stephens will again be counted upon in big spots. As West's most reliable running threat, receiver, return man, and one of the most important defenders on the team, Stephens will have the chance to impact the game from multiple spots... While Jack Zander has certainly arrived in a big way this year, the offense still centers around the big-play ability of Draven Peeples. With Brian McKenzie possibly out for this game, Peeples will need to shoulder the load offensively as the primary running threat to keep the offense balanced and put up some points against the explosive Regents.
Listen to the game this Friday night at 7pm on The Big 1070!