MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U.COM GAME OF THE WEEK (April 21–28)
PREP FOOTBALL: Southwestern 62, Poynette 34
HAZEL GREEN – On his way to leading the Southwestern Wildcats to their first victory of the spring football season, junior quarterback Peerson Kephart tied a state record for throwing the most touchdown passes in a single game last Friday night against visiting Poynette.
Kephart’s eight TD passes against the Pumas Friday night matched a state record that is shared by four other quarterbacks throughout state history, and propelled the Wildcats to a 62-34 victory on their home turf.
“He gives me the confidence to call any play in any situation and know that he is going to get the ball where it needs to be, depending on the defense,” said coach Pete Murphy of Kephart. “He understands the offense better than most of the QBs we’ve been with. Hats off to him and he deserved a big night.”
With the win, coach Murphy’s squad improved to 1-4 on the spring football season with one game remaining. The Wildcats will close out the season with a home game Friday night against visiting Benton/Scales Mound/Shullsburg (2-3).
“Getting our first win was very big for our program,” said Murphy. “We have been knocking on the door and competing for a half or three quarters against some teams that we have not been competitive with in the past.”
“For us, playing in this hybrid league, brings another level of competition with larger schools than we are used to playing,” coach Murphy added. “It has really tested our mental and physical toughness, and it’s showing we have made big strides since we took over two years ago.”
With the help of his three talented receivers, Kephart threw his way into the record books after Southwestern lost running back Jordan Pergande to injury early in Friday night’s contest.
“The big thing that happened for us Friday night was losing Jordan Pergande on his first carry of the game,” coach Murphy said. “He has really turned into a really good running back to help balance out our passing attack. It’s too bad that he broke his leg and will miss this week’s finale against Benton/Scales Mound/Shullsburg.
Kephart first connected with senior wideout Ray Runde on a 57-yard TD pass to open the scoring, and later found junior tight end Jordan Stanton on a five-yard TD toss to give the Wildcats an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
“Poynette started out playing us in a man-to-man look early on,” coach Murphy explained. “We have a very talented wide receiver and tight end group led by Ray Runde.”
“On the opening play of the game, Runde went over the top of one of their DBs to haul in a long bomb touchdown. Ray makes the offense go, and he requires a lot of attention from the defense,” Murphy added.
Poynette closed out the opening quarter with a three-yard TD run, and trailed Southwestern, 14-7 after one quarter of play.
The second quarter was dominated by Kephart and the Wildcats, who scored four touchdowns, including a 52-yard pick six for Kephart, who also plays defensive back for Southwestern.
Kephart also connected with junior Colson Splinter for touchdown strikes of 46 and 32 yards, while also hooking up with senior Peyton Edmonds on a 12-yard TD pass.
After throwing five touchdown passes and scoring another on an interception return, Kephart and the Wildcats took a comfortable 42-14 lead into the locker room at the half.
“Poynette would shift defensive backs around every play, and we caught them a couple of times to get uncovered receivers open streaking down the field,” Murphy explained. “Late in the game they pulled a linebacker into a safety role, which opened up our quick game and screens, forcing their linebackers to cover more ground.”
Not about to lie down for the Wildcats, Poynette came out in the third quarter to score on a 55-yard TD pass. The extra-point kicks pulled the Pumas to within 42-21 of the Wildcats.
Before the third quarter had come to an end though, Kephart connected with Runde on a 40-yard TD pass, and found Stanton for a nine-yard TD strike, giving Southwestern a 55-28 lead going into the fourth.
The two teams traded scores in the final quarter, Southwestern getting a 12-yard TD pass from Kephart to Runde.
On the night, Kephart completed 30-of-49 passing attempts for 465 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions.
In five games this season, the Southwestern junior leads all quarterback in the state with 1,235 passing yards and 15 touchdowns.
“Peerson was the beneficiary of the total team effort,” said coach Murphy of his quarterback. “Not to take anything away from him. He is the conductor that makes the train go.”
“He bounced back from a down week at Belleville and came out and carried our offense drive after drive,” Murphy added. “He was hitting on all levels of the passing game with the screens, quick, middle and vertical game all on display Friday night.”
Stanton had a team-high 11 receptions for 101 yards Friday night, scoring two touchdowns and also making 8-of-9 extra-point kicks.
Runde had a team-high 190 receiving yards to go along with three touchdowns on eight receptions, while Splinter caught five passes for 118 yards and two TDs. Peyton Edmonds caught the Wildcat’s other touchdown and finished with 50 receiving yards.
Not to be overlooked, coach Murphy gave praise to the offensive line, for allowing Kephart the time to find his receivers and make the necessary throws. The boys up front include: senior Colin Blackbourn (RG), junior Jace Mess (C) and sophomores Bryce Reese (RT), Anthony Martin (LT) and Will Kunkel (LG).
“Our offensive line gave the time to make it happen and were very involved in our perimeter screen game,” Murphy said. “Hats off to everyone that was involved.”
With Pergande on the sideline Friday night, Southwestern gained 48 yards rushing on 24 attempts, and was led by Briar Kuhl, who rushed for 21 yards on nine carries.
The Southwestern defense limited the Pumas to 393 yards of total offense on 51 total plays, while also coming away with five interceptions against Poynette quarterback Hayden Taylor.