Sun Prairie on a roll, ready to take on Falls
Cardinals tough conference have them battle-tested
Menomonee Falls — Sun Prairie coach Brian Kaminski knows all about adversity.
His team started the season with high hopes but stumbled to a 2-2 start, with back-to-back losses to Madison Memorial and Middleton throwing dirt on their gleaming ideas of a great season.
Further, a top running back had to be removed from the team for what Kaminski called "a number of issues" throwing the running game of the I-formation offense into disarray.
No matter, the Cardinals have proceeded to rip off seven straight wins, including an adversity-filled 31-28 WIAA Division I second round decision over a feisty Fond du Lac squad (6-5) Saturday. In that game, the Cardinals trailed 28-14 at one point before junior Jordan Noble hit a 23-yard field goal with just 0.8 seconds remaining for the victory.
Noble had to sit through three timeouts after Ross Harmon connected with Eric Wilberding for a 23-yard option pass down to the Fond du Lac eight-yard line.
No wonder Kaminski said he's hardly had time to catch his breath.
"These last couple of weeks with the Wednesday regular season closer and the first two games of the playoffs so close together just go by in a breeze," he said.
Well, both the Cardinals, who finished as quad champs in the Big 8 Conference with Madison Memorial, Middleton and Verona, and their opponents, Greater Metro Conference runner-up Menomonee Falls (10-1) will get a needed full-week break before their third round Division 1 playoff game on Saturday at the Cardinals' home field.
Falls has to stay hungry
The key for Indians coach John Baker is for the team not to get satisfied with its 27-7 win over defending state champion Homestead on Saturday and to respect its upcoming opponent.
"That's a team that knows how to win," said Baker of Sun Prairie. "They're pretty big. They have a good offensive line and they'll run things like we do including shotgun formations with trips (three receivers). Their 3-5 defense is a good unit, too.
"They did a great job in rallying last week."
Kaminski, who is in his seventh year as head coach at Sun Prairie, said it came down to good leadership on a junior-dominated squad. Junior quarterback Tyler Patterson (6-2, 175) has thrown for 17 touchdowns with just five interceptions on the season while throwing to a cadre of receivers. Junior Mike Mwelwa (5-8, 145) has filled the gap in the running game, including a 132-yard effort against Fond du Lac.
Wilberding, a 6-6, 215 senior, finished with four catches for 73 yards against Fondy and will provide a challenge for the stout Indians pass defense (three interceptions last week) with his size and strength.
Cardinals are balanced
"We like to think of ourselves as a balanced offense," said Kaminski. "We have only 55 more yards rushing than passing this season. We feel that gives us an advantage."
Kaminski has also been very pleased with the progress of his defense, as junior linebacker David Presser (5-11, 210) was an All Big 8 pick last season and is a shoe-in again this season as is fellow junior all-league selection free safety Jordan Noskowiak (6-3, 200).
The tight balance of the Big 8 (co-champ Verona is also alive in the third round) gives the Cardinals another advantage, Kaminski said. He likens it to the powerful Fox Volley Association in its level of competitiveness.
He's also pleased with the fact that this team has advanced further than any Sun Prairie squad has in the last seven state playoff appearances. He notes it will be a tough battle to get any further against battle-tested Falls.
"That's a very good defense we're going to face," he said. "They have athletic linebackers who get to the ball and that running back of theirs (Cole Myhra) runs hard. I really liked how their quarterback stepped up. Homestead was determined to take the run away from them and they were able to pass effectively."
"It should be a heck of a battle."
Baker thinks so, too, and he likes the emotional frame of mind of his senior-based squad.
"They've really bought into the team concept," he said. "No one is out there hogging the limelight. We just hope we can keep it rolling."
Round three of the WIAA playoffs await the Indians
WHAT: Menomonee Falls (10-1) at Sun Prairie (9-2), 1 p.m. Saturday at the high school, 220 Kroncke Drive
AT STAKE: Berth in Division I state semifinals against the winner of Appleton North (11-0) and Stevens Point (10-1) either Nov. 13 or 14.
KEY NUMBERS: Falls comes in averaging 29.4 points per game while allowing 9.5; Sun Prairie averages 29.9 and allows 19.5.
SUN PRAIRIE PLAYOFF HISTORY: 19th trip, including 16 of the last 18 years and the last six in a row. State champions in 1995, state semifinals in 1996 and 1997. Combined record of 1-7 in last seven playoff appearances prior to this year.
FALLS PLAYOFF HISTORY: 14th playoff appearance and first since 2005. Champions in 1976 (Falls East) and state runner-up in 1985 with semifinal appearances in 1994 and 2004.
LAST WORD: "I like this senior class of ours. They're a bunch of winners. They have some athletic ability, but they just know how to win. Kids who you can really build around." - Falls Athletic Director Dave Petroff
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