Verona (4-2) at Madison La Follette (3-3) - 6:45pm Friday on 1070 AM and iHeartRadio
Last Year: Verona raced out to a 14-0 lead and led 17-6 at halftime before La Follette got within five points with a touchdown drive to open the third quarter. Verona would then pile on four more scores (three touchdowns and a field goal) in a 41-18 decision, out-gaining the Lancers 374-278 in the win for the Wildcats.
Last Week: Verona scored a huge win in knocking off previously-unbeaten Madison Memorial, 28-10. Verona led 14-0 at halftime before Madison Memorial rallied for 10 points in the third quarter, before the Wildcats added two one-yard rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Jackson Acker and Keegan Lindell combined for four rushing touchdowns (all of them for one yard) and held the Spartans to 230 yards of total offense... La Follette scored the first touchdown of the game, but Sun Prairie responded with 50 points unanswered as the Lancers lost 50-6. The Cardinals had two return touchdowns against the Lancers, and La Follette allowed 301 yards of offense in the loss.
Season To Date: Verona has lost two games by one score this year, each to current 5-1 teams in the Big 8, Janesville Craig and Sun Prairie. They've also defeated Madison Memorial and earlier this season held off Middleton in a game we aired on The Big 1070. No team Verona faces the rest of the way has a current winning record, so the Wildcats are primed for a big finish if they can get past La Follette... Speaking of La Follette, it's been a case of one step forward, one step back. The Lancers have taken care of the teams below them in the standings handily, and had a one-score loss to Janesville Craig just two weeks ago. La Follette's also dropped games to Madison Memorial and Sun Prairie, and still have Middleton (as well as Verona) left on the schedule as they need to win two of their final three games to clinch a playoff spot (although four wins should be enough to get in).
Coaches' Corner: Verona Coach Dave Richardson says that his young team is growing by leaps and bounds, especially in the face of a handful of injuries that have been suffered by key players already this season. With a core of juniors and sophomores, the Wildcats have already had a couple of big wins this season, as well as two close losses to the top teams in the Big 8... La Follette Coach Scott Swanson is hopeful that the Lancers can take a step forward again this week, and find some consistency against top competition. Like Verona, La Follette has plenty of young players at key spots, so the team has been improving (particularly on defense) throughout the season.
Three Keys: 1. La Follette will need to avoid turnovers. Last week, a pair of third quarter turnovers erased any hope of a comeback against Sun Prairie. Verona's had a knack for finding ball hawks the past couple of years, and with a very young defense, particularly in the secondary, the Wildcats will need to force a turnover or two... 2. When you think Verona, you don't think passing offense, but with junior quarterback Adam Bekx at the helm, the Wildcats have the ability to work in their traditional ground game, then hit teams over the top for points. The Wildcats have a knack for finishing drives, and that will be a big key for them against a solid Lancers defense. 3. Verona can find creases between the tackles, but La Follette's defense is usually pretty well-stocked with speed. Big outside runs probably won't be as effective this week, particularly if the Wildcats choose to run at Kayvion James-Ragland. Expect a heavy dose of traps and counters, along with Verona's trademark misdirection, to move the ball.
Five Players To Watch: While Keegan Lindell and Jackson Acker doubled their rushing touchdown totals last week to four, Haakon Anderson has 10 in just six games this season, including six in the Wildcats' first two games (and is also by a wide margin the team's leading receiver). Teams have been keying on Anderson a bit, so that's freed up some of the other players to work off of that, allowing players like Acker to have over seven yards per carry... Speaking of running backs, and soon another talented linebacker, La Follette's Kayvion James-Ragland has been a force for now nearly two full seasons. Regarded by both coaches in this game as a 'game-breaking' running back, James-Ragland is also an outstanding linebacker, and earned second-team all-Big 8 nods at both positions last season... What any team wouldn't love but to have Dylan Bourne at linebacker. The lone returning all-conference pick on Verona, Bourne has nearly double the tackles of anyone else on the Wildcats, including five for a loss... Verona's very talented, very young, and very large offensive line is going to have their hands full this week, as La Follette has a pair of all-conference defensive linemen up front to give them fits, including Gary Barnes, who was second-team last season in the Big 8. Barnes seems to find his way to the backfield in big spots, and having him in front of James-Ragland makes for quite a foundation for the solid La Follette defense to build around... Quietly, Adam Bekx has put up over 1,000 yards this season, and in six games, puts him on pace to exceed the 1,490 yards of passing put up by Noah Roberts in 2014, the most of any Wildcat quarterback in at least the past 11 seasons. Coach Richardson says Bekx is one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 8 already in six career varsity starts, and the junior has plenty of competition in his 2020 class for an all-conference nod this season.
Listen to the game this Friday night at 7pm on 1070 AM and thebig1070.com!