After a loaded group of seniors led Sun Prairie to the state championship game, the Cardinals are set to re-load for another deep playoff run in 2018, led by a half-dozen players who earned all-conference honors a season ago.
While Sun Prairie did lose several very talented, Division 1-caliber athletes, the Cardinals also bring back a good core to build around for the upcoming season. The linebackers specifically should be the strength of the team this season, with three all-conference types back in the fold for 2018: Ethan Ackley, Adam Rademacher, and Hakeem McCullers.
On offense, the Cardinals will bring back two experienced receivers in Cooper Nelson and Colin Schaefer, and the offensive line will get Ben Johnson back to pave the way. The backfield will be all-new, with a deep depth chart full of running backs now graduated.
Special teams will be without the services of the excellent Alex Oakley, but Sun Prairie brings back two kickers with experience in Owen Konopacki and Connor Shanahan. Konopacki was the only freshman to make varsity last year.
At a glance, it appears the Cardinals lost plenty and will have question marks, but with so many players getting on the field in 2018 and the depth of the program reflecting on the practice field, Sun Prairie will have a decent level of experience returning. In fact, no other Big 8 team brings back as many all-conference players as the Cardinals (six).
The Big 1070 will be on hand for the season opener, a rematch of a Level 1 playoff game from a season ago. Sun Prairie will visit the Madison Memorial Spartans in Week 1. This will be our Madison Taxi Game of the Week.
Week 2, as described in the interview below, will be a tribute night to first responders in the Sun Prairie area. The team will wear special jerseys, hold fundraisers, and welcome all first responders onto the field in a pregame ceremony. All of the funds raised will go into the Sun Prairie gas line explosion relief fund. On the field, the Cardinals will play Beloit Memorial.
Ashley Field will again be the site for August 31, when Sun Prairie hosts Janesville Parker. The Cardinals hit the road for two games, first at Janesville Craig and then a Week 5 clash with Verona, a game that typically has a big impact on the eventual Big 8 conference champion.
Sun Prairie closes out the regular season with three home games in four weeks. Madison La Follette visits on September 21, followed by Madison East the following week for Homecoming. On October 5, one of the biggest games on the calendar most years in the state is the Sun Prairie-Middleton clash, which will be on October 5 at Middleton and will be The Big 1070's Madison Taxi Game of the Week. Madison West will host Sun Prairie in a Level 3 rematch from last season in Week 9 to wrap up conference play.
Here's The Big 1070's interview with Sun Prairie football coach Brian Kaminski:
Sun Prairie Cardinals - Big Eight
Head Coach: Brian Kaminski (16th Season), 117-46 (15-14 Playoffs)
2017 Result: 13-1 (9-0), 🏆1st in the Big 8 (Lost at State of the D1 Playoffs to Kimberly, 27-7)
Three-Year Record: 27-8 (5-3 Playoffs)
2017 All-Conference Honors: 11 First-Team, 5 Second-Team, 5 Honorable Mention (21 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 23 First-Team, 17 Second-Team, 15 Honorable Mention (55 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (6): WR/DB Cooper Nelson [🏈 WSN] (1st Team-WR), Sr; OL/DL Ben Johnson [🏈 WSN] (1st Team-OL), Sr.; TE/LB Ethan Ackley [🏈 WSN] (2nd Team-LB; HM-LB in 2016), Sr.; Hakeem McCullers [🏈 WSN] (1st Team-LB), Sr.; LB/RB Adam Rademacher (HM-LB), Sr.; WR/DB Colin Schaefer (2nd Team-WR), Jr.
Other Players To Watch: QB/DB Richie Gilles, Sr.; CB/WR Jaharee Weah, Sr.; LS/LB/DE Jacob Powley, Sr.; DL/OL Maven Kretche, Sr.; DL/FB Joey Halsted, Sr.; DE/LB/TE Dan Hawk, Sr.; RB/DB Erin Shelby, Sr.; WR/DB Brendan Wherley, Sr.; RB/WR/DB Arrie Davis, Sr.; RB/DB Keith Young, Sr.; RB/LB Logan Lange, Sr.; LB/RB James Zarosley, Sr.; WR/DB Alex Meza, Sr.; LB/DL Andres Guzman, Sr.; K/P Connor Shanahan, Sr.; LB/QB Joe Hauser, Jr.; WR/DB Dominick Landphier, Jr.; K/P Owen Konopacki, So.;
BIG Games: at Madison Memorial, August 17 (🔊 Madison Taxi Game of the Week); at Verona, September 14; vs Madison La Follette, September 21; at Middleton, October 5 (🔊 Madison Taxi Game of the Week)