Craig defense steps up against Madison Memorial
Someone forgot to tell Janesville Craig about the mismatch.
The Cougars came into Friday night’s Big Eight football game against Madison Memorial allowing more than 35 points per game. And the Spartans were coming off a game where they put up more than 600 yards of total offense.
But Craig’s defense came to life on Senior Night.
Evan Shortreed and Nick Moore gave the team a jolt of energy with several big hits, Austin Kuhl blocked a first-half field goal and multiple pass attempts at the line of scrimmage, and Justin Filter returned an interception for a touchdown to lead the Cougars to a 27-14 upset victory at Monterey Stadium.
“I’m thinking it’s my last (home) game here at Monterey as a senior,” Shortreed said. “I just wanted to go out with a bang. And I gave them the bang.”
Madison Memorial suffered its second straight loss, falling to 5-2. Craig kept its WIAA playoffs hopes alive at 3-4.
Credit the Cougars defense for limiting Memorial quarterback Brandon Toman and the Spartans’ passing offense, which threw for nearly 600 yards against Sun Prairie one week earlier.
The Spartans put up 266 yards of total offense on the rain-soaked field, 72 coming on a pass late in the fourth quarter.
“Our guys really responded and executed our gameplan fantastically,” Craig coach Ben McCormick said. “That’s a team that’s put up points all year against some quality opponents.
“Hats off to the kids on our defensive side of the ball.”
Memorial struck first with a touchdown pass to prolific receiver Daurice Fountain late in the first quarter. Craig answered with a 6-yard run by senior quarterback Tom Gabower with 8:45 left in the half.
Four minutes later, Craig took its first lead on a D.J. Weberg run, but the Spartans had the response this time, needing just three plays as Toman found Fountain again, making it 14-13.
The Cougars put an end to the back-and-forth first half when Austin Huber—who ran 17 times for 99 yards—blasted 12 yards for a touchdown.
“They put a lot of guys around the line of scrimmage,” said McCormick, whose team ran for 268 of its 277 yards. “But the first half we did some good things.”
Both offenses sputtered throughout the second half, but that didn’t stop Craig from putting points on the board.
Filter, a junior safety, made it a two-possession game when he helped a Cougars cornerback with coverage over the top and stepped in front of a Homan pass, then he snuck down the sideline to the end zone.
“We had repped that the whole week in practice,” Filter said. “Our coach kept throwing that route every single time. The quarterback gave me his eyes and I just was able to go up and get it, and my guys were able to get me into the end zone.”
Shortreed came up with a big hit on a fourth-down play by Memorial late in the game—his second such stop of the night—and junior Tyler Kind put the game on ice with a last-minute interception.
“Everything just finally clicked,” Filter said.
It couldn’t have come at a better time. The Cougars need to win out—they play at Middleton next week and against Janesville Parker to close out the season—to make the playoffs.