Division 3’s No. 1 team in the state seemed more vulnerable than ever after losing its star quarterback in the first quarter.

Luckily for the Thunderbirds, their defense had all the right answers Friday night.

Baraboo defeated Stoughton, 17-0, in a Badger-Small Conference football game on Friday, Sept. 10, at Stoughton High School.

Luna Larson — a Division 1 recruit who plays quarterback and linebacker for the Thunderbirds — had his right knee buckle on a running play with 2 minutes, 43 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Larson headed to the sidelines with the assistance of athletic trainers after the play and was eventually taken off on a stretcher.

The Thunderbird defense went on to score 10 of Baraboo’s 17 points, while also shutting out the Stoughton offense.

The Viking defense also did its job, surrendering just seven points.

“Defense played phenomenal football all night long,” Stoughton head coach Jason Becker said. “Just like I told them after the game, hats off to them, they played lights out all night. They answered the bell multiple times.”

On the night, the Stoughton defense had a goal-line stand inside its own 2-yard line to go along with a pair of interceptions in its red zone.

Junior Gabe Rousseau — a standout on the offensive and defensive lines — said he felt like the defensive unit played together.

“Today we just had a lot of trust in each other to make plays,” Rousseau said. “This week more than others we’ve been doing our assignments to the best of our ability. Tonight it showed, we had a lot of huge defensive plays and guys really stepped up.”

Seniors Niko Jemilo, Nathan Vagedes and Bradley Garcia were among those Stoughton players to step up on Friday. Jemilo made a key tackle for loss during a fourth-and-goal, while Vagedes and Garica both grabbed interceptions in the red zone.

The only offensive touchdown of the night came when Baraboo senior running back Kane Mahoney broke a couple leg tackles en route to scoring on a 45-yard run with 5:46 in the second quarter. The Thunderbirds (4-0, 2-0 Badger-Small) were set up near midfield following a safety.

Sophomore quarterback Luke Vittengl led the Thunderbird offense after Larson left with his injury.

The Baraboo defense collected one more safety just before the break to extend the lead to 11-0 at halftime.

Stoughton (1-3, 0-2) flexed its defensive muscles in the second half with two interceptions in its end zone. The special teams also came away with a blocked field goal.

Still, the Viking offense couldn’t find a groove as senior sparkplug Darrick Hill saw limited snaps as the running back battled an ankle injury.

“He’s everything to us,” Rousseau said. “He’s a guy when fully healthy — he’s the best running back in the state, in the area. The way he runs, it makes our (offensive line) correctable. He’s a phenomenal runner and we’re hoping that he gets healthy.”

Stoughton also was without standout senior lineman Barrett Nelson — a UW-Madison commit at OL.

The second half’s only score came in the fourth quarter when Baraboo’s Caden Agnew intercepted a pass for a touchdown.

“Unfortunately, offensively we could just not sustain a drive,” Becker said. “Certainly we were aware they were bringing the pressure and doing the things they needed to do. Unfortunately we weren’t able to take advantage of it and put points on the board.”

The loss dropped the Vikings to 0-2 in the Badger-Small standings with five conference games to go. Stoughton hosts Monona Grove (3-1, 1-1) Friday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m.

“We’re going to look at some things from film, move some guys around and see where we’re going to mesh together,” Rousseau said. “Obviously tonight wasn’t the result we wanted, but things are really starting to come together. If I’m being honest, we’re really going to be a team that picks up pretty soon.”

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