WAUNAKEE — For whatever questions there may have been at the start of a new prep football season with plenty of new faces, Waunakee had more than enough answers Friday night.
The Warriors wasted little time getting to work with their new cast of characters, and they kept finding another gear in a 54-6 season-opening victory against Monona Grove at Warrior Stadium.
“We thought we had playmakers,” Waunakee coach Pat Rice said. “We thought we could do some things running the ball and throwing the ball with good balance, and I think our kids kind of stepped up and did that.”
Making his first career start at quarterback, junior Caden Nelson connected on four of five passes, including a trio of third-down throws, to lead Waunakee on a three-minute, eight-play touchdown drive.
Nelson and Waunakee’s offense were just getting started. The Warriors got a defensive stop and immediately marched back down the field to score.
Monona Grove brought it to 14-6, but the Warriors went full throttle the final 6:58 of the second quarter, rattling off 26 consecutive points to put the game away.
Alec Morgan popped through for an electrifying 61-yard touchdown run, and Nelson closed the half in style. He rainbowed a pass downfield on the final play of the half, right into the arms of Caden Lewis for a 45-yard scoring strike.
Morgan rushed for 137 yards and three touchdowns.
Nelson was able to make plays with his arms and his legs.
“He’s a good athlete,” Rice said. “That’s one we knew about, and we figured they didn’t. He was a backup kid for us last year. He’s a big kid, strong kid. Throws the ball well. Runs the ball well. Good leader, and really a dual-threat dude that can make some plays.”
Nelson ended his night after a 39-yard scoring strike to Lewis as the clock started to run. He finished with 197 yards on 12 of 15 passing.
Monona Grove played a plethora of sophomores and juniors seeing their first varsity action. Sophomore back Jackson Fabian showed some promise, gaining 60 yards on 16 carries with the bulk of his yards coming late in the game.
“Varsity football is a huge jump for some of these sophomores coming from freshman football,” Silver Eagles coach Brandon Beckwith said. “To come out and play under the lights at Waunakee and to throw them to the wolves, we didn’t know what we were going to get.
“But we’ll watch a lot of film, and it’s a great opportunity for us to coach these guys up so they can see some of those mistakes in a less hostile environment and make some corrections.”
Waunakee proved that while names and faces change, the Warrior Way is the constant that pushes the program forward year in and year out.
“They have a lot of pride, and that’s the thing,” Rice said. “We wanted to make sure we stepped up and played a complete game against a really good opponent in Monona Grove. I think we are dialed in and ready to play.”
Monona Grove 6 0 0 0; — 6
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Waunakee 14 26 14 0; — 54
W — Nelson 3 run (Driscoll kick), 9:07
W — Morgan 4 run (Driscoll kick), 6:13
MG — Walsh 8 pass from Behnke (kick failed), 1:13
W — Morgan 1 run (Driscoll kick), 6:58
W — Lewis 5 pass from Nelson (kick failed), 4:06
W — Morgan 61 run (Driscoll kick), 1:48
W — Lewis 45 pass from Nelson (kick failed), :00
W — Lewis 39 pass from Nelson (Driscoll kick), 10:16
W — Meinholz 45 run (Driscoll kick), 6:24.
First downs — MG 10, WAU 18. Rushes-yards — MG 36-93, WAU 35-296. Comp-Att-Int — MG 11-22-2, WAU 14-17-0. Passing yards — MG 119, WAU 203. Fumbles-Lost — MG 0-0, WAU 0-0. Penalties-Yards — MG 3-15, WAU 4-45. Records — MG 0-1, WAU 1-0. Total Yards — MG 212, WAU 499.
Rushing: MG, Fabian 16-60. WAU, Morgan 15-137. Passing: MG, Behnke 8-14-93-1. WAU, Nelson 12-15-197-0. Receiving: MG, Huston 5-78. WAU, Lewis 8-121.