Title game preview: The Sun also rises
Arrowhead to face Sun Prairie for the state title Friday
The Arrowhead Warhawks have just one more game to play to capture the coveted WIAA Division 1 state football championship.
The 2012 season has been quite a journey for second-year coach Greg Malling, his AHS team and the throngs of Arrowhead fans who have followed them closely since the season opener against Minnetonka High School on Aug. 24. The Warhawks (12-0), undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state, will take on undefeated and No. 3 ranked Sun Prairie (12-0) at 4 p.m. Friday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
Both teams advanced to Friday's championship game with solid wins in last week's semifinals. Sun Prairie defeated Lake Geneva Badger at Arrowhead on Friday by a 21-13, score and the Warhawks traveled to D. C. Everest in Schofield last Saturday and rolled to a 43-20 victory over Hudson.
Making it to the championship game is nothing new for the AHS football program. Under former coach Tom Taraska, the Warhawks advanced to Madison nine times, winning four state crowns. Sun Prairie has played in just one title game since the WIAA began the playoffs in 1976. Sun Prairie won its only state title in 1995, and the Warhawks captured crowns in 1993, 1994, 1996 and 2007.
Arrowhead is now tied with Edgar for most WIAA championship game appearances.
Title game journeys
The two teams have taken completely different playoff routes to the championship game. Sun Prairie played its first three playoff games against schools from its own conference, wins over Madison Memorial (45-20),Madison West (40-21) and Verona (34-6).
Last Friday's victory over Lake Geneva Badger (9-3) marked the first time all season the Cardinals played a team from outside the Big Eight.
Arrowhead played two teams (Hudson and Kimberly) it had never seen before. The Warhawks also played Germantown (a former Scenic Moraine Conference rival) and Milwaukee Vincent/Destiny, a team they had defeated twice before in the postseason. AHS has won those four games by a 177-34 score.
Statistically, the game looks even on paper. Arrowhead is averaging 45.8 points per game through 12 games and the Cardinals score 34.8 points per game. Defensively, AHS has allowed 111 points while Sun Prairie has permitted just 84.
That should set up a battle between the explosive, quick striking Arrowhead offense and the extremely stingy Sun Prairie defense.
"We've got a great group of athletes this year on both sides of the ball," Malling said. "The guys have worked hard since the first day of practice. Our goal wasn't to win the state championship. Our only goal was to stay together as long as we could and that means practicing as many weeks as we could. Now we've got our chance to play for a 13th week and that should be a lot of fun."
So far this season, no team has been able to stop the Warhawks when they get their hands on the ball.
Quarterback Brady Kelliher has been outstanding since the second game of the season. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound senior has completed 68percent of his passes and has thrown 21 touchdown passes. He's had just five passes intercepted.
Senior running back Dom Todarello has played quarterback out of the wildcat formation and has been very successful. He also averages 10 yards per carry and has completed 12 of 14 passes out of that formation, good for five touchdowns. Senior back Steve Radeztsky has averaged 7.1 yards per rush.
Kelliher's favorite target is junior Ricky Finco. The speedy wide-out has 11 touchdown receptions on the year. Todarello, Brandon Kim, Kenny Finco and Radeztsky also have caught numerous passes this season.
On defense, senior safety Jackson Abresch, junior linebacker Matt Seitz and junior tackle Billy Hirschfeld lead a balanced attack that has allowed the first-team defense to give up just 35 points since the first half of the season-opener against Minnetonka.
Sun Prairie strong
While the Cardinals don't have as many individual weapons as Arrowhead, they can score both on the ground and in the air. Through 12 games, Sun Prairie has outpointed its opponents by a lopsided 273-35 margin in first halves.
Quarterback Ryan Curran has passed for 1,537 yards, good for 18 touchdowns. Curran has completed 64.2 percent of his passes. The top receivers are Michael Marchese (43 catches) and Drew Mikalofsky (23 catches).
When they run the football, speedy Donte Starlin-Merriam is going to get the ball. He's had 243 rushes this season, good for 1,486 yards and a 6.1 yards per carry average. He's found the end zone 16 times.
Defensively, the Cardinals played their final four games of the regular season and did not allow a single point, getting four shutouts in a row. No team in the regular season scored more than seven points against the Sun Prairie defense. Anchoring that unit are linebackers Michael Garvey and Shane Seiter, tackle Craig Evans and defensive back Vernon Mems. Seiter has nine sacks on the year and Mems has six.
Sun Prairie kicker Dustin Wunderlin has made 6 of 8 field goal tries this season.
Let the game begin.
Sun Prairie (12-0)
|Madison La Follette||13-6|
|Lake Geneva Badger||21-13|
Camp Randall Stadium, Madison
Thursday, Nov. 15
Div. 7 - Potosi (12-0) vs. Glenwood City (10-2), 10 a.m.
Div. 6 - Eau Claire Regis (12-0) vs. St. Mary's Springs (12-0), 1 p.m.
Div. 5 - Amherst (12-0) vs. Lancaster (12-0), 4 p.m.
Div. 4 - Somerset (11-1) vs. Walworth Big Foot (12-0), 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 16
Div. 3 - Waukesha Catholic Memorial (10-2) vs. Waupaca (12-0), 10 a.m.
Div. 2 - Homestead (11-1) vs. Waunakee (12-0), 1 p.m.
Div. 1 - Arrowhead (12-0) vs. Sun Prairie (12-0), 4 p.m.
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