Verona shuts down young Parker offense
Special to The Gazette
VERONA--Reflecting on high school football's opening night, Janesville Parker head coach Clayton Kreger believes that he has a defense that can make the Vikings competitive in the ultra-challenging Big Eight conference.
His offense on the other hand, full of youth and being coached by a new offensive coordinator, has a lot of polishing that needs to be done.
The two touchdowns the Vikings gave up in the opening six minutes were the difference Friday, as Parker's offense never pieced things together in a 21-0 loss to the Wildcats.
Losing its season opener for the sixth straight season, Janesville Parker (0-1, 0-1 Big Eight) was held to 78 total yards, lost 10 yards rushing, didn't gain a first down until 7:46 remained in the third quarter and put its defense in precarious situations.
Verona's three touchdowns were all on scoring drives of 37 yards or less, benefited by a turnover, a shanked punt and a turnover on downs.
“We fully thought we could win this game,” Kreger said, “but this is something we can learn from.”
The excitement of opening night quickly changed to a level of despair for the Vikings. Deferring to the second half backfired, as Parker senior tailback Seamus Murphy fumbled his third-down carry at the Parker 27. Verona cashed in the mistake five plays later when its senior tailback—Joe Riley—held on to the ball on a bruising 1-yard run.
Following another three-and-out, complete with a 19-yard loss when the snap flew over senior quarterback Kyle Birkett's head, the Vikings compounded the issue with a 7-yard punt to the Verona 16. To rub salt in the wounds, quarterback Aaron Young's third-down pass bounced off three Parker defenders in the end zone before landing in the arms of 240-pound lineman Tristan Largent.
After only two drives and 5 minutes, 53 seconds, the Vikings were in a 14-0 hole.
“It was an eye opener for us,” Kreger said. “I think we understand what it means to take practice to the next level now.”
But while Verona appeared to be handing Parker an opening-night shellacking for the second straight season, Parker's defense started to flex its muscles when it wasn't pinned close to the goal line. The Wildcats didn't gain more than 50 yards or sniff the red zone on their next seven possessions.
“They did a phenomenal job,” Kreger said, referring to his defense. “Our kids never quit … but I know they aren't going to be happy to see 21 on the board.”
Despite Verona being whistled for 11 penalties, committing four fumbles (one loss) and starting the second half with consecutive turnovers, Parker didn't gain more than 20 yards on any offensive series against the first-team defense.
Parker even tried a quarterback change, benching Birkett in the second half for fellow senior Max Kisting to try and open up the passing game. The move brought more opportunities but Parker didn't help itself by seeing its receivers drop four passes with an open field in front of them.
“(Kyle) is our team captain and does a phenomenal job, but we were just trying to find a spark,” Kreger said. “I wouldn't say we're making a quarterback change, but just something we were trying to do for the second half.”
VERONA 21, PARKER 0
Parker 0 0 0 0—0
Verona 14 0 0 7—21
V – Riley 1-yard run (Young kick)
V – Largent 1-yard pass from Young (Young kick)
V – King 7-yard pass from Young (Young kick)
Statistics: First downs—Parker 5, Verona 12. Rushing—Parker 22-(-10), Verona 30-85. Yards passing—Parker 88, Verona 162. Passes—Parker 23-13-1, Verona 22-16-1. Fumbles—Parker 1-1, Verona 4-1. Penalties—Parker 3-25, Verona 11-121.
Last updated: 11:58 pm Friday, August 18, 2017