After graduating nearly every starter following the 2017 season, the 2018 Verona Wildcats had an empty slate.
Verona's youth movement last year pays off in 2019 with the benefit of experienced seniors across the board to push the Wildcats right into the thick of the Big 8 title race.
They almost got there last year, with an offense full of college prospects up front and in the backfield. Interior offensive linemen Gunnar Kilen and Adam Vandervest, as well as running backs Jackson Acker and Haakon Anderson, either hold offers or have committed to Division 1 college football programs. Just three seniors graduate that started a game in 2019 from the offensive side of the ball, and two of them were part-time starters.
In addition to the four mentioned above, Adam Bekx returns at quarterback to spearhead an offense that should be one of the area's, if not the state's, best in 2019. Other returning regulars include fullback Keegan Lindell, running back Sam Wood, split ends Aubrey Dawkins and Shay Watson, and guard Joe Gervasi, in addition to the depth built over the course of last year.
Defensively, the Wildcats lose the very talented Dylan Bourne at middle linebacker, who led the team in tackles and also carried a 4.0 GPA, as well as over a half-dozen other seniors who started games last year for Verona. Skyler Hawkins and Tyler Laham will lead the defensive line group, while Nick Grassman, Ben Cramer, and Jeremy Grim return at linebacker. In the secondary, both safeties are back, with Michael Guy and Cale Rufenacht, and corner Cam McCorkle, who had the game-sealing interception against Middleton in week two of last season, also returns after missing a good chunk of 2018 with an injury.
Special teams again features a bounty of returning players across the board. Every player who kicked, punted, or returned last year is back in for 2019.
Verona gets five home games this year, but plays the top three teams from the Big 8 last year on the road. Their only road game in the first four weeks is at Middleton in a game aired by The Big 1070 in Week 2. Last year, Verona got a late interception to seal a big early-season win over the Cardinals.
Verona plays at Sun Prairie and at Madison Memorial, both of whom are last year's co-Big 8 champs, in back-to-back weeks on September 20 and September 27, the latter of which is a Homecoming game. Verona will host La Follette the week after in another game ticketed for The Big 1070. The Wildcats wrap up the regular season with Beloit Memorial and Madison East.
Head Coach: Dave Richardson (20th Season), 150-60 Overall; 28th Career Season, 179-97 - WFCA Hall of Fame 2014
2018 Result: 7-3 (7-2), 3rd in the Big 8 (Lost in Level 1 of the Division 1 Playoffs to Arrowhead, 63-21)
Three-Year Record: 22-9 (1-3 Playoffs)
2018 All-Conference Honors: 4 First-Team, 5 Second-Team, 5 Honorable Mention (14 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 18 First-Team, 17 Second-Team, 15 Honorable Mention (50 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (8): C Gunnar Kilen (1T-OL) (WSN-OL 🏈), Sr.; WR/RB Haakon Anderson (1T-WR) (WSN-WR 🏈), Sr.; QB/P Adam Bekx (2T-QB) (WSN-QB 🏈), Sr.; FB/LS Keegan Lindell (2T-RB) (WSN-RB 🏈), Sr.; DL Skylar Hawkins (2T-DL) (WSN-DL 🏈), Sr.; G Joe Gervasi (HM-OL) (WSN-OL 🏈), Sr.; RB Sam Wood (HM-RB), Sr.; RB/RET/LB Jackson Acker (HM-RB), Jr.
Other Players To Watch: G/DL Adam Vandervest (WSN-OL 🏈), Sr.; WR/RET Aubrey Dawkins, Sr.; WR/RET Shay Watson, Sr.; K/RB Chris Garcia, Sr.; LB Nick Grassman, Sr.; LB Ben Cramer, Sr.; S Michael Guy, Sr.; S Cale Rufenacht, Sr.; LB Max Meyers, Sr.; LB Kyle Walton, Sr.; DB Xavier Howard, Sr.; CB Cam McCorkle, Jr.; DE Tyler Laham, Jr.; QB Jacob Kisting, Jr.; QB/TE Brevin Brisack, Jr.; TE James Rae, Jr.; FB Graham Stier, Jr.; RB Chris Gonzalez, Jr.; P Kyle Krantz, So.
BIG Games: at Middleton, August 30 (🔊The Big 1070 Broadcast); at Sun Prairie, September 20; at Madison Memorial, September 27; vs Madison La Follette, October 4 (🔊The Big 1070 Broadcast) (Homecoming)