Badger ends Middleton's season

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Middleton offensive coordinator Jason Pertzborn (left) and quarterback Davis Roquet look for answers during the Cardinals' playoff loss to Lake Geneva Badger last Friday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

LAKE GENEVA — The six-year drought was frustrating, aggravating and vexing all at once. Now that’s it’s over, Middleton’s football program hopes 2016 proves to be the first step towards bigger and better.

The Cardinals — one of the state’s elite programs — had failed to reach Level 3 of the postseason since 2010. Middleton ended that nasty streak this fall with dramatic playoff wins over Madison La Follette and Oconomowoc.

And while Middleton’s season came to an end last Friday with a 28-7 loss to host Lake Geneva Badger, the Cardinals made major strides during their playoff run. Now, Middleton coach Tim Simon wants to make that level of success the norm.

“What we want to do is consistently make it to the quarterfinals,” Simon said. “If you can consistently get into the quarterfinals, you’re going to have a chance to pop through.

“You look at the teams that have been good every year, they’re the ones that consistently get into the quarterfinals. This group got us there and hopefully this gives us momentum going forward.”

Middleton couldn’t gather any momentum against the mighty Badgers.

Badger, the Southern Lakes champs, ran the ball at will and stopped the run. There wasn’t anything fancy to it. It was old school football at its finest, and boy, was it effective.

The Badgers ran for 290 yards on 46 carries, an average of 6.3 yards per carry. That was the most rushing yards Middleton allowed all year.

On the flip side, the Cardinals’ vaunted ground game could only muster 78 rushing yards on 25 carries (3.1).

The difference in rushing attacks was a major reason Badger improved to 12-0, while Middleton finished the season 9-3.

“They had great players and they executed to perfection,” said Middleton senior linebacker Joe Ludwig, who was a force all night for the Cardinals. “It was just really hard to stop those guys.”

Cardinals senior center Kayden Lyles, a University of Wisconsin recruit, agreed with Ludwig.

“I feel like they were just consistent,” Lyles said of Badger. “They didn’t have anybody that was weak or players we needed to look to go and attack. They were even throughout and they were all pretty good.”

Badger was 10-of-15 on third- and fourth downs (66.7%), which kept several eventual scoring drives alive. Middleton was just 4-of-13 on third- and fourth downs (30.7%).

“They’re just kind of a grind it out team,” said Middleton senior defensive end Nate Helbach, who gutted it out despite an arm injury. “They hit you hard up the middle. They just try getting four or five yards a carry and grind it down your throat. It gets exhausting. When they grind like that, it’s exhausting.”

The end of the first half was exhausting — and deflating — for Middleton.

Badger quarterback Mason DuMez ripped off a 29-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter to give the Badgers a 7-0 lead.

Middleton answered on its next possession with an impressive 12-play, 59-yard march that ate up 6:49. Junior running back Dion Huff capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run and Brett Wipfli’s extra point evened things, 7-7.

The big play on the march came when junior quarterback Davis Roquet hit senior wideout C.J. Fermanich for 27 yards on fourth-and-8 to the Badger 3-yard line. Three plays later, Huff hit paydirt.

“We were right in the game,” Simon said.

That changed at the end of the half, though.

With Middleton committing eight and nine players to the run every play, DuMez hit junior running back William Keller for a 51-yard touchdown with 2:08 left in the half that gave Badger a 14-7 lead.

Middleton’s offense went 15 yards in reverse and used just 37 seconds in the process. And after a mediocre punt, Badger began on the Cardinals’ 43-yard line with 1:31 to work.

The Badgers quickly drove to the Cardinals 8-yard line, but Middleton had a chance to escape when DuMez threw a pass right to defensive back Jack Smith. Smith couldn’t hang on, though, and DuMez scored two plays later to give the Badgers a 21-7 lead at the break.

“That really kind of broke us down a little bit,” said running back James Pabst, who led Middleton with 52 rushing yards. “We didn’t have any momentum.”

Helbach agreed.

“That took all of our energy away,” Helbach said. “We were like, ‘That’s a bad half. It can only get better.’ ”

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, it didn’t.

Middleton had two golden opportunities in the second half.

Late in the third quarter, senior wideout Myron Ashford got behind two defenders and appeared poised to haul in a 43-yard TD. But Ashford dropped Roquet’s well thrown pass.

On Middleton’s next possession — one that ate up six minutes of the fourth quarter — it drove 55 yards to the Badger 8-yard line. But the drive died when two swing passes netted just four yards, Roquet’s quarterback draw went for one yard, and Roquet’s fourth down pass for Ashford was incomplete.

“When you play in the quarterfinals, you can't make mistakes at that point on the field,” Simon said.

Added Lyles: “Just from playing all these games and everything, just after that you kind of realize that you can’t really do that much. That was our shot right there and we missed it.”

Despite the loss, Middleton made a statement with its earlier playoff wins. After a five-year stretch that saw the Cardinals go just 2-5 in the postseason, their performance this year was a breath of fresh air for the program.

“This group of seniors worked really hard,” Simon said. “I think a really important point is just how hard this senior group worked. