Football Cardinals back in first

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Gregg Hammill/Special to the Times-Tribune
Brennan Schmitt threw for 303 yards in Middleton's win over Madison West last Friday./Photo courtesy of Mary Bavery

Forget about the past and focus on the present.

After tasting defeat for the first time against Madison Memorial last week, Middleton’s football team effectively turned the page and grinded out a 27-14 Big Eight Conference victory over Madison West last Friday.

“Inside you could tell people weren’t over that loss,” said Cardinals junior defensive back C.J. Fermanich. “I don’t think we should have lost that game and everybody really wanted to come back and get this win especially with Homecoming and just make it all feel better. I think it did.”

Cardinals senior wideout Mitch Bacon agreed.

“We knew we had to move on right away and move on to this game so that’s what we did,” Bacon said. “Obviously, this showed that we didn’t think about it too much.”

The Homecoming victory also moved Middleton (6-1 overall and in conference) back into sole possession of first place in the Big Eight Conference after Madison La Follette dropped a 21-13 decision to Verona. La Follette dropped into a three-way tie for second place with Verona and Madison Memorial at 5-2.

Madison West fell to 1-6 overall and in the league, although Middleton coach Tim Simon warned the Regents’ record is deceiving.

“They’re a really talented team,” Simon said of West. “They’ve obviously only won one game, but they’ve given a lot of people a lot of fits. They’ve got a lot of talent, but they just lack a little bit of depth. We’re happy with the win against a very good Madison West team.”

Middleton’s players knew West was dangerous as well.

“We knew they were a talented team,” Bacon said. “Just like Memorial, their record doesn’t show how good of a team they are. They’re full of talent and we knew that, so we just prepared for that.”

The Cardinals showed they didn’t underestimate the Regents in a dominant first half.

After forcing West to punt on its opening possession, Middleton went to work. The Cardinals drove 88 yards in nine plays, capped by Cam Maly’s 33-yard touchdown run on a sweep. Middleton lined up in a spread formation with four wide receivers during the drive and quarterback Brendan Schmitt completed 3-of-5 passes for 37 yards.

The Cardinals went back to the spread on their next offensive possession and marched 81 yards in five plays, capped by Joe Ludwig’s 2-yard touchdown plunge. The drive featured pass plays of 14 yards to Bacon, 23 yards to Maly, and 37 yards to Cody Markel.

“They’re a big physical team, so by us spreading it, it allows us to use our speed a little bit and that gave our guys up front a better chance,” Simon said. “They’re a tough team to just line up and go toe-to-toe because of the size that they have both on the defensive line and the linebackers. So, by us spreading it out a little bit, it gave us advantages both in the numbers and our speed.”

Middleton looked ready to add to its lead early in the second quarter after Kevin Ripp intercepted a pass by Madison West quarterback Daelon Savage and returned the ball out to the West 41-yard line. The Cardinals drove to the Regents’ 3, but Schmitt’s fourth down pass to Markel was just out of his reach.

West then drove to the Middleton 22 before the drive stalled when Fermanich and Garrett Graf tackled Jaden Stephens short of the first down. West ran 16 plays and totaled five first downs before being turned away by the Cardinals’ defense.

“We know where the other guys are and have each other’s back,” Fermanich said. “So we can have possessions like that where they’ve got stuff moving, but we’re not going to give them that big long ball they want or that big run for the touchdown. We have each other’s back so we don’t break, but we can bend.”

Middleton made it 20-0 just before halftime on a nifty return by Fermanich. The junior fielded a punt on the bounce then broke for the sideline and raced for a 68-yard touchdown.

“I took it off the bounce and our guys pretty much cleaned it up the whole way,” Fermanich said. “I didn’t have to do too much, maybe one cut. Noah Helbach had a really great block to seal the corner and then, after that, it was just a foot race really.”

Fermanich’s touchdown helped make up for the missed opportunity on offense earlier in the quarter.

“It was needed because we had the ball down at the 2-yard line and didn’t finish,” Simon said. “We obviously felt like we left one out on the field and then they had a good drive after that. We were a little frustrated offensively that we weren’t up 21-0 to start the second quarter. So, for C.J. to execute that punt return and for all 11 guys to do their job, it gave us that touchdown back that we felt we left on the field.”

The Cardinals kept the momentum going on their opening possession of the third quarter. Trevaun Turner took the kickoff then handed off on a reverse to Fermanich, who sprinted 45-yards to the West 39. Seven plays later, Helbach scored on a 5-yard run and it was 27-0.

West got on the scoreboard when Terrance McNeal Jr. caught a short pass from Savage, broke a tackle, and scampered 66 yards for a touchdown to make it 27-7.

“We had a missed tackle and missed pursuit angle on that and that’s going to happen,” Simon said. “The kid made an athletic play, but the number of times that we were able to knuckle down and dig our cleats in inside the 25-yard line and get those stops was really, really important and impressive for our defense.”

West’s Austin Cotharn caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Savage with one second left to complete the scoring.

“I told our guys we need to get off to a fast start and grind them out a little bit in the second half,” Simon said. “I think for three quarters we played pretty well. We let up on the gas a little bit in the fourth quarter.”

Maly carried 10 times for 74 yards in the first half, but sat out the second half to rest a sore hip. Others nursing injuries included Fermanich (shoulder) and center Will Braxton.

With Maly ailing, Schmitt picked up the slack and completed 21-of-35 passes for 303 yards. Bacon was his favorite target, catching seven passes for 91 yards.

“We can’t do it without the offensive line,” Bacon said. “If Brennan has no time to throw he can’t throw for 300 yards. It’s important to have good pass blocking.”

Middleton amassed 410 yards of total offense. West had 386 total yards, but could only muster two scores.

“There were some times we bent pretty back,” Simon said. “They had some long drives, but they got in the red zone and we were able to shut them down and get the ball back. There was a lot of bending but we didn’t break.”

Simon was happy the players stayed focused during Homecoming week.

“I’m really happy and proud of our guys that they did stay focused and remembered that the pinnacle event was at 7 o’clock (Friday) and they took care of business,” Simon said.

 

Oct. 2
Middleton 27, Madison West 14

Madison West ……………. 0  0  7  7 — 14
Middleton ……………. 14  6  7  0 – 27
M – Cam Maly 33 run (Jacob Mefford kick)
M – Joe Ludwig 2 run (Mefford kick)
M – C.J. Fermanich 68 punt return (kick failed)
M – Noah Halbach 5 run (Mefford kick)
MW – Terrance McNeal Jr. 66 pass from Daelon Savage (Jack Bye kick)
MW – Austin Cotharn 23 pass from Savage (Bye kick)

 

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs – MW 15, M 19. Rushing (Att-Yds) – MW 27-91, M 25-107. Passing yards – MW 295, M 303. Passing (Att.-Comp.-Int.) – MW 36-21-1, M 36-21-0. Total plays-yards – MW – 65-386, M – 62-410. Fumbles-lost – MW 0-0, M 1-0. Penalties-yards – MW 7-48, M 6-40.

 

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

Rushing: MW – Jaden Stephens 14-55. M – Maly 10-74. Passing: MW – Savage 36-21-1. M – Schmitt 35-21-0, Blake Carey 1-0-0. Receiving: MW – Terrell Carey 7-93, McNeal Jr. 4-88. M – Bacon 7-91.

 

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