It was an electric Friday night for football in Sauk Prairie.
Much of the electricity, though, was off the field. After lightning caused a 30-minute delay to kickoff, the Waunakee football team’s defense forced three turnovers that sparked the team to victory on a rainy, sloppy night against the Eagles.
“It’s Wisconsin: we’re going to play in weather like this,” said Waunakee’s Head Coach Pat Rice. “This is something we’ve always played well in, traditionally.”
Sauk Prairie 7
Neither Waunakee’s nor Sauk Prairie’s offense started out the night particularly well. After a three-and-out on each squad’s first possession, Sauk Prairie stripped Caden Nelson and recovered: the first of five total turnovers on the night due in part to slick conditions.
“It was going to get sloppy, and we knew that,” Rice said. “It was good that we had a game like this in some weird conditions with some weird things happening to see how our kids happened adversity.”
After Waunakee’s defense quickly gave the ball back to Waunakee’s offense, Nelson took the opportunity to punish the Eagles’ defense.
From 42 yards, out, Nelson split through the middle of Sauk Prairie’s front seven and outraced the secondary to put the first touchdown on the board. After Aidan Driscoll’s extra point, Waunakee’s lead stood at 7-0 with 2:43 remaining in the first quarter.
Less than a minute later, Sauk Prairie tried to answer with a deep pass; Jacob May had tight coverage and snagged his first interception of the game to give the Warriors possession deep in Eagles’ territory.
On Waunakee’s ensuing drive, there were more fireworks, only this time they came off the field. With 11 seconds left in the quarter, sparks started flying on one of the light posts, and within seconds, a quarter of the field was shrouded in darkness.
After a few minutes, play continued despite the lights remaining out on one corner of the field, and the Warriors quickly drove into a first and goal scenario. A pair of false starts and a sack pushed them back, though, and Waunakee was soon faced with a fourth and goal from the 16-yard line. The Warriors weren’t able to convert, turning the ball over after Nelson’s pass fell harmlessly to the ground.
Once again, Waunakee’s defense promptly got the ball back. May out-leaped an Eagles’ receiver, grabbing his second interception of the night with 9:28 to go in the second.
Sauk Prairie’s defense continued to give the Warriors problems; Waunakee was faced with another fourth and long, this time on the Eagles’ 38-yard line.
This time, Nelson launched a rainbow into the end zone, and Andrew Keller was able to haul it in, doubling Waunakee’s lead with five minutes to go in the half.
Early in the third, Waunakee’s defense struck again; Conner Loy recovered a loose ball on the Sauk Prairie 29, giving the Warrior offense another short field.
Nelson again took advantage, finding a wide-open Randy Vojtisek after faking the defense out with a perfect pump fake. Vojtisek rumbled into the end zone on the 25-yard scoring toss, giving Waunakee a 21-0 lead midway through the third.
“We gave [our offense] some short fields,” Rice said of his defense creating three turnovers. “I think we were able to take advantage of those short fields; we talked to our defense about creating those opportunities, and they did. That was huge for us, no question.”
Three plays into the fourth quarter, Nelson found the end zone again with his legs, this time on a one-yard quarterback sneak. After another successful PAT, Waunakee’s lead stood at 28 points with 11 minutes to play.
The Eagles avoided a shutout, finding the end zone on an 11-yard scoring pass with 9:08 to go in the fourth.
After another stalled Warrior drive, Sauk Prairie marched deep into Warrior territory again, briefly pushing inside Waunakee’s 10-yard line with three minutes to play. After a Jeb Frey sack and back to back incompletions, however, the Eagles turned the ball over on downs, ending their final threat to cut into Waunakee's lead.
The Warriors ran out the clock on the ensuring drive, securing the 28-7 victory.
Nelson led the Warriors with 90 yards on eight for 18 attempts passing and 101 yards on the ground. Cole Mobley added 47 rushing yards, while Vojtisek was tops in receiving yards with 32, followed by Keller with 31.
“I was happy that our kids played a four-quarter game and persevered,” said Rice. “They got pushed a little bit and played a few more snaps. I think that was a necessary thing for us to have to go through… We’ve got to clean some things up, but winning ugly is better than losing pretty.”
Next week, Waunakee (6-0, 4-0 Badger North) will play their third straight game on the road against Reedsburg. Start time on Friday is scheduled for 7 p.m.