The Dave Richardson era has come to a close in Verona.

The legendary head football coach roamed the sidelines for the final time as Verona fell to Fond du Lac 31-13 in a WIAA Division 1 Level 1 playoff game on Friday, Oct. 22, at Ingalls Field in Ripon.

Richardson — who surpassed the 200-win mark this season — was looking for victory 203, but it was not meant to be. Fond du Lac scored the final 21 points of the game after Verona led 13-10 midway through the second quarter.

“I love the preparation, I love the practices, I love being around the kids and I love being around my coaches,” Richardson said. “I won’t miss the games, but I’ll miss the camaraderie and the Sunday through Thursday. That’s my favorite part of coaching any sport is just the preparation and grind. I just love that.”

Earlier this season, Richardson became the 58th coach in Wisconsin to reach 200 career wins. He has coached for 29 years. Richardson (202-111) took over as the Verona football coach in 2000. He guided the Wildcats to a state quarterfinal berth in the WIAA playoffs in 2002 and the Division 2 state title game in 2008.

“He’s just a great coach,” senior running back Kyle Krantz said. “I’ve been on the varsity team for four years. He’s just stuck with me since then. He’s been one of the best coaches I’ve ever had.”

Fond du Lac scored on the first possession of the game, but Verona responded when senior quarterback Mason Fink bought some time with his legs to find Krantz on a 3-yard touchdown in the right corner of the end zone on fourth down.

“The play was obviously pass left and then he didn’t see anything,” Krantz said. “Mason broke a tackle and spun back my way. I was just a back-side blocker, then he happened to come back my way.”

The broken-play score came with 2 minutes, 13 seconds left in the first quarter. The Wildcats elected to go for two, but came up short as the Cardinals led 7-6

Fond du Lac senior Justin Scheberl drilled a 18-yard field goal early in the second quarter to extend the Cardinal lead to 10-6.

On the very next play from scrimmage, Fink connected with senior wide receiver Cole Jannusch for a 74-yard touchdown pass. The extra point made it 13-10 Verona with 7:54 until halftime.

Fond du Lac went into the break with a 17-13 lead after junior running back Brayden Eigenbrodt punched in a short score on the ground with 22 seconds left in the second quarter.

Verona had its chances in the second half, but a pair of turnovers inside the Fond du Lac 10-yard line proved to be costly. Eigenbrodt caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Connor Klapperich in the third quarter and Fond du Lac sophomore Kalvin Mullins capped the scoring with a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter.

Fond du Lac advances to take on top-seeded Sun Prairie on Friday, Oct. 30.

“Kudos to them, they play in a good league where they have to play every week,” Richardson said. “We couldn’t bring the energy we had last week here for whatever reason. Best team won, no doubt about that.”

Verona was seeking its first playoff win since the 2017 season. The Wildcats say goodbye to a senior class that helped Verona finish 6-4 in Richardson’s final season.

“We’re (seniors) all just really hard working,” Krantz said. “Most of us have been playing together for eight years, since youth. It’s just hard, that is my last game with them, ever.”

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