Middleton sneaks past Verona

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Mitch Bacon (85) celebrates his touchdown Friday, while teammate Sam Lauenstein (8) looks on./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

With a number of talented new faces in the starting lineup, it figures to be awhile before Middleton’s defense reaches its full potential this season.

But after Friday’s performance, that could be a scary thought for Cardinals’ opponents.

Playing in just the second game of the season, Middleton’s defense completely stymied Verona’s formidable offense en route to a 7-3 victory in a Big Eight Conference showdown.

“It was a great team effort more than anything else,” Middleton defensive coordinator Tom Cabalka said. “They got us early with that field goal, but it was a great stand allowing only three points. And our offense did just enough to give us some rest and keep us going. Just a tremendous effort by all of our kids. Offensively, defensively, we were just real happy to come away with a win.”

Playing in a steady downpour, the Cardinals’ defense thrived, holding Verona to just 119 total yards of offense.

“All of the guys up front did a heck of a job,” said senior linebacker Garrett Graf, who gave credit to defensive linemen Mitch Andrews, Cody Markel, Nate Helbach, Max Elliot, and Saygo Henderson. “That really allowed us to shut that run down and force them to pass and our guys back in the secondary did their jobs perfect. It was a great game by everyone.”

Verona’s star tailback Carson Parks managed just 74 yards on 21 carries after rushing for 269 yards and four touchdowns against Madison West the previous week.

“Carson had a great game last week,” Graf said. “This game though, as a team, we did enough film watching, we worked hard in practice, our scout team gave us a great look, and, again, it was a great team effort. Carson’s a great running back, but we stuffed him tonight.”

Parks had just two runs of over 10 yards in the game, a 13-yarder in the first quarter and a 30-yarder in the fourth quarter.

“He had a couple good runs, but we did a real nice job of not allowing him the home run,” Cabalka said. “That’s what they always kind of hang their hat on. Last week he got three big runs. It was just a great effort.”

The coaches saw a big improvement from the previous week’s performance against Janesville Parker.

“It was a war out there and it was a battle and I think we showed a little bit more toughness, a little bit more emotion this week than we showed last week,” said Middleton head coach Tim Simon. “And that’s exciting for us coaches.”

Cabalka agreed.

“We knew it was going to take a while to get these kids to play the way we wanted to play,” Cabalka said. “This is just one game, but we took a big step this week. Can’t say enough about their effort tonight and their effort throughout the week. They were really into the preparation this week which was great.”

Middleton improved to 2-0 overall and in the league, while Verona dropped to 1-1 overall and in league.

“Any time Middleton and Verona play I think you can throw out the records, you know it’s going to be a great game, you know it’s probably going to come down to one score, and hats off to Verona because they played very well and we were fortunate,” Simon said. “We had enough things go our way. This game could have gone either way.”

Verona had the Cardinals on the ropes early. On the opening drive of the game, the Wildcats marched to the Middleton 9-yard line only to get turned away on a fourth down incompletion.

On Verona’s next possession, a 10-yard run by Nick Lawinger set up a first-and-goal at the Middleton 4-yard line. Two consecutive runs put the ball on the 1-yard line, but on third down, Markel and Helbach combined to sack quarterback Max Fink for a 3-yard loss. Verona settled for a 21-yard field goal by Robbie Freitag, which was nearly blocked by C.J. Fermanich.

Middleton struck back on the first possession of the second quarter, thanks to a key pass interference penalty. Quarterback Brennan Schmitt’s third-down pass sailed high over his receiver’s head, but Verona’s Jake Keyes was flagged for pass interference, giving Middleton a first down at the Verona 29-yard line.

Schmitt then connected with Trevaun Turner on a 17-yard pass play to the 12. After a pair of runs netted two yards, Schmitt lofted a pass to Mitch Bacon, who leaped high to make the catch in the left corner of the end zone and hauled in a 10-yard touchdown. Jacob Mefford’s extra-point kick made it 7-3 with seven minutes remaining in the quarter.

“(The linemen) gave me enough time there, I put it in the right spot and Mitch just went up and got it just like we practiced,” said Schmitt, who gave credit to his offensive linemen (from left) Kamon Ennis, Ka’Juan Redus, William Braxton, Jake Hollfelder, and Seth Craker.

