SUN PRAIRIE — Sun Prairie football coach Brian Kaminski likes to tell his team that the WIAA postseason is a race to five: The first to five victories takes it all.
Kaminski, surrounded by his players, held up three fingers after the host Cardinals defeated Big Eight Conference rival Madison West 49-17 in a Division 1 quarterfinal on Friday night at Ashley Field.
His gesture signified this: Three down, two to go.
Senior running back Draven Peeples scored four touchdowns (including three rushing) and gained 168 yards on the ground, senior quarterback Jack Zander threw for three touchdowns and 292 yards and senior Kadon Kauppinen returned a fumble for a touchdown and caught one of Zander’s scoring strikes in leading Sun Prairie (12-0).
“I don’t know how you can’t feel good, we’re sitting here 12-0,” Kaminski said. “In the playoffs, we’ve played pretty dang well. But we can’t be settling for it. We have to continue to work, continue to stay humble, continue to stay hungry and continue to want to get better.”
The top-seeded and third-ranked Cardinals will meet Muskego in next week’s semifinals — a game Kaminski said he expected to be Friday night at Hartland Arrowhead High School.
Sun Prairie made certain in the first 1 minute, 10 seconds of the game that third-seeded Madison West (9-3) would not pull off an upset in an injury- and penalty-filled game that lasted almost three hours.
In three plays the Cardinals were on the scoreboard: Zander completed passes of 47 and 16 yards to 6-foot-5 junior receiver Cooper Nelson — the son of former University of Wisconsin standout Scott Nelson — and Peeples scored on a 5-yard run to complete the 68-yard drive 39 seconds into the game.
“This game we knew if we took some shots we’d be fine, and if we got them down early we could take them out,” Zander said.
Then on the Regents’ second play on the next series, Madison West senior running back Jaden Stephens’ fumble was scooped up by defensive back Kauppinen, who raced 24 yards for a touchdown — giving the Cardinals a 13-0 lead only 1:10 into the game.
Zander connected with Nelson, who had six catches for 137 yards, on a 3-yard touchdown pass on a fade route in the right corner of the end zone with 2:56 left in the first quarter.
“Cooper is an unbelievable receiver,” Zander said. “He just has a nose for the football.”
The lead ballooned to 27-0 when Peeples took a swing pass from Zander and bolted 74 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first quarter. Zander later fired a 31-yard touchdown pass to Kauppinen and Sun Prairie, after a two-point conversion pass, led 35-0 with 5:56 left in the second quarter.
Stephens, who rushed for 151 yards, got the Regents into the scoring column on a 3-yard touchdown run with 38 seconds left before halftime.
Peeples added two second-half touchdown runs, including a 71-yard jaunt.
“Draven had it going tonight,” Zander said, adding: “He is unbelievable how fast he is.”
The Regents, who dropped a 37-7 decision to Sun Prairie on Sept. 28, last advanced to the third round in 1981, when Madison West was Division 1 runner-up to Schofield D.C. Everest.
“This is the most wins since 1981 for West; It’s an incredible feat,” said Regents coach Brad Murphy, who played 16 players (out of 35). “I’m super proud of these seniors, getting that win against Middleton (last week) and beating Verona during the season. These are incredible things for this program. We are a top-eight team in the state. That is something you can never take away from these kids.”
This is the furthest the Big Eight champion Cardinals have advanced since 2012, when Sun Prairie was Division 1 state runner-up to Arrowhead.
Madison West 0 7 10 0 — 17
Sun Prairie 27 8 7 7 — 49
SP — Peeples 5 run (kick failed)
SP — Kauppinen 24 fumble return (Oakley kick)
SP — Nelson 3 pass from Zander (Alex Oakley kick)
SP — Peeples 74 pass from Zander (Oakley kick)
SP — Kauppinen 31 pass from Zander (Peeples run)
MW — Stephens 3 run (Lupe kick)
SP — Peeples 6 run (Oakley kick)
MW — Warfield 4 pass from Shanklin (Lupe kick)
SP — Peeples 71 run (Oakley kick)
MW — FG Lupe 28
First downs — MW 14, SP 15. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — MW 39-229, SP 27-155. Passing yards — MW 71, SP 292. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — MW 6-20-1, SP 12-23-0. Fumbles-lost — MW 1-1, SP 1-1. Penalties-yards — MW 9-96, SP 12-103.
Rushing: MW, Stephens 19-151. SP, Peeples 24-168.
Passing: MW, Shanklin 5-16-1-52. SP, Zander 12-23-0-292.
Receiving: MW, Warfield 3-30. SP, Nelson 6-137.