2017 High School Football Preview: Sun Prairie

Sun Prairie Cardinals - Big Eight

Coach: Brian Kaminski (15th Season), 104-45 Overall

2016 Result: 8-2 (8-1), 1st in the Big 8 (Lost in Level 1 of the D1 Playoffs 40-13 to La Follette)

Three-Year Record: 20-11 (1-3 Playoffs)

2016 All-Conference Honors: 7 First-Team, 8 Second-Team, 5 Honorable Mention (20 total)

Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 15 First-Team, 15 Second-Team, 15 Honorable Mention (48 total)

Returning All-Conference Players (6): RB/DB Draven Peeples (First Team-RB) (WSN Class of 2018 Top 15 - RB), Sr.; K/P Alex Oakley (First Team-K) (Second Team-P) (First Team-K in 2015) (WSN Class of 2018 Top 10 - K/P), Sr.; OL/DE Josh Dinga (First Team-DE) (WSN Class of 2018 Top 15 - DL) (WSN Class of 2018 Top 50 Players), Sr.; TE/LB Marty Strey (First Team-LB) (Second Team-LB in 2015) (WSN Class of 2018 Top 15 - LB) (WFCA All-State OLB 2016), Sr.; OL/DL Anthony Villanueva (Second Team-OL) (WSN Class of 2018 Players to Watch - OL), Sr.; TE/LB Ethan Ackley (Honorable Mention), Jr.

Other Players To Watch: WR/DB Kaden Kauppinen (WSN Class of 2018 Top 15 - DB) (WSN Class of 2018 Top 50 Players), Sr.; QB Jack Zander, Sr.; RB/LB Brian McKenzie, Sr.; WR/DB Orlando Fenderson, Sr.; OL/DL Austin Draws, Sr.; OL/DL Dominic Cooper, Sr.; OL/DL Khalan Coleman, Sr.; RB/LB Collin Fluno, Sr.; RB/DB Dai-Viyon Bell, Sr.; WR/DB Caden White, Sr.; TE/LB Ty Hamilton, Sr.; WR/DB Antonio Bliss-Purdue, Sr.; WR/DB David Prell, Sr.; OL/DL David Thomas, Sr.; OL/DL Nathan Richmond, Sr.; RB/LB Andres Guzman, Sr.; RB/LB Taylor Johnson, Sr.; RB/LB Jared Diancin, Sr.; OL/DL Ben Johnson, Jr.; RB/LB Adam Rademacher, Jr.; WR/DB Cooper Nelson, Jr; QB/LB Joe Hauser, So.

2017 Schedule: Go Here

BIG Games: vs Middleton August 25 (Madison Taxi Game of the Week), vs Madison Memorial September 22, at Verona October 6 (Madison Taxi Game of the Week), vs La Follette October 13 (Homecoming)

It was a surprising end to the 2016 season for the Sun Prairie Cardinals, who won the Big 8 but lost in the opening round of the playoffs to a team they had defeated, easily, the week prior.

Although La Follette was short-handed in the regular season-ending game, it was still head-scratching to many that a few players could be the difference between a 24-point loss and a 27-point win, putting up 40 points on a defense that had given up 87 all year, 37 of it in one game.

Coaches pick the Cardinals to be at or near the top of the conference, which isn't surprising given the returning talent to the Cardinals, especially on defense but also at kicker/punter, running back, and a mostly-intact offensive line. Sun Prairie is poised for another run at a Big 8 title.

"I think that loss motivates the players," said Coach Kaminski. "They know that it takes hard work every week to accomplish your goals."

Sun Prairie Head Coach Brian Kaminski, now in his 15th season at the helm and 21st season with the program, is well aware that every Big 8 team is dangerous. "You can't sleep on anybody," said Kaminski.

Returning some big-time players has many picking Sun Prairie as the favorite in a more balanced Big 8, at least near the top. A difficult Cardinals defense a season ago, which gave up 37 to Middleton and 49 to La Follette (two games) and only 41 points to the other seven teams in the Big 8 combined, will be even more experienced this season, with top players in the entire state at every level. Additionally, the offense returns plenty intact as well, and special teams will benefit from one of the top specialists in the entire state.

On offense, Jack Zander, who split time as a junior, will take over sole possession of the quarterback job. In the backfield, Draven Peeples, who is ranked as one of the top senior running backs in Wisconsin by WisSports.net, returns a season after finishing first-team all-conference. Senior Brian McKenzie will also be a factor in the run game. Some other senior running backs inlcude Collin Fluno and Dai-viyon Bell.

Pass-catching options include junior Ethan Ackley at tight end, who earned honorable mention all-conference a season ago. Janesville Craig transfer Orlando Fenderson arrives to help bolster a receiving corps that will be a little inexperienced on varsity at the position, including seniors Caden White, Ty Hamilton, Antonio Bliss-Purdue, David Prell, and junior Cooper Nelson.

Up front, second-team all-conference selection Anthony Villanueva returns, rated as a class of 2018 player to watch. Two other seniors along the front line include center Austin Draws and guard Dominic Cooper. Junior Ben Johnson will help out at tackle. 

Defensively, the line is led by Josh Dinga, who ranks among the top 15 defensive linemen in the senior class in Wisconsin and one of the top 50 players overall according to WisSports.net. Senior Khalan Coleman is back as well, and other defensive linemen that could see some work include David Thomas and Nathan Richmond.

Linebackers are a position of strength. Marty Strey was a WFCA All-State player a season ago, and ranks in the top 15 class of 2018 linebackers in Wisconsin according to WisSports.net. Junior Ethan Ackley is also back in the fold, as is classmate Adam Rademacher.

In the defensive backfield, Kaden Kauppinen didn't make the all-conference lists, but he is rated as one of the top 50 seniors in Wisconsin and in the top 15 at defensive back according to WisSports.net. Senior Caden White returns to the back end, and Orlando Fenderson will help as depth in the secondary.

Alex Oakley returns as a two-time first-team all-conference kicker, a second-team all-conference punter, and a top 10 kicker/punter in the senior class in the state of Wisconsin, according to WisSports.net.

Sun Prairie will have four home games this year in the Big 8, and will open up with a road game at Madison East. Week two is our Madison Taxi Game of the Week as they host Middleton in a battle of the Cardinals. Last year, Middleton put up 37 points in their victory. Sun Prairie gave up just 50 in their other eight regular season games combined.

After a home game against Janesville Craig on August 31, the Cardinals play at Janesville Parker on September 8 and at Beloit Memorial September 15 before returning home to take on Madison Memorial in week six. Another back-to-back set of road games follow, first at Madison West before a big road game in Verona, which they won last year 13-9. The Verona game is another Madison Taxi Game of the Week.

Sun Prairie wraps up the season with their Homecoming against Madison La Follette, who they defeated 31-7 in week nine before losing, surprisingly, 40-13 in the first round of the playoffs the very next Friday. La Follette was without several of its key players for the regular-season game, but they made a big impact in a blowout win over the Cardinals in the playoffs, a loss that has motivated the Cardinals this offseason.

Coaches pick the Cardinals to be at or near the top of the conference, which isn't surprising given the returning talent to the Cardinals, especially on defense but also at kicker/punter, running back, and a mostly-intact offensive line. Sun Prairie is poised for another run at a Big 8 title.

--Jimmie Kaska @jimmekaska

Information from WisSports.net was used in this preview. Visit WisSports.net for everything you need to gear up for the high school sports season.

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