VERONA — It wasn’t pretty, but it’s a good thing for Verona prep football is no beauty contest.
Averaging more than 40 points per game, unbeaten and sixth-ranked Verona couldn’t get much offense going against pesky Madison West. So the Wildcats relied on their defense.
Verona grinded out a 21-6 victory over the Regents on Friday night to keep pace in the Big Eight Conference race.
“Win ugly is the best way to put it,” Wildcats coach Dave Richardson said. “Everybody survived.”
Neither team had more than 260 yards of total offense as the front sevens dictated the tempo. Each team committed a number of costly penalties that thwarted drives.
Madison West (1-3 overall and Big Eight) stalled out on fourth down on the game’s opening drive, while Verona (4-0, 4-0) fumbled in West territory on its first possession.
“I was impressed with our defense,” West coach Brad Murphy said. “Kids executed what we were trying to do, and they fought their hearts out. That’s all we’re asking for.”
Verona couldn’t get much going on the ground as West loaded the box against running back Jackson Acker, a University of Wisconsin recruit. Acker finished with 91 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns.
The Wildcats relied on quarterback Adam Bekx to deliver quick passes at the first-down markers to move the ball in the first half. Early in the second quarter, Bekx rolled to his left and hit tight end Cole Zoromski from 10 yards out for a 7-0 lead. Bekx threw for 150 yards, many of those coming in the first half.
After getting the ball back, Acker scampered down the sideline for a 38-yard score and a 14-0 lead.
“When they have that many guys in the box, you hope to pop one,” Richardson said. “I was hoping to pop a few more than that, but that’s the whole thing that if you get through that first line, there’s nobody left because they have everybody at the line of scrimmage.”
Verona scored to start the third quarter as Acker ran in from a yard out. The Wildcats didn’t score again as the Regents forced turnovers and three-and-outs, stifling Acker for most of the second half.
“We really believe that we have a tough front seven,” Murphy said. “We have some great kids in there. They are all juniors and working so hard for us, and I absolutely love them for it. So proud of the way they battled.”
West’s offense showed promise on the read option with quarterback Ezra Thompson and running back Nazier Jones. The two traded several 5- to 8-yard runs that moved the Regents down the field and eventually into the end zone early in the fourth quarter. Jones slipped his way in from 4 yards out to get the Regents within 21-6.
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Thompson finished with 74 rushing yards and Jones had 70.
With West forced into throwing situations late in the game, Verona had two big sacks, including a blind-sided blitz from Acker, and pressured Thompson seemingly every time he dropped back.
“I thought we wore them down a little bit and got the quarterback when we needed to,” Richardson said. “We got some great stops and great sacks and created problems for them.”
Madison West 0 0 0 6 — 6
Verona 0 14 7 0 — 21
V — Zoromski 10 pass from Bekx (Armstrong kick)
V — Acker 38 run (Armstrong kick)
V — Acker 1 run (Armstrong kick)
MW — Jones 4 run (kick failed)
First downs — MW 13, V 14. Rushes-yards — MW 31-143, V 28-106. Comp-Att-Int — MW 10-22-1, V 12-19-1. Passing yards — MW 87, V 150. Penalties-yards — MW 8-75, V 7-50.
Rushing: MW, Thompson 15-74, Jones 15-70. V, Acker 18-91. Passing: MW, Thompson 10-22-1-87. V, Bekx 12-19-1-150. Receiving: MW, Sanford 3-30. V, Dawkins 5-69.