Friday, Sept. 16 has been circled on the schedule for the football programs at both Sun Prairie East and West High Schools since the summertime. The date is a historic one as it marks the first ever meeting between the two schools in football at Bank of Sun Prairie Stadium.
ESTABLISHED IN THE EAST
Sun Prairie East will be the home team on the scoreboard Friday, despite both squads calling Bank of Sun Prairie Stadium home.
The Cardinals enter this matchup as the No. 3 ranked team in Division 2 in the wissports.net coaches poll. The ranking shows a great deal of respect for East’s roster and history, because the 2022 season hasn’t been an easy one thus far.
Sun Prairie East has already played two of the state’s top teams this year in Mukwonago (week two) and Waunakee (week three). Mukwonago, the No. 1 ranked team in Division 1, beat East 55-45. Waunakee, the top team in Division 2, escaped Bank of Sun Prairie Stadium with a 28-13 win.
After beating up on Beaver Dam in a 42-0 win last week, the Cardinals are back to a .500 record, 2-2 overall and 1-1 in Badger — Large conference play.
The ebbs and flows of the early portion of the season have seemingly not had an effect on East senior quarterback Jerry Kaminski. He’s produced stellar numbers similar to his junior campaign already this year, completing 60% of his pass attempts for 1,044 yards and 13 touchdowns with three interceptions. Kaminski has also taken a bigger role in the rushing game this year, keeping 26 times for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
Kaminski’s favorite target this season has been Connor Stauff, who’s caught 24 passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Jonathan Vandewalle is the passing game’s homerun hitter as he’s had just 14 catches this season but has turned them into 216 yards (a team-high 15.4 yards per reception average) and a team-high five touchdowns. Senior Evan Richmond has also adapted to his role in the offense quickly, catching 19 passes for 235 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
On the ground, senior running back Cortez LeGrant continues to produce. He’s averaging 93 yards per game this season, including rushing totals over 100 yards against both Monona Grove and Beaver Dam. In total, he’s carried 67 times for 372 yards and four touchdowns. LeGrant has also showed some major ability as a receiver, turning just three catches into 105 yards and a touchdown.
It’s been an up-and-down season for East’s defense. The Cardinals have pitched two shutouts and did fairly well against Waunakee’s strong passing attack. They also allowed the second most single-game rushing yards in Wisconsin state history to Wynn Stang of Mukwonago in week two. Sun Prairie West keeps the ball almost entirely on the ground on offense, making this a perfect “prove it” game for East’s run defense to redeem itself.
WATCH OUT FOR WEST
The Wolves of Sun Prairie West were riding high entering last week’s home matchup with Milton. They had won their first three games in their school’s short history and had even gained some respect from the wissports.net coaches poll, earning a No. 10 ranking in Division 2.
Unfortunately for the Wolves, the Red Hawks spoiled the party. Milton handed West a 31-14 loss, its first in school history, to disrupt momentum before its biggest matchup of the season. West proved it could hang with its new Badger — Large conference foe, but its inexperience showed up in the penalty department as the Wolves couldn’t stay out of their own way.
What Sun Prairie West lacks in experience, it makes up for in rushing ability. The Wolves have approached the rushing attack by committee, headline by senior bruiser Jay Dayne who leads the team in carries with 39. He’s turned those into 229 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Jonathan Weah has been the lightning to Dayne’s thunder. The speed back has turned 20 carries into 226 yards and a pair of touchdowns this season.
Junior running back Sammy James has burst onto the scene as a rushing option, as well. He took the role of Weah when he went down with a leg injury against Watertown and has taken advantage of the situation. After getting just two carries in week one, James now leads the team in both rushing yard and touchdowns with 263 and four, respectively.
West keeps things simple through the air for junior quarterback Brady Rhoads as he leads a varsity offense for the first time this season. He’s attempted just 49 passes through four games, completing 28 (a 57% completion percentage) for 469 yards and four touchdowns with four interceptions.
Big junior receiver Burke Schaefer has been the primary target for Rhoads this season, leading the team in receptions with nine which he’s turned into 105 yards. Fellow junior Ean Ackley, operating out of the H-back position, leads the team in receiving yardage with 127.
Seniors John Hamilton and Will Davis bring experience to the receiving corps, as well. Davis leads West in receiving touchdowns with three and Hamilton has tallied 99 receiving yards and a touchdown himself.
The Wolves may be fresh off of their first loss, but the Milton game was a massive step forward for their defense. Sun Prairie West kept things way too close with its first three opponents because of broken plays that allowed huge chunk plays for the opposing offense. The Wolves held contain against the Red Hawks and will hope to parlay that momentum into the matchup with the Cardinals.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Leading up to this game, Sun Prairie West head coach Josh O’Connor said the team that controls its emotions best will emerge victorious. This is not a bitter rivalry game, this is a matchup of former teammates and current friends. It will be difficult for both sides to look past that in order to play a hard-hitting game.
As for the on-field strategy, Sun Prairie East needs to take advantage of the passing game. West senior corner Jonathan Weah is coming back from a leg injury this week. With or without him, West has struggled to contain potent passing offenses. Madison East passed for 284 yards and Watertown lit the air up for 320 yards. Kaminski and company should eye this as an advantage.
For West, the Wolves need to get back to dominating in the run game. Milton was able to gum up rushing lanes last week, holding West to less than 100 yards on the ground. This is no easy test as Sun Prairie East’s front seven is one of the best in the area.
Kickoff is set for 7 pm at Bank of Sun Prairie Stadium on Friday, Sept. 16.