Sun Prairie closes out Craig
SUN PRAIRIE As Janesville Craig senior Darian Sharifi streaked to the end zone, high stepping past the last defender to register a 96-yard touchdown, one member of the Cougars’ jubilant sideline started yelling “We Believe” to his teammates.
Problem was, there was still 39 minutes left, and the Cougars were nowhere close to figuring out an answer for Sun Prairie tailback Donte Starlin-Merriam.
The Cardinals senior tailback and the conference’s leading rusher crushed that spirit on the next series, scoring one of his four touchdowns to lead second-ranked Sun Prairie to 38 unanswered points and a 45-7 Big Eight conference victory Friday.
“That’s a very, very good football team and a reason they are No. 2 in the state,” said Craig head coach Ben McCormick. “They are solid at every position on both sides of the ball. That’s a team that has the potential to make a run at a state championship.”
After dominant wins to open the season, Sun Prairie (3-0, 3-0) had little trouble flexing its muscles against a Cougar team still trying to find its identity. Starlin-Merriam finished with 157 yards and helped Sun Prairie go on scoring drives of 61, 65, 50 and 52 yards in the first half to build a 28-7 halftime lead.
“We had way too many penalties tonight and we have to take better care of the ball,” said McCormick, as Sun Prairie outgained the Cougars, 265-128, in the first half. “We weren’t as sharp as we should have been.”
Janesville Craig (0-3, 0-3) showed promise early, stopping the Cardinals after a failed onside kick opened the game. After Starlin-Merriam plunged in from a yard out, senior quarterback Andy Miller—filling in for the second straight game for starting quarterback Tom Gabower, who is expected back next week—answered right back by delivering a perfect throw to Sharifi to tie the game.
Yards were much harder to come by the rest of the half, as Craig only crossed the 50-yard line one more time. It got so challenging that McCormick elected to go for it on fourth down at midfield with 2 minutes, 33 seconds left in the half. Just his luck, the Cardinals thwarted the drive and tacked on another touchdown before halftime.
“We have so much depth on our defense, and we are playing confident,” said Sun Prairie junior defensive tackle Craig Evans. “Our offense is starting to gel and everything is starting to come together.”
Offense has been hard enough for Craig in the second half of games (the Cougars have only scored 14 second-half points through three games), but was even harder with the presence of Evans.
The 6-3, 330-pound junior holds verbal scholarship offers from Michigan State, Nebraska, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin and teamed with fellow junior defensive tackle Colton Pearson to stifle any attempt the Cougars had to try to establish the run.
“This is a tough start to the season for us,” said McCormick, who expects Gabower back next week. “We have some leadership to keep on encouraging guys to press forward, and that has to come from our seniors.”
SUN PRAIRIE 45, CRAIG 7
Craig 7 0 0 0—7
Sun Prairie 14 14 0 17—45
Scoring summary: SP—Donte Starlin-Merriam, 1 run (Dustin Wunderlin kick). JC—Darien Sharifi, 96 pass from Andy Miller (Monica Speth kick). SP—Starlin-Merriam, 45 run (Wunderlin kick). SP—Starlin-Merriam, 50 pass from Ryan Curran (Wunderlin kick). SP—Aaron Fischer, 1 run (Wunderlin kick). SP—Starlin-Merriam, 15 run (Wunderlin kick). SP—FG, Wunderlin, 35. SP—Zach Brink, 13 run (Wunderlin kick).
n Middleton 35, East 7—Jevarious Rockmore opened the scoring with an 85-yard run and the Cardinals had little trouble at East.
Rockmore finished with 205 yards rushing on 12 carries, adding touchdown runs of 3 and 38 yards as Middleton stayed perfect at 3-0.
Luke Schefer added scoring passes of 25 yards to Demond Hill and three yards to Derek Rongstad.
Tony Ciufo scored on a 22-yard run for East’s only score. The Purgolders are
MIDDLETON 35, EAST 7
Middleton 14 14 7 0—35
East 0 0 0 7—7
Scoring summary: M—Jevarious Rockmore, 85 run (Derek Rongstad kick). M—Rockmore, 3 run (Rongstad kick). M—Demond Hill, 25 pass from Luke Schaefer (Rongstad kick). M—Rockmore, 38 run (Rongstad kick). M—Rongstad, 3 pass from Schaefer (Rongstad kick), ME—Tony Ciufo, 22 run (Morel kick).
Statistics: First downs—M 16, ME 5. Rushing—M 31-280, ME 29-222. yard passing—M 139, ME 88. Passes—M 18-10-1, E 18-8-0. Fumbles—M 1-1, ME 2-1. Penalties—M 9-65, ME 12-90.