Hut, Hut, Hike!
That’s right, the start of the 2019 football season is here and the Sun Prairie Cardinals are looking to make it an even more special one that the rest.
The three-time defending Big Eight Conference champions head into the final season of the current Ashley Field, their home since 1953, looking for a four-peat.
Game 1 will be a colossal test as the Cardinals face the very team they shared the Big Eight title with last season, Madison Memorial. Sun Prairie lost last season’s opener to the Spartans, 32-26, but from there ran the table before falling to Fond du Lac in the WIAA Division 1 playoff quarterfinals.
“We’re as ready as we can be,” Sun Prairie head coach Brian Kaminski said. “We’re excited for the opportunity on Friday and excited to get back on Ashley Field. We just have to take it one game at a time, we know (Memorial) is a quality opponent; win or lose it hopefully won’t define our season, as we found out last year.”
Two questions all Sun Prairie fans are asking: 1. Who will play quarterback, and 2. How will a brand new offensive line stack up.
Brady Stevens will start under center Friday. The 6-foot-3 left-hander outdueled senior Carson Fluno and sophomore Addison Ostrenga, coming out of camp as the top candidate.
“He’s done very well in camp,” said Kaminski. “He’s really grown and matured throughout his years here so far and we’re excited for him to play (Friday).”
As far as the offensive line is concerned, the men up front will be sophomore Evan Malcore at left tackle, junior Zackery Hackett at left guard, senior Evan Holman under center, junior Zach Walters at right guard and junior Alex Shinnick at right tackle.
“It always makes you a little nervous when you replace all five guys on the offensive line, but these kids have had a great off-season, their gelling together and they’re a tight-knit group,” said Kaminski. That’s really where it starts and ends, if our line can allow us a pass game we like our chances.”
Stevens will be throwing to some very talented and experienced wide receivers in seniors Dominick Landphier and Colin Schaefer. The du combined for 46 receptions, 720 yards and five TDs.
Landphier and fellow seniors Dominic Backes and Jamel Stone return as the most experienced secondary in the Big Eight.
“It’s nice to have guys back with experience,” said Kaminski. “Dom Backes has really taken over the leadership role.”
Madison Memorial had just one blip last season, a Week 6 loss to Verona, which forced them to share the Big Eight crown under first-year head coach Mike Harris.
Driving the Spartans machine are a pair of returning All-Big Eight performers in quarterback Jason Ceniti and Kam Marshall. Ceniti threw for nearly 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2018, while Marshal racked up 1,116 yards and eight TDs on the groun.
“He’s a key to their team,” said Kaminski of Ceniti. “He’s a scholarship player who can throw the deep ball, but is athletic enough to make things happen in the run game as well. We also need to limit Kam Marshall’s touches.”
BIG EIGHT REIGN
Over the last 10 seasons Sun Prairie has the highest winning percentage among Big Eight Conference teams (.791) with 91 victories in 115 games.
Middleton (.748) is next with an 80-27 record during that span.
“We always talk to the kids about controlling their own destiny and if you go out and get that first game, you’re able to do that. If not, you have to ask for a little bit of help,” Kaminski said. “We know what our expectations are here at Sun Prairie and we’re going to go put on a good, quality show.”
While football will continue at the hallowed stadium located on Kroncke Drive at Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School, Ashley Field will be reconfigured immediately following this season to conform into a new and improved Ashley Field.
“It’s a special place to play,” Kaminski, who enters his 17th year at Sun Prairie, said. “Even if you ask opponents they like coming over and playing in that bowl-type atmosphere.”
FIRST RESPONDERS/YOUTH NIGHT
The Sun Prairie football program will honor both the area first responders and future Cardinals on Friday night.