Craig loses wild game at Monterey Stadium

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Eric Schmoldt
September 4, 2015

JANESVILLE—Janesville Craig's football team was six minutes away from solidifying itself as a Big Eight title contender Friday night.

A lot can change in a matter of 13 seconds.

Verona scored two touchdowns in less than one-quarter of one minute, and the Wildcats stunned the Cougars with a 34-27 victory at Monterey Stadium.

“It was a game of big plays,” Craig coach Ben McCormick said. “There were a lot of things we could have done better and a lot of things they could have done better. It was a good high school football game. We just had to make a play there at some point, and they made one more play than we did.”

Both teams are now 2-1 after a game that had a little bit of everything, including:

n A muffed punt that led to Verona's first touchdown.

n A blocked punt returned by Peter Larson for a touchdown that gave Craig its first lead.

n A 10-minute scoring drive that came long before the game saw two touchdowns in the span of 13 seconds.

n An interception returned for a touchdown by Brevin Anderson that gave Craig a 27-14 lead.

n Five fumbles lost combined between the two teams.

n And 13 penalties called for more than 100 total yards between the Wildcats and Cougars, among other things.

“Wow,” said Verona coach Dave Richardson, who was missing star running back Carson Parks due to injury. “We're down 27-14, and I'm thinking we gave it a great effort. But all of the sudden, you never know—it's high school football.

“Our kids played their hearts out and so did Craig's. It was just a great game.”

It was deadlocked 14-14 after three quarters, but the fun was just beginning.

Craig running back Aristide Serrano—who had 148 yards and a touchdown—sprinted 55 yards to set up Logan Baker's 4-yard touchdown run that gave the Cougars the 21-14 lead with 10:52 left.

Less than a minute later, Andersen stepped in front of Max Fink's pass, intercepted it and took it to the house.

When the Cougars forced a Verona three-and-out on the ensuing possession, they appeared to be sitting pretty. But Craig couldn't get a first down, either, and punted right back.

The Wildcats wasted no time marching down the field, and Nick LaWinger scored the second of his three touchdowns to make it 27-21.

The Cougars, weary of an onside kick with a 5:55 remaining, put their hands team on the field with Larson deep. The kick sailed over his head, and he picked the ball up at the 3-yard line. The Wildcats forced a fumble, recovered on the 2, and LaWinger scored again immediately—just 13 seconds after his most recent touchdown.

“We practice that over and over,” McCormick said. “We anticipated they'd kick it deep, but you've got to be prepared and have your hands team ready. I really don't think we'd do it any differently if we had it to do over again.”

The Cougars turned the ball over on downs and later allowed Eric Fey to score from 20 yards out to save time and get the ball back in a one-possession game.

But all of their late efforts went for naught.

“We've talked all along about adversity,” McCormick said. “It's going to strike at some point, and it's all about how you handle it. After the game our guys were positive. They know we're a better football team than we showed in the fourth quarter.

“We're going to win some more games. But this league is very even, and any given night any team can beat any other team.”

Craig will attempt to bounce back against Madison East (2-1) at home next week.


Verona 7 0 7 20—34

Janesville Craig 0 6 8 13—27

Scoring: V—Max Fink 2 run (Robbie Freitag kick). C—Aristide Serrano 1 run (try failed). C—Peter Larson 25 blocked punt return (Nick Cramer run). V—Nick LaWinger 4 run (Freitag kick). C—Logan Baker 4 run (Hozai Ceballos kick). C—Brevin Anderson 31 interception return (kick blocked). V—LaWinger 3 run (Freitag kick). V—Lawinger 2 run (Freitag kick). V—Eric Fey 20 run (kick failed).

Statistics: First downs—Verona 18, Craig 15. Rushing: Verona 35-206, Craig 47-210. Passing yards—Verona 61, Craig 60. Passes—Verona 22-9-2, Craig 15-6-0. Fumbles—Verona 1-1, Craig 5-4. Penalties—Verona 5-35, Craig 8-81.

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