VERONA — On the Sun Prairie football team, senior running backs Nathan Schauer and Jamel Stone are known respectively as “Thunder” and “Lightning.”
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Schauer provides the boom running inside the tackles while the 5-10, 170-pound Stone offers speed and elusiveness.
Behind a physical offensive line that set an imposing tone from the start, Schauer rushed for four touchdowns and Stone for another score Friday night.
Each topped 100 yards on the ground as sixth-seeded Sun Prairie raced past third-seeded Verona 51-28 in a WIAA Division 1 first-round playoff game in the final football game at Curtis Jones Field.
Cardinals junior quarterback Brady Stevens threw for two touchdowns and 222 yards, leading a balanced attack that propelled Sun Prairie (7-3) past Verona (7-3) for the second time this season.
“The past couple weeks we haven’t been able to run the ball too well,” Schauer said. “It was such a big deal for our offensive linemen to come out and show up and do big things this week, to move guys and get us in the end zone. It was a huge run explosion.”
Schauer scored three rushing touchdown last season in a victory at Verona.
“I love playing on this field,” he said.
Stone, who also is a starting defensive back, was driven to win the game and told the coaches he wanted to play as many plays as he could on both sides of the ball.
“I wanted it bad,” said Stone, whose 3-yard touchdown run gave Sun Prairie a 37-20 lead in the third quarter. “Us being seniors, we preach this every day in practice. Or I know I did. I was saying it every day and thinking about it. I couldn’t go to sleep. It was keeping me up. I really wanted this game. I told (the coaches) I could do it. That’s how bad I wanted it.”
Sun Prairie will travel to play second-seeded Fond du Lac (9-1) in the second round next Friday. Fond du Lac, ranked sixth among large schools in the final Associated Press state poll, defeated seventh-seeded Hartland Arrowhead 45-14 Friday.
The Cardinals gained a 13-0 lead on two short Schauer touchdown runs. But the Wildcats responded with a 7-yard touchdown run by senior Haakon Anderson and then a slant pattern from senior quarterback Adam Bekx to senior Xavier Howard that Howard turned into a 75-yard touchdown reception.
With the game tied 13-13, two short punts by Verona tilted the field in Sun Prairie’s favor in the final two minutes of the first half. The Cardinals scored the final 10 points before halftime and took a 23-13 lead into the break.
After an 11-yard punt gave Sun Prairie possession at the Verona 32-yard line, Stevens threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Dominick Landphier along the right sideline with 1 minute, 51 seconds left in the second quarter.
Junior Owen Konopacki booted a 39-yard field goal with 5.4 seconds left in the first half.
Stevens threw a 20-yard touchdown strike to senior receiver Colin Schaefer and the Cardinals had a 30-13 lead with 8:51 left in the third quarter.
“We like to be balanced (on offense),” Sun Prairie coach Brian Kaminski said. “But I thought we were physical tonight. We were the more physical football team out there tonight and it showed.”
Sun Prairie’s defense stymied Verona’s potent running game, which already was without injured running back Graham Stier and lost junior running back Jackson Acker, who’s a University of Wisconsin recruit, early in the third quarter when Acker reinjured his ankle.
“For whatever reason, we bring out the best in Sun Prairie. … Man, they looked good tonight,” Verona coach Dave Richardson said. “Credit to them. They responded to two tough losses at the end of their season. They beat our butts. Not much more you can say about it.”
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Sun Prairie defeated Verona in the regular-season meeting when Stevens scored on a quarterback sneak with 15 seconds remaining, giving the Cardinals a 27-21 victory on Sept. 20 in Sun Prairie.
“We got beat,” Richardson said. “I told the kids I don’t know what’s worse, losing on the last play in two games like we did against them and (Madison) Memorial or getting it handed it to you like that.”
Sun Prairie 6 17 14 14 — 51
Verona 0 13 7 8 — 28
SP — Schauer 1 run (run failed)
SP — Schauer 3 run (Konopacki kick)
VER — Anderson 8 run (Armstrong kick)
VER — Howard 75 pass from Bekx (kick failed)
SP — Landphier 32 pass from Stevens (Konopacki kick)
SP — Konopacki 39 field goal
SP — Schaefer 20 pass from Stevens (Konopacki kick)
VER — Howard 92 kickoff return (Armstrong kick)
SP — Stone 5 run (Konopacki kick)
SP — Schauer 2 run (Konopacki kick)
VER — Krantz 39 run (Krantz run)
SP — Schauer 6 run (Konopacki kick)
First Downs — SP 22, VER 15. Rushes-Yards — SP 54-237, VER 28-170. Passing Yards — SP 222, VER 209. Comp-Att-Int — SP 15-20-0, VER 13-26-1. Total Yards — SP 459, VER 379. Fumbles-Lost — SP 0-0, VER 2-1. Penalties-Yards — SP 10-75, VER 6-41.
Rushing: SP, Stone 18-123, Schauer 28-114. VER, Krantz 5-77. Passing: SP, Stevens 15-20-222-0. VER, Bekx 13-26-209-1. Receiving: SP, Landphier 4-78. VER, Howard 4-97.