Football Cards land 17 on all-Big 8 team

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton senior running back Cam Maly (32) was named first-team all-Big Eight. The Cardinals had 17 players earn all-league honors./File photo

Middleton’s football team enjoyed a memorable year on the field.

And the Cardinals reaped the benefits off the field, as well, when it came time for postseason honors.

Middleton, the outright Big Eight Conference champion, had 17 players named all-league. That was more than any other school in the conference.

Middleton had 10 players named first-team all-conference, two were named second-team and five earned honorable-mention all-conference honors.

Junior safety Joe Ludwig led Middleton’s first-team honorees and was named the Big Eight’s Defensive Back of the Year. Senior Cody Markel was the only player in the league named first-team all-conference at two positions, earning honors at both tight end and defensive end.

Middleton’s other first-team all-conference players were senior offensive lineman Kamon Ennis and Ka’Juan Redus, senior running back Cam Maly, senior quarterback Brennan Schmitt, senior defensive tackle Saygo Henderson, senior inside linebacker Garrett Graf and junior return specialist C.J. Fermanich.

Middleton’s second-team all-conference players were senior wide receiver Mitch Bacon and junior outside linebacker Caleb Cymbalek. And the Cardinals’ honorable mention all-conference selections included senior offensive lineman William Braxton, senior defensive backs Kevin Ripp and Griffin Gussel, senior defensive end Mitch Andrews and Fermanich, who also was honored at cornerback.

Ludwig, one of the top juniors in the state, had a big year with five interceptions, the second-most in the league. Ludwig was second on the team with 77 total tackles, added seven passes defensed and had two tackles for loss.

“Joe Ludwig was our best defensive back,” Middleton coach Tim Simon said. “He’s an extremely skilled and athletic player. He fills like a middle linebacker and covers passes like a cover corner.”

Markel’s ability to play both ways at a high level was extremely impressive.

Defensively, Markel finished second in the conference with seven sacks, added eight tackles for loss, seven passes defensed and had with 35 total tackles.

Offensively, Markel had 16 catches for 211 yards, five touchdowns and added one two-point conversion catch.

“Cody Markel is one of the best players on our team,” Simon said. “A great leverage and lockout player. We believe he’s the best defensive end in the conference and area.

“Cody also led the league for true tight ends in receiving yards. He is an outstanding blocker on the edge and receiver. A great team leader with a high football I.Q.”

Middleton had one of the area’s smallest offensive lines, but the unit still played at a high level. Ennis and Redus were two huge reasons why.

Ennis was the biggest lineman of the bunch (6-0, 262) and could be dominant in the run game and equally efficient in pass pro. Redus was an undersized guard (5-8, 215) who won with quickness, leverage, sheer strength and tenacity.

“Kamon Ennis was our best offensive lineman on a team that went 8-1,” Simon said. “Outstanding drive blocker and extremely good at pass protection. Big, athletic and strong player.

“Ka’Juan was a first-team all-conference player last year and he was every bit as good this year. Very powerful blocker, trap blocker and great pass blocker. He is one of the best in the area.”

Maly finished the year with 1,003 rushing yards, led all running backs in the league with 16 touchdowns and averaged 5.6 yards per carry. Maly also did his damage in just seven full games, missing the Beloit Memorial game with injury and sitting out the second half of two blowouts.

“He didn’t need much space,” Simon said. “If you can get him a crease, something good is usually going to happen.”

Schmitt surprised many by winning the quarterbacking job this summer, then had a memorable season.

Schmitt completed 100 of 165 passes (60.6%) for 1,318 yards. He also threw 13 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Schmitt’s completion percentage led the conference and he also led the league in quarterback rating (102.0).

“Brennan led our conference championship team with a most balanced offense,” Simon said. “Extremely accurate, intelligent, high football I.Q.”

Henderson was one of the most explosive interior defensive linemen around. He finished the year with 37 total tackles, 4.5 sacks and four tackles for loss.

“Saygo is an extremely quick and explosive nose tackle,” Simon said. “He gave fits to centers and guards all year long.”

Graf led the Cardinals in tackles with 102. Graf also had nine tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble and was the leader of Middleton’s defense.

“Garrett was our best defensive player,” Simon said. “We believe he is one of the best defensive players in the conference and the area.”

Fermanich was an elite return man, averaging 18.1 yards on his 10 punt returns and 33.7 yards per kickoff return. Fermanich also had a pair of return touchdowns — one on punts and another on kickoffs.

Fermanich was also a solid cover corner who was often left on an island by Middleton’s coaching staff. He finished the year with 58 total tackles, one interception that he returned for a touchdown, 12 passes defensed and one blocked kick.

“C.J. was a dynamic playmaker and one of the best athletes on the field,” Simon said. “He was the best and most dangerous return man in the Big Eight.

“C.J. was also our cover corner. He is talented enough that he rarely got extra help. He is one of the best cornerbacks in the conference.”

Bacon led Middleton in receptions (32) and receiving yards (423). He also finished with three touchdowns.

Cymbalak played both strongside and weakside linebacker, and often lined up against opponent’s spread receivers. Cymbalak excelled and finished the year with 56 total tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and three passes defensed.

Braxton was an undersized, but extremely efficient center. In fact, Simon made the case that Braxton was the best center in the league, before settling for honorable-mention honors. Braxton’s greatest strength was his pass protection, but he was extremely efficient in the run game, too.

Defensive backs Ripp and Gussel both had impressive seasons.

Ripp finished the year with 69 total tackles, three passes defensed, one interceptions and 0.5 sacks. Gussel finished the year with 32 total tackles, two interceptions and one tackle for loss.

Andrews was a terrific bookend to Markel, finishing with six sacks, one interception and 14 total tackles.

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