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#7 'Birds soar over Knights on Homecoming
Darlington junior Cayden Rankin had a big Homecoming game Friday night, catching two TD passes and rushing for another in a 34–9 SWAL victory over Onalaska Luther. - photo by Photo by Tom Gunnell / Republican Journal

DARLINGTON – The dynamic Darlington duo of Braden Davis and Cayden Rankin combined for four touchdowns to lead the Redbirds to a 34-9 Homecoming victory over the Luther Knights in a SWAL prep football game held at Martens Field on Friday, Sept. 20.

Davis connected with Rankin on a pair of touchdown passes and each added a rushing touchdown in the game as well as #7-ranked Redbirds (4-1 overall, 2-1 SWAL) used a strong second-half performance to vanquish the Kinghts (1-4, 0-3).

“I was glad we were able to come away with a win. Hopefully, our team learned a lot from the way we played in the first half. We need to come out better in the first quarter of games. The keys to the win were re-focusing on what we needed to do and simply doing our job,” stated Darlington head coach Travis Winkers. 

Darlington grabbed the lead for good just 20 seconds into the game when Carter Lancaster took a short pass from Davis and pitched the ball to Rankin, who took the hook-and-ladder to the house to complete a 51-yard score.

Luther sliced the lead in half early in the second quarter on a 26-yard field goal by Josiah Larson, however a 2-yard TD run by Davis with 3:30 to play in the half made it 12-3.

The Knights got a 22-yard TD run from Brandon Stadtler late in the half to pull back within three at 12-9 by the intermission.

“Offensively, we made one small adjustment (at halftime) on pass blocking, but other than that no adjustments were made. Defensively, we went to a 4-3,” Winkers explained. “What was said was basically if we keep doing what we are going, we will throw away our whole season tonight.”

The Redbirds responded to the challenge in the second half by outscoring the Knights, 22-0, to make for a happy Homecoming celebration.

Davis hooked up with Rankin on an 12-yard scoring strike in the third quarter to give the ‘Birds some breathing rook, and then Rankin (one yard) and junior fullback Wyat Bredeson (three yards) tacked on fourth-quarter touchdown runs to seal the outcome.

Darlington rolled up 441 yards of offense on the night with 363 of those yards coming on the ground. Davis ran 20 times for 183 yards and a score to lead the rushing attack, and he completed 4-of-9 passes for 78 yards and two scores to guide the aerial assault.

Rankin caught two passes for 63 yards and two TDs, while rushing eight times for 52 yards and a TD. Bredeson ran for 40 yards and a TD on 10 totes for the ‘Birds.

Stadtler has four rushes for 31 yards and a TD and two catches for 30 yards for the Knights.

Next up, the Redbirds travels to La Crosse Logan High School on Friday, Sept. 20, to face Aquinas (4-1, 3-0) in a key SWAL contest.

The Blugolds will be looking to clinch their first playoff berth since 2012 on Friday night, while the Redbirds need two wins in their final four games to guarantee a playoff berth for a 12th consecutive season.

“If we play like we did in the first half (last Friday), we will lose. This will be a game we need to play four quarters to win. They have good speed and have played well all season,” said Winkers. “Regardless of a long bus ride, there will be a definite emphasis of starting well and carrying that over to all four quarters.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.


Luther……… 0  9  0    0 –   9
Darlington… 6  6  8  14 – 34
D – Cayden Rankin, 51 pass from Braden Davis (pass failed)
L – FG, Lansar 26
D – Davis, 2 run (pass failed)
L – Stadtler, 22 run (kick failed)
D – Rankin, 12 pass from Davis (Carter Lancaster pass from Davis)
D – Rankin, 1 run (Rankin run)
D – Wyat Bredeson, 3 run (pass failed)
Team Stats: First Downs– L 8, D 20. Rushing– L 31-96; D 51-363. Passing– L 3-15-0, 41; D 4-9-0, 78. Fumbles-Lost– L 1-0; D 3-2. Penalties- L 0-0; D 5-37.
Darlington Individual Leaders: Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)– Braden Davis, 20-183-1; Cayden Rankin, 8-52-1; Wyat Bredeson, 10-40-1. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)– Braden Davis, 4-9-0-2, 78. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)– Rankin, 2-63-2.