Janesville Craig Cougars unable to keep pace with Verona

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Benjamin Worgull, Special to The Gazette
Saturday, September 7, 2013

VERONA—For over two quarters, Janesville Craig Tom Gabower put on a show against a usually stingy Verona defense, either zigzagging or flat-out sprinting past Wildcat defenders in a seesaw affair.

But after a big lineman landed on his left ankle, the curtain came down on Gabower's night, and on the Cougars' chances to keep up with Verona's offense.

Verona junior tailback Cameron Tindall accounted for six touchdowns, including the game-winning score late in the third quarter, to lead the Wildcats to a 69-49 victory Friday night, making Curtis Jones Field look more like an Arena Football game than a Big Eight conference matchup.

Saying the game was “wild” and “fast-paced” wouldn't have done it justice.

The first half also saw 42 points from each team, over 650 yards of total offense, four scoring drives over 80 yards, five scoring drives that lasted less than a minute and no punts. In the first quarter alone, the Wildcats rushed for 198 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries (11.64 yards per carry).

Grabower was the story, however, as he rushed for 223 of his 287 yards in the first quarter and two scores on just six carries (37.2 ypc). He rushed for first-half touchdowns of 83, 80, 3, 7, the last coming with no time left on the clock before halftime, to help the Cougars keep pace and atone for throwing two interceptions that each led to Wildcats touchdowns on a short field.

“We blocked really well and we did what we were supposed to,” said Grabower, as Craig racked up 393 yards of offense in the first half. “Usually we're guessing sometimes on where we are blocking. This week, we blocked everything and that's what happens when you do things right.”

In a game where defense was optional at times, Craig appeared to seize control when it forced a turnover on downs near midfield and trailing 48-42 early in the third quarter. That momentum was quickly whisked away when Grabower rolled his ankle on a dive play that forced him to the sidelines.

After having 12 plays go for at least 10 yards with Grabower under center, the Cougars managed only 79 yards on its final 21 plays (3.8 yards per play), one touchdown and one interception without him.

That lull was enough for Verona, which rushed for seven touchdowns, threw for three touchdowns and never sent its punt team on the field, gashing the Cougars defense with traps and sweeps in their misdirection offense.

“The two halves were very different,” said Cougars coach Ben McCormick. “It was a hectic pace the first half and the second half slowed down a little bit. It was a good learning lesson for us. We have some things to correct. A lot of those mistakes were mental.”

With a home game next week against Sun Prairie, last season's division 1 state runner-up that features senior defensive tackle Craig Evans (a four-star Wisconsin commit), Grabower, who hopes to play, sees positives from an offense that clicked when it was at full strength.

“This week was definitely great for the first three quarters,” said Grabower. “Our offense accomplished our goal and more this week, especially against a team like Verona.”

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