Middleton, Verona set for showdown

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Dion Huff and Middleton's football team host Verona in a Big Eight Conference showdown Friday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

They started thinking about Friday night the minute their last game ended. Maybe even earlier.

Middleton’s football team has developed an intense, passionate rivalry with Verona in the short time they’ve been in the Big Eight Conference together. The Cardinals don’t care for the Wildcats — and vice versa.

When the two meet at Middleton’s Breitenbach Stadium Friday at 7 p.m., emotions will be as high as ever. That’s because both teams are 4-0 overall and in the league, and the winner will exit with sole possession of the Big Eight lead.

“Everyone is raving about Verona this week,” Middleton quarterback/cornerback C.J. Fermanich said. “People know how big this rivalry is and that adds to the hype around the game. We have to let that excitement motivate us to work hard and get a lot better in practice this week.”

Cardinals senior linebacker Joe Ludwig agreed.

“We’re excited for every game we play, but with Verona week there’s a little more excitement because of the rivalry we have with them,” Ludwig said. “The key for us is a great week of practice and focusing on getting better every day.”

Both teams have been awfully good through the first four weeks of 2016.

Verona leads the conference in scoring defense, having allowed just 4.5 points per game. The Cardinals rank second in scoring defense (14.0), and that number is misleading because the Middleton-Sun Prairie game went into quadruple overtime.

Middleton also ranks third in scoring offense (33.3), while Verona is fourth (32.3)

Running back Drew King is averaging 114.5 rushing yards per game and has scored five touchdowns.

Verona quarterback Max Fink has thrown five touchdowns, just one interception and is averaging 155.0 passing yards per game. And wideouts Michael Coyne (28.0 yards per catch) and Hunter Bourne (team-high 11 receptions) are dangerous pass catchers.

Middleton could also have its hands full against a defensive unit that hasn’t given up more than six points in any game.

“Verona plays great defense and really brings a strong presence in the box, so getting our passing game going early will help us out,” Fermanich said. “Defensively we need to put pressure on their quarterback because he is talented.”

Verona joined the Big Eight in 2008, and the Cardinals have won six of the nine meetings between the schools. Middleton has won three straight games against the Wildcats, although Verona won the only playoff match-up between the two schools in 2009.

Friday will almost certainly feel like a playoff game. And Middleton knows it will have to be at — or near — its best to prevail.

“We are all very excited for Friday's game against Verona,” Cardinals senior defensive end Nate Halbach said. “The defense is especially excited to face this high caliber of an offense.

“A couple keys to knocking off the Wildcats and becoming 5-0 are start with a punch in the mouth, then out-hitting them the rest of the game, having an aggressive, fast pass rush and playing disciplined.”

For everyone involved, Friday can't get here soon enough.

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