After the defense forced a punt, Fermanich’s 15-yard punt return set the Cardinals up at the Verona 34. A 12-yard pass from Schmitt to Andrews gave Middleton a first down at the 21, but two plays later, Schmitt was intercepted by Brandon Daniels in the end zone.

Neither team threatened the rest of the half as both defenses dominated. Middleton managed just 73 total yards in the first half, while Verona netted 69.

The Cardinals looked ready to take over on their opening possession of the third quarter. Cam Maly carried five times for 32 yards as the Cardinals drove to the Verona 20-yard line.

On third-and-three, Andrews caught Schmitt’s pass over the middle only to have it jarred loose. The Wildcats’ TJ Hollis snared the ball in midair and rambled 38 yards before being tackled at the Middleton 47-yard line.

Verona’s drive stalled five plays later at the Middleton 23 when an errant snap sailed over Fink’s head on fourth-and-seven.

The Cardinals took over at the 35 and drove to the Verona 15-yard line. Maly carried nine times for 35 yards, but the drive stalled when Maly was stopped just short on a fourth-and-one play.

“We got really close every time and then we could not finish it,” Maly said. “But a win’s a win and I’m not complaining.”

Clinging to its 7-3 lead, Middleton’s defense came up huge in the fourth quarter.

After Verona drove to the Cardinals’ 25-yard line, the Cardinals came up with a pair of big plays. Griffin Gussel tracked down quarterback Aaron Young for a 7-yard loss and on fourth-and-15, Kevin Ripp knocked down Young’s pass at the goal line.

Verona got the ball back with 2:42 remaining and a 12-yard pass from Young to Kwan Clements gave the Wildcats a first down at the Middleton 42. From there, Verona went backwards, as Graf chased down Lawinger in the backfield for a 6-yard loss on first down.

“Max Elliot, Saygo Henderson and all the guys up front, they made a great push and I just squeezed in there and made myself as small as possible to get in the backfield,” Graf said.

After an incomplete pass, Parks was tackled for a 7-yard loss on third down and Young’s desperation pass was picked off by Joe Ludwig to seal the victory.

The Cardinals pounded away with Maly in the second half and it was effective.

“It’s one of the things we talked about at halftime,” Simon said. “We didn’t want to abandon the pass game, but obviously with the weather, you know things were going to be somewhat limited.

“I think our offensive line wanted it. They wanted to say let’s line up and let’s feed Cam the ball a little bit and get him going. We certainly did. We chewed up a lot of clock, had a couple good drives, just enough to keep the field position at least neutral.”

After rushing for just 15 yards on six carries in the first half, Maly went for 82 yards on 20 carries in the second half.

Maly credited his linemen with giving him room to run.

“The linemen were the whole part of that,” Maly said. “I was just running through the holes that they created and that’s all them. They did a heck of a job today.”

Overall, Cabalka said the Cardinals took a big step forward.

“I can’t say enough about how we took a big step from Week 1 to Week 2,” Cabalka said. “Last week we were misaligned and this week we did a much nicer job of understanding where we had to be and what we had to do.”

 

Aug. 28

Middleton 7, Verona 3

Verona ………………… 3  0  0   0 — 3

Middleton ………………… 0  7  0   0 — 7

V – Robbie Freitag 21 field goal

M – Mitch Bacon 10 pass from Brennan Schmitt (Jacob Mefford kick)

 

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs – V 11, M 9. Rushing (Att-Yds) – V 38-63, M 37-118. Passing yards – V 56, M 55. Passing (Att.-Comp.-Int.) – V 17-6-1, M 13-5-2. Total plays-yards – V – 55-119, M – 49-173. Fumbles-lost – V 2-0, M 0-0. Penalties-yards – V 2-25, M 7-55.

 

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

Rushing: V – Carson Parks 21-74. M – Maly 26-97. Passing: V – Max Fink 10-3-0, Aaron Young 7-3-1. M – Schmitt 13-5-2. Receiving: V – Kwan Clements 3-36. M – Bacon 2-14, Trevaun Turner 1-17, Cody Markel 1-12, Mitch Andrews 1-12.

 

 

 

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