Middleton routs Sun Prairie

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Gregg Hammill/Special to the Times-Tribune
Cam Maly had four touchdowns and Middleton routed Sun Prairie Friday night./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

All season long, players and coaches talk about getting better every day, every week, every game.

Well, Middleton’s football team has been putting that talk into action after perhaps its best all-around performance of the season.

Middleton excelled in all phases of the game in an impressive 45-13 rout over rival Sun Prairie in a Big Eight Conference game last Friday. 

“It’s a great team effort,” Middleton coach Tim Simon said. “Offense, defense, and special teams all did great tonight and I think there were a couple times where things could have gone south for us. We gave them the ball back in good field position and our defense stepped up huge and held ground. The offense did a good job of moving the ball, moving the chains, and, obviously, getting some good scores in.”

Senior defensive back Griffin Gussel agreed.

“We had a lot of fire, a lot of aggressiveness, we were flying around,” Gussel said. “It was a great game.”

Middleton (5-0 overall and in the league), ranked eighth in the latest large-school division of the Associated Press poll, maintained a one-game lead over Madison La Follette in the Big Eight Conference standings. The Cardinals also became playoff eligible and clinched a postseason berth for the 20th consecutive year, matching Hartland Arrowhead for the longest streak in the state.

“That always feels nice and it kind of speaks to our tradition as a Middleton Cardinal program and how we just try to focus on the next game and just execute to our game plan,” senior tight end/defensive end Cody Markel said.

It also didn’t hurt that the win came against Sun Prairie, the only conference team to defeat Middleton last season.

“They were our one blemish on our conference record (last year), so that’s how we came into this game,” Markel said.

Playing in a steady rain, Middleton’s defense set the tone early on. On just the third play of the game, Gussel intercepted Sun Prairie quarterback JP Curran at the Sun Prairie 40-yard line and returned it 26 yards to the 14.

“We had a good pass rush and we got (the quarterback) to scramble,” Gussel said. “I saw him start to gets his hand up to throw and that’s when I broke on it. I jumped in front of it and it all happened really fast. I got in perfect position to make the play and credit the pass rush a lot and everyone else’s coverage.”

Simon said all of the players are coached on how to react during interceptions.

“We work on when you pick the ball off where we go and how we block for that,” Simon said. “Obviously, Griffin had a great play there, but other guys had to be heads up to get to their spots they needed to be in. He picked it off and got another 25-30 yards after that.”

Two plays later, quarterback Brennan Schmitt connected with Cam Maly, who was wide open on the right side, for an easy 14-yard touchdown. Jacob Mefford’s extra-point kick made it 7-0 just 52 seconds into the game.

“It was a great start,” Gussel said. “All of the offensive guys were thanking me and said it was a great play giving them good field position to start the game.”

Gussel’s interception was one of four turnovers forced by the Middleton defense.

“Obviously the ball bounced our way a few times and (Sun Prairie) had a few turnovers, but you have to take advantage of those turnovers which we did,” Simon said.

After forcing a Sun Prairie punt, Middleton went to work again as Maly capped a 6-play, 53-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown run. The drive was set up by C.J. Fermanich’s 27-yard punt return.

Sun Prairie attempted a fake punt on its next possession, but fumbled the snap and Max Elliot recovered at the Sun Prairie 37. Middleton was unable to move the ball and elected to punt from the 27. Though the punt only went eight yards, Sun Prairie went backward against Middleton’s defense. On third-and-20, Markel broke through to sack Curran at the 1-yard line.

“We wore it out and I just kind of pinned back and bull-rushed and we got a great pressure from the other side that spun him into me and things happened,” said Markel.

Middleton got the ball back at the Sun Prairie 29. Facing fourth-and-7 after two incompletions and a 3-yard run by Maly, Markel hauled in a perfect 28-yard pass from Schmitt to the 1.

“We knew our zero route corner would be pretty open,” said Markel, who caught three passes for 49 yards. “The offensive line gave him enough time and Brennan delivered a great ball.”

Maly bulled in for a touchdown on the next play to give Middleton a 21-0 lead with 9:19 remaining in the second quarter.

After a three-and-out series by Sun Prairie’s offense, Middleton took over at the Sun Prairie 41. Two plays later, Maly showed good speed on a 35-yard sweep to the Sun Prairie 6. The drive stalled there and Middleton had to settle for Mefford’s 26-yard field goal.

