cardinals photo

Sun Prairie's Draven Peeples breaks loose for a long run in the first quarter. The senior finished with 127 yards on 19 carries.

M.P. KING PHOTOS, STATE JOURNAL

Four hours before the WIAA Division 1 state football championship kickoff on Friday, Sun Prairie senior outside linebacker Marty Strey posted a Twitter message expressing his feelings about his team’s season and its showdown with Kimberly.

“Everything we’ve ever worked for comes down to today,” tweeted Strey, a University of Wisconsin preferred walk-on commit. “One last time, all or nothing. It’s time to go down in history. It’s time to leave our legacy.”

The Cardinals took an early lead, entered halftime tied and gave all they had in the rain at Camp Randall Stadium, but Kimberly again proved its dominance in state football.

Top-ranked Kimberly rushed for 355 yards, limited second-ranked Sun Prairie’s potent aerial attack to 78 yards while picking off two passes and earned a 27-7 victory. That gave the Papermakers (14-0) five consecutive state titles — the first coming in Division 2 and the past four in Division 1 — and 70 consecutive victories for the longest active winning streak in the nation.

“We felt confident coming into this thing,” Sun Prairie coach Brian Kaminski said. “They are a good football team. But I told the kids, ‘No regrets.’ There were no regrets today. There were some plays maybe we could have made. We left it all out on the field and that’s all you can ask for in a game like this.”

Kimberly outscored Sun Prairie 20-0 in the second half and continued its championship run, which Papermakers coach Steve Jones didn’t anticipate.

“It’s surreal,” Jones said. “If I had guessed at the beginning of the year I wouldn’t have guessed that we could do that. That’s a credit to these young men.”

The Big Eight Conference champion Cardinals (13-1) also had a season to remember and left a legacy, Kaminski said. But their first loss of the year hit hard afterward.

“Right now, it’s not nice; looking back on it in a couple days or in a week or so, I’ll be happy,” said Strey, who had a game-high 13 total tackles. “We’re only the third team from Sun Prairie to ever go to state (winning the 1995 Division 1 state final and finishing as runner-up in 2012). We were something special. We broke some records and had a heck of a year. There’s no better way to end it than at Camp Randall. But right now we all wanted that gold ball and we wanted it so bad.”

The Papermakers again demonstrated the comeback qualities that have been a hallmark of their title years. Senior quarterback Alec Rosner’s 50-yard touchdown run — after he faked a jet sweep handoff — broke a 7-7 halftime score and put the Papermakers on top with 9 minutes, 50 seconds left in the third quarter.

Senior running back D.J. Stewart, the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-State Offensive Player of the Year who rushed for a game-high 189 yards on 34 carries, then helped the Papermakers pull away with 25- and 3-yard touchdown runs.

“It definitely feels good,” Stewart said about a prep career filled with titles. “To put it into perspective, it was a lot of hard work and playing for a lot of good coaches.”

The Cardinals scored first when senior quarterback Jack Zander lofted an 18-yard touchdown pass to 6-foot-5 junior receiver Cooper Nelson, who made a leaping grab in the right corner of the end zone with 7:25 remaining in the first quarter. The Cardinals had gained possession at the Kimberly 19, when Rosner fumbled and Sun Prairie senior nose guard Ryley Anacker-Swantz pounced on the loose footballwith 7:59 left.

On Sun Prairie’s next possession, senior running back Draven Peeples’ 60-yard run moved the Cardinals to the Papermakers’ 22. Peeples wound up gaining 127 yards rushing on 19 carries behind an offensive line that was missing injured left tackle Ben Johnson. But the drive stalled and Sun Prairie failed to extend the lead to 10-0 when senior kicker Alex Oakley missed a 40-yard field goal wide to the right.

Stewart busted loose up the middle for a 52-yard second-quarter run to Sun Prairie’s 31. On second-and-5, junior running back John Nett broke a tackle, spun free and raced 25 yards for the tying touchdown with 2:48 left before halftime.

Sun Prairie, trailing 14-7 in the third quarter, missed a potential scoring opportunity when an open Nelson, who had five receptions for 61 yards, dropped Zander’s deep pass at the Kimberly 10. After a punt, Kimberly drove 78 yards in nine plays and took a 21-7 lead on Stewart’s 25-yard touchdown run with 13 seconds left in the third quarter.

“They made some adjustments,” Strey said. “You have to give them credit. They are a heck of a ball team. That’s the best ball team we’ve faced all year.”

Kimberly 0 7 14 6 — 27

Sun Prairie 7 0 0 0 — 7

SP — Nelson 18 pass from Zander (Oakley kick)

K — Nett 25 run (Johnson kick)

K — Rosner 50 run (Johnson kick)

K — Stewart 25 run (Johnson kick)

K — Stewart 3 run (Johnson kick)

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs — K 17, SP 13. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — K 49-355, SP 31-182. Passing yards — K 39, SP 78. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — K 3-12-0, SP 8-27-2. Fumbles-lost — K 1-1 (Rosner), SP 0-0. Penalties-yards — K 1-10, SP 6-45. Punts — K 7-42.6, SP 8-38.6. Field goals — SP 0-1 (Oakley 40). Interceptions — K 2 (VanderMissen, Lechnir). Third-down conversions — K 7-14, SP 2-11.

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

Rushing: K, Stewart 34-189, Rosner 9-90, Nett 6-76. SP, Peeples 19-127, Fluno 4-42, Precia 3-19, Fenderson 1-2, Zander 4-(minus-8).

Passing: K, Rosner 3-12-0-39. SP, Zander 8-27-2-78.

Receiving: K, Dietzen 1-20, Freimuth 1-10, Laurent 1-9. SP, Nelson 5-61, Schaefer 2-17, Peeples 1-0.

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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.