Middleton KO's Memorial

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MTT News Desk's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Travis Zander (81) and Middleton’s football team upended Madison Memorial last Friday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Their once comfortable 21-point lead had been trimmed to a single score. The once exuberant Cardinal Nation was quiet had begun to sweat on this cold and extremely blustery night.

But with Middleton’s WIAA Division 1 playoff opener on the line last Friday, the Cardinals turned to their offensive line and dynamic senior running back Charles Braxton.

That was a winning formula as Middleton held off hard-charging Madison Memorial, 28-14, and won their first playoff game since 2010. The Cardinals also avenged a Week 1 loss to the Spartans, a defeat that fueled Middleton all season long.

Middleton (8-2) advanced to a Level 2 playoff game at Oconomowoc (10-0) Friday night at 7.

“It feels great,” said Braxton, the star of the night with 32 carries for 208 yards and three touchdowns. “It was getting a little tense there.”

It sure was.

Memorial scored a pair of touchdowns in a five-minute window and pulled with 21-14 with 8 minutes left in the game.

With winds gusting up to 40 miles an hour, Middleton head coach Tim Simon implored Braxton and his offensive line to put the Spartans away.

And that’s exactly what they did.

Middleton began at its own 20-yard line, then produced a memorable nine-play, 80-yard touchdown march. Every inch came courtesy of the running game, with Braxton carrying eight times for 66 yards, including a decisive 11-yard touchdown.

“With the wind blowing as hard as it was, it was really hard to throw the ball,” Simon said. “And at halftime, I said to the guys, ‘Is there any reason we can’t run power at them the whole second half?’

“Everyone said we could and the offensive linemen love that. And that’s just what we did on that last drive.”

Braxton was dynamic on the drive, busting off a pair of 13-yard runs, the 11-yard TD and another 10-yard burst. But his offensive line of (from left) Hayden Acker, Austin Collins, Lon Yeary, Derek Ramsey and Jack Mayers was terrific.

“The last drive was just ridiculous,” Braxton said. “We got such great push and I have to give a big thanks to my O-line.

“This means so much. We all wanted to get into the playoffs and get another shot at Memorial. This is a dream night.”

The Spartans had stunned the Cardinals, 31-14, on the opening night of the season. That loss motivated Middleton throughout the year, and when the Cardinals found out they’d meet the Spartans again, they were awfully pumped.

“We never talked about revenge,” Simon said. “We talked about second chances. There aren’t many times in life you get a second chance and we wanted to take advantage of ours.”

They did.

Middleton took a 6-0 lead on the third play of the second quarter when Braxton ripped off a 2-yard touchdown run. Braxton’s run capped a 14-play, 71-yard march in which the Cardinals picked up every single yard on the ground.

Braxton did much of the heavy lifting on the drive, with 53 rushing yards. Adam Frye added 16 rushing yards.

The Cardinals then caught a huge break and grabbed a 14-0 lead with just 40 seconds left in the first half. On a fourth-and-5 from Memorial’s 14-yard line, quarterback Kasey Miller rolled right and threw into traffic.

The ball bounced off of Middleton wideout Demond Hill and Memorial cornerback RaQuan Cunnigan and into the waiting hands of Cardinals senior wideout Derek Rongstad. Interestingly, that was the only pass Middleton completed all night.

Simon chose to go for two points and Miller scored on a bootleg to the right corner of the endzone to make it 14-0.

“Derek’s a great athlete and kept his eye on the ball the entire way,” Simon said. “That was big.”

Middleton’s defense was big in the first half, as well.

Memorial, which entered the game averaging 31.4 points per game, was held scoreless and limited to just 123 total yards in the first half.

“They had the I-formation and they were running all over us in Week 1,” said Middleton cornerback Luke Schafer, who broke up three passes in the first half, including one that saved a touchdown. “But we made great adjustments.

“Coach Cabalka (Middleton’s defensive coordinator) is the greatest coach in the state. He knew what he was doing. He made the adjustments, and early on we stopped that.”

Middleton made it 21-0 midway through the third quarter when Braxton had his second touchdown run, this one from one yard out. The Cardinals’ drive was just 39 yards, and Braxton had every one of them on seven carries.

But Memorial (6-4) refused to go quietly.

First, the Spartans put together an impressive 13-play, 80-yard drive that Cunnigan capped with a 10-yard TD run. That pulled Memorial within 21-7 with 1:12 left in the third quarter.

Middleton drove into Memorial territory on its next drive, and Miller took off on an 18-yard scamper. But the Cardinals’ quarterback fumbled and Memorial’s Ben Horman recovered at the Spartans’ 28-yard line.

Memorial drove to the Middleton 20-yard line and faced a fourth-and-nine. There, Spartans quarterback Brandon Toman fired a 20-yard TD down the seam to senior wideout Daurice Fountain that pulled the Spartans within 21-14 with 8:12 remaining.

“We needed to step up,” Simon said.

Middleton did exactly that, with its game-clinching drive.

And when Memorial produced just one first down on its next possession, the Cardinals had prevailed.

“That first loss to (Memorial) was such motivation,” Schafer said. “It was great to get another chance and get a win this time.”

 

 

Oct. 25

WIAA Level 1 playoffs

Middleton 28, Madison Memorial 14

Madison Memorial …………… 0    0    7    7 — 14

Middleton ………………. 0  14   7    7 — 28

M – Charles Braxton, 2, run (kick failed)

M – Derek Rongstad, 14, pass from Kasey Miller (Miller run)

M – Braxton, 1, run (Rongstad kick)

MM – Ra Quan Cunnigan, 10, run (Gartland kick)

MM – Daurice Fountain, 20, pass from Brandon Toman (Gartland kick)

M — Braxton, 11, run (Rongstad kick)

 

 

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs – MM 18, M 17. Rushing (Att-Yds) – MM 34-138, M 53-307. Passing yards – MM 168, M 14. Passing (Att.-Comp.-Int.) – MM 38-18-2, M 9-1-0. Total plays-yards – MM 72-306, M 62-321. Fumbles-lost – MM 2-0, M 1-0. Penalties-yards – MM 4-35, M 7-45.

 

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

Rushing: MM — Cunnigan 17-52. M – Charles Braxton 32-208.

Passing: MM – Toman 18-38-2-168. M – Kasey Miller 1-8-0-14. Receiving: MM – Fountain 7-64; Mi — Rongstad 1-14.

 

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