VERONA — After two weeks, Verona junior Haakon Anderson has distinguished himself as a difference-maker.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Anderson has six touchdowns this season after scoring three more rushing touchdowns Friday night as host Verona rallied for a 27-22 victory over Middleton in a Big Eight Conference football game at Curtis Jones Field.
Anderson scored the winner on a 2-yard sweep around left end with 5 minutes, 2 seconds remaining to play, allowing the Wildcats (2-0 overall, 2-0 Big Eight) to overcome a 22-21 deficit during a rainy second half.
“I think what is going right the most is just we are working as a unit,” said Anderson, a running back and flanker who also caught four passes for 136 yards from junior quarterback Adam Bekx. “We are a family together. And when my offensive line is working as hard as they are, and my quarterback is able to throw the ball, and my wide receivers are able to run routes, then everything is jelling together.”
Anderson also came up with a critical play on that scoring drive — a leaping 42-yard reception over Middleton defensive back Kevin Meicher, who had been in excellent position to break up the play. That put the Wildcats in business at the Middleton 16-yard line.
“My quarterback just gave me a chance and I tried to get it,” said Anderson, whose performance against Middleton (1-1, 1-1) became even more important after Wildcats junior split end Aubrey Dawkins left the game in the first quarter after he separated his shoulder, according to Verona coach Dave Richardson.
Said Richardson about Anderson: “He’s an athlete. We had to focus on him when we lost Aubrey, who is a difference-maker.”
Three plays after the big catch, Anderson fumbled after taking a pitch, but he and teammate Tyler Slawek recovered the ball at the Cardinals’ 2. That led to Anderson’s touchdown run on the next play.
“Kevin made a great play and was in perfect position,” Middleton co-coach Jason Pertzborn said. “And what do you know? The ball bounces off his helmet and goes right into the guy’s hands.”
The Cardinals, ranked ninth in The Associated Press Large Schools Division state poll, saw two late bids squelched. On the drive after Anderson’s go-ahead score in the fourth quarter, Middleton junior running back Kallion Buckner — who had 200 yards rushing on 22 carries and scored two rushing touchdowns — gained 8 yards to the Verona 38. But he was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and Middleton later had a delay-of-game penalty on a fourth-and-1 play.
Senior quarterback Bryce Carey’s pass on fourth-and-6 at the Verona 42 was batted down by Wildcats junior defensive lineman Adam Vandervest with 1:20 remaining.
Verona sophomore Cam McCorkle came up with an interception on Middleton’s final possession with 51.5 seconds left.
“We have a lot of young kids, juniors and sophomores making plays,” Richardson said. “That’s awesome. They are growing up really quickly.”
Verona opened the scoring on Anderson’s 1-yard run with 5:37 left in the first quarter. The Wildcats drove 62 yards in five plays, keyed by junior running back Keegan Lindell’s 44-yard run to the Middleton 5-yard line.
The Cardinals answered immediately on the next drive. Buckner raced 83 yards on the first play, rallying Middleton within 7-6 with 5:12 left in the first quarter. Buckner rushed for 110 yards on 11 carries in the first half.
Carey scored on a 3-yard run, putting the Cardinals ahead 12-7 with 10:46 remaining in the second quarter. Carey’s 42-yard pass completion to senior Sam Close put Middleton on the Wildcats’ 3-yard line.
Sophomore Sawyer Pertzborn’s 38-yard field goal increased the Cardinals’ lead to 15-7 3:57 before halftime.
“I was happy with the way we fought back,” Middleton co-coach Tim Simon said. “But we had too many penalties tonight — costly penalties. I thought we were able to move the ball. We seemed to shoot ourselves in the foot too many times. It was a great game. Hats off to Verona. They played a very good football game. We didn’t feel we played very well.”
Anderson scored his second rushing touchdown on a 10-yard run with 50.6 seconds left in the second quarter, cutting the gap to 15-13.
Lindell, who had 111 yards rushing in 17 carries, scored on a 10-yard third-quarter run. But Buckner answered with a 10-yard touchdown run, giving Middleton a 22-21 lead with 7:03 left in the third quarter.
“We had a lot of offense and to score only 22 points with that many yards is inexcusable,” Jason Pertzborn said. “You can’t have that many penalties.”
V — Anderson 1 run (Garcia kick)
M — Buckner 83 run (kick failed)
M — Carey 3 run (run failed)
M — FG Pertzborn 38
V — Anderson 10 run (run failed)
V — Lindell 10 run (Keegan Lindell run)
M — Buckner 10 run (Pertzborn kick)
V — Anderson 2 run (pass failed)
First downs — M 10, V 12. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — M 36-259, V 39-196. Passing yards — M 81, V 167. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — M 4-14-1, V 7-13-0. Fumbles-lost — M 1-0, V 1-0. Penalties-yards — M 8-53, V 6-40.
Rushing: M, Buckner 22-200. V, Lindell 18-110.
Passing: M, Carey 4-14-1-81. V, Bekx 7-13-0-167.
Receiving: M, Close 2-47. V, Anderson 4-136.
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