Verona Wildcats - Big Eight
Coach: Dave Richardson (18th Season), 137-53 Overall; 26th Career Season, 166-90 Overall, including combined 29-37 at Holy Name 1992-95 (4 seasons), Assumption 1996 (1 season), and Dominican 1997-99 (3 seasons) - WFCA Hall of Fame 2014
2016 Result: 9-2 (8-1), 1st in the Big 8 (Lost in Level 2 of the D2 Playoffs 22-14 to Badger)
Three-Year Record: 21-10 (1-3 Playoffs)
2016 All-Conference Honors: 9 First-Team, 5 Second-Team, 5 Honorable Mention (19 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 18 First-Team, 17 Second-Team, 15 Honorable Mention (50 total)
Other Players To Watch: DL Reagan Stauffer, Sr.; OL T.J. Becker, Sr.; OL Tim Curtis, Sr.; OL Jordan Recob, Sr.; OL/TE Carson Bull, Sr.; OL Tristan Largent, Sr.; QB Jordan Hutchcroft, Sr.; RB Joe Riley, Sr.; WR Noah Steffenson, Sr.; DL Jaylin Thompson, Sr.; DL Anton Golden, Sr.; DL Gavin Geronimi, Sr; DL Costas Tsiolis, Sr.; LB Eli Hano, Sr.; LB Ruben Zavala, Sr.; LB Adam Odonnell, Sr.; DB Jack Lilly, Sr.; DB Jacob Walton, Sr.; DB Jaden King, Sr.; DB Jake Doerfler, Sr.; DB Tucker Teskey, Sr.; LB Dylan Bourne, Jr.; TE Ben Vandervest, Jr.
BIG Games: at Madison Memorial August 31 (Madison Taxi Game of the Week Broadcast on The Big 1070), vs Madison West September 8, vs Middleton September 15 (Madison Taxi Game of the Week Broadcast on The Big 1070), at Madison La Follette September 22, vs Sun Prairie October 6 (Madison Taxi Game of the Week Broadcast on The Big 1070)
Another year, another playoff trip for the Verona Wildcats, who have made a habit about living in the postseason since the arrival of Head Coach Dave Richardson in 2000.
Outside of Richardson's first year with Verona, the Wildcats have missed the playoffs one other time in his tenure. Richardson, in his 26th year as a head coach, will also have plenty to work with this year as his team looks for yet another spot in the playoffs.
Verona graduates 18 players who earned all-conference honors, but will return their entire offensive line and a group of 40 seniors, as well as nine total starters of 22, to keep the momentum going for the Wildcats program
A total of 18 players who earned all-conference honors graduated from Verona last year, which for many programs would represent a near-unprecedented exodus of talent from the roster. Yet, while Verona brings back only two players who earned all-conference honors last year, they also will bring back over three dozen seniors to rise to the varsity ranks and take over some of those key positions.
"We are going to rely heavily on another large senior class of 40 to provide us with the players to replace a very talented group from last year," said Coach Richardson. "But one thing I know, is that seniors tend to have a sense of urgency, and I know our group will respond."
One spot relatively unaffected by the graduating class of 2017 is the offensive line, which will feature five returning starters (all seniors): T.J. Becker, Tim Curtis, Jordan Recob, Carson Bull, and Tristan Largent. On the other hand, the backfield will be brand-new in 2017, with only a handful of returning players with varsity experience.
That group will be led by Aaron Young, all-conference second-team as a kicker last year, at quarterback. Another senior, Jordan Hutchcroft, returns to the position as well. In the backfield, senior Joe Riley appears ticketed for an increased workload, and at the receiver positions, Noah Steffenson is back as a senior with varsity experience.
Defense is where Verona makes it count, and their bread and butter is a dominating front seven. Along the lines, a wave of seniors will be in the rotation, led by Reagan Stauffer, but the group of Jaylin Thompson, Anton Golden, Gavin Geronimi, and Costas Tsiolis will be in the mix too. At linebacker, junior Dylan Bourne is back after a solid sophomore campaign, and he'll be joined by seniors Eli Hano, Ruben Zavala, and Adam Odonnell at the position.
In the defensive backfield, senior Bui Clements is back after a second-team all-conference nod in 2016, and was picked as one of the top 15 defensive backs in the class of 2018. There are a number of candidates for playing time at defensive back, with seniors Jack Lilly, Jacob Walton, Jaden King, Jake Doerfler, and Tucker Teskey seeing time on varsity a year ago.
On special teams, Joe Riley is the only returning player to return a kick or punt, but Aaron Young, who was named second-team all-conference as a kicker and is rated as a player to watch at the position in the class of 2018, returns to man both the kicker and punter spots.
Verona's schedule begins with a home game against Janesville Parker, who the Wildcats defeated in the opener last year 34-6. Verona then travels to Beloit to take on the Purple Knights of Memorial, in what was another big win for the Wildcats in 2016, 42-3.
A meaty part of Verona's schedule begins when they travel to Mansfield Stadium to take on the Madison Memorial Spartans. While Memorial had a down year in 2016, many expect Memorial to be much-improved in 2017 behind a strong returning quarterback and also strong sophomore and junior classes adding some much-needed depth to the program. It's also the first of our three Verona Madison Taxi High School Game of the Week broadcasts. Last year, Verona used its stout defense to limit the Spartans to three points in a 26-3 win.
Returning home for a pair of games, the Wildcats will battle their first 2016 playoff participant in Madison West. Verona again used strong defense to hold the playmakers for the Regents to only six points in a 27-6 victory.
Our second Madison Taxi High School Game of the Week involving Verona is part of the Great American Rivalry Series, when Middleton visits Verona for a key mid-season clash. A defensive struggle between the Wildcats and the Cardinals ended in a 10-7 mark in the 'W' column for Verona.
Verona then heads out for their final two road games of the regular season. On September 22, they will head to Lussier Stadium to play Madison La Follette, which ended up a very interesting game last season as the Wildcats were able to hold off the Lancers, 24-21. Then, Verona visits Breese Stevens for a date with the Madison East Purgolders. Verona won 35-12 last year.
Two home games in October follow, and the first is our third Madison Taxi High School Game of the Week. The two co-champions of the Big 8 will square off in a late-season match-up that could have major playoff seeding and conference title implications as Sun Prairie comes to town. You can listen to last year's 13-9 epic below.
Verona wraps up the regular season by hosting Janesville Craig. Verona scored its most points in one game in 2016 against Craig, winning 52-20.
When asked about the team's goals, Coach Richardson said he expects his team to compete for a playoff spot and conference championship again.
--Jimmie Kaska @jimmekaska