Sun Prairie finally broke through when sophomore running back Dravon Peeples surged through a hole in the middle of the defense and raced 45 yards for a touchdown. The extra-point kick was blocked and it was 24-6 with 4 minutes remaining in the half.

Sun Prairie threatened again after getting the ball back at its own 29 with just 18 seconds left. After a 10-yard gain on first down, Peeples broke through another hole in the middle of the line and ran 58 yards before Joe Ludwig caught him at the Middleton 3 with 1 second left in the half.

Middleton escaped without any damage when Nate Verstegen caught Curran’s fade pass in the corner of the end zone out of bounds. Peeples, who apparently injured his leg on the run and carried just once in the second half, rushed for 126 yards on 10 carries.

Sun Prairie had another chance to cut into the lead when Middleton’s Trevaun Turner fumbled away the opening kickoff of the second half. Middleton’s defense came through again when Fermanich blocked the 32-yard field goal attempt.

Middleton responded with its longest drive of the night as Maly capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown catch from Schmitt. Maly broke through several tackles before scoring. Schmitt was 4-of-5 passing on the drive including completions of 37 and 25 yards to Mitch Bacon both of which came on third-and-13 plays.

After trading turnovers, Middleton’s defense came up with another huge play. On a third-and-4 play from the Middleton 12, the snap sailed over Curran’s head. As Curran scrambled to make the recovery, the ball squirted away and was scooped up by Elliot who raced 76 yards for the touchdown.

“It’s one thing to say it was a good play, but it’s a heads up play,” Simon said. “Because he knew the down and the distance, he knew where the ball was, he saw that he had guys behind him, so instead of just falling on it he was able to scoop and score. I thought that was a huge momentum play for us. The defense gets a turnover, that’s a bonus, but, when the defense scores off a turnover, that’s a double-bonus.”

“It was a good heads up play by him to pick it up,” added Gussel. “I’m glad he picked it up and we were all racing down there. It was fantastic.”

The lead swelled to 45-6 on a 2-yard touchdown run by Maly, his fourth touchdown of the game (three rushing and one receiving), with 10:31 remaining in the game. Maly, who rushed for 113 yards on 16 carries, ran three times for 26 yards and Noah Helbach caught a 32-yard pass from Schmitt during the drive.

Playing with a running clock and mostly reserves in the game, Sun Prairie’s Jalen Taylor broke away for a 61-yard touchdown run to cap the scoring.

Schmitt completed 13-of-22 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns, while Sun Prairie’s Curran completed just 3-of-11 passes for 29 yards with two interceptions. Entering the contest, Curran had completed 62 percent of his passes for 724 yards.

Despite an unbeaten record, Middleton’s players still feel there is room for improvement.

“We’ve definitely come a long way in our preparation and then, after that, just our reaction on the field,” said Gussel. “We know what we’re doing and all we’ve got to do is go out there and make plays. I think we’ve come a long ways, we’ve still got a long ways to go, but I think we’ve been doing a good job.”

Added Markel: “We’re starting to trust each other more and more every week and I think we’re just steadily improving on offense and defense. We’ve got to keep getting better every day.”

 

Sept. 18

Middleton 45, Sun Prairie 13

Sun Prairie  ………….. 0  6  0  7 – 13

Middleton ………….. 14  10  14  7 – 45

M – Mitch Andrews 14 pass from Brennan Schmitt (Jacob Mefford kick)

M – Cam Maly 9 run (Mefford kick)

M – Maly 1 run (Mefford kick)

M – FG Mefford 26

SP – Peeples 45 run (kick failed)

M – Maly 14 pass from Schmitt (Mefford kick)

M – Max Elliot 76 fumbled return (Mefford kick)

M – Maly 2 run (Mefford kick)

SP – Jalen Taylor 61 run (Angel Castaneda kick)

 

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs – SP 8, M 11. Rushing (Att-Yds) – SP 42-228, M 27-118. Passing yards – SP 29, M 214. Passing (Att.-Comp.-Int.) – SP 13-3-2, M 22-13-0. Total plays-yards – SP – 58-257, M – 52-332. Fumbles-lost – SP 4-2, M 2-2. Penalties-yards – SP 3-14, M 4-35.

 

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

Rushing: SP – Peeples 10-126. M – Maly 16-113. Passing: SP – JP Curran 11-3-2, Nathan Florek 2-0-0. M – Schmitt 22-13-0. Receiving: SP – Marquis Reuter 1-13. M – Noah Helbach 5-69.

 

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