Janesville28.3°

Cougars have no answer for no-huddle

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JOHN N. BARRY
October 22, 2009
— If Monterey Stadium did in fact play host to its final Big Eight Conference football game Wednesday night, those in attendance got to see one of the league’s last championship teams.

Ryan McDonald rushed for 164 yards and scored four touchdowns to lead Verona to a 42-23 win over Janesville Craig in the regular-season finale for both teams.


With the win, Verona (7-2) earned a share of its second straight co-championship. The Wildcats are co-champions along with Sun Prairie (7-2), Middleton (7-2) and Madison Memorial (7-2), and have now won five straight conference titles dating back to their last three seasons in the Badger South.


The four-way tie marked the first time in Big Eight history that four teams shared the title. Wednesday’s game was also likely the end of an era as the WIAA is set to approve in January a switch to district play for football starting with the 2010 season. That would mean Verona and the Janesville schools had a short two-year run.


“It’s a weird night,” Verona coach Dave Richardson said. “To think that this could be the last Big Eight game is hard to believe.


“We’ve only been in it (the conference) for two years, but it has been a very enjoyable experience.”


Winning has made it even more enjoyable for Richardson and his program.


Against the Cougars (1-8), the Wildcats ran much of their offense out of a no-huddle formation. Craig High had no answer for the attack, especially McDonald’s quick bursts on the edge. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound junior ran the counter play to perfection time and time again. He sliced Craig’s defense for two first-half touchdowns, including a 35-yard scamper that gave the Wildcats a 21-7 lead with 5:04 left in the half.


Despite an early 14-0 deficit, the Cougars made things interesting for a half. Keegan Kelly, who finished with 138 yards rushing and three touchdowns, scored on a 6-yard run with 45 seconds left in the half to cut the deficit to 21-14.


Craig High first-year coach Ben McCormick was pleased with the way his team battled the first half, but knew the Wildcats’ depth and experience would be tough to overcome the final 24 minutes.


“They’re an excellent football team and that’s is why they’re conference champs,” McCormick said. “They do a number of things really well on offense and do a great job of spreading the field.


“But give our kids credit. We could’ve folded our tents when we got down 14-0, but we didn’t. We battled and battled, but their depth wore us down.”


Any hopes of a Cougar comeback were dashed in the third quarter as McDonald scored twice to push the lead to 35-14.


On a night when we may have seen the last of Big Eight football, the Verona Wildcats made sure to go out with a bang.


VERONA 42, CRAIG 23

Verona 14 7 14 7—42


Janesville Craig 0 14 0 9—23


Scoring summary: V—Danny Burns, 5 run (Cameron Bathe kick). V—Ryan McDonald, 6 run (Bathe kick). C—Keegan Kelly, 4 run (Tom Kitching kick). V—McDonald, 35 run (Bathe kick). C—Kelly, 6 run (Kitching kick). V—McDonald, 6 run (Bathe kick). V—McDonald, 20 run (Bathe kick). V—Brian Woods, 35 pass from Burns (Bathe kick). C—Safety, Patrick Gehl tackles Cody Bull in end zone. C—Kelly, 24 run (Kitching kick).


Statistics: First downs—V 22, C 15. Rushes—V 42-315, C 50-233. Yards passing—V 150, C 41. Passes—V 13-8-1, C 12-3-1. Fumbles—V 2-1, C 1-0. Penalties—V 5-45, C 5-35.




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