Twenty-nine years ago, Scott Nelson was a standout running back and defensive back at Sun Prairie High School.
He was just starting a tradition of football success that led him to a Rose Bowl victory with the University of Wisconsin.
These days, his son — Sun Prairie senior receiver Cooper Nelson — has been continuing the family tradition.
After helping his team win a share of the Big Eight Conference title this season, the 6-foot-4 Nelson has his eyes set on a larger task: Defeating unbeaten Fond du Lac to advance to the semifinal round of the WIAA Division 1 playoffs.
Sun Prairie (10-1), last year’s state runner-up, takes a 10-game winning streak on the road at 7 p.m. Friday. Top-ranked Fond du Lac (11-0) started its season by ending Kimberly’s national-best 70-game winning streak and hasn’t stumbled since.
“It’s going to be a big game,” Nelson said. “We’re watching a lot of film, putting together a new plan. We’ve worked hard in practice, and hopefully it goes how we want on Friday.”
There’s little doubt the game plan will include an aerial bombardment. Quarterback Richie Gilles has completed 135 passes for 2,260 yards and 26 touchdowns this year, breaking the school record for single-season passing yardage.
Nelson has caught 57 passes this season. Last week, he broke the school record for receiving yards in a season with exactly 1,000 — an average of 17.5 yards per catch.
This is an improvement over last season, when he was named as the Big Eight’s receiver of the year. He caught 39 passes for 794 yards.
Nelson suffered an ankle injury in Sun Prairie's 42-36 win over Middleton in the first round of the playoffs. He had seven receptions for 79 yards in the Cardinals' 31-13 win over Sussex Hamilton in the second round.
“He rolled an ankle but was able to play through it well,” Sun Prairie coach Brian Kaminski. “He is doing well in practice and with rehab, and we expect a big game out of him again.”
Sports have always been a large part of Nelson’s life. Starting with T-ball and youth basketball at the local YMCA, he expanded his repertoire in eighth grade when he began playing tackle football.
In addition to football, Nelson is a two-time letterwinner in basketball. He has also played baseball and lettered in track and field.
According to Nelson, one of the reasons the Sun Prairie football program has found success is the hard work put in by the program’s internal scout team. Coached by Scott Nelson — a starting safety for the 1994 Rose Bowl Badgers — the scout team researches the upcoming opponents’ plays and tendencies and tries to duplicate them against the varsity during practice.
“We meet over the weekend, watch film of all the games and find out what we have on them,” Kaminski said. “We watch it, walk through it, talk through it.
“Then, we go out on the field with our scout team and emulate what Fond du Lac is going to do for us — which is a challenge because they do a lot of things well that we’re not familiar with. But if they can get us up to speed as best they can, it will make us more prepared for Friday.”
“Fond du Lac is going to be a tough challenge for us, and they’ve had a great season up to this point,” Kaminski said. “Anybody who is left in the round of eight is going to be pretty talented. It’s going to come down to us being physical, playing with energy, controlling line of scrimmage and winning the field-position battle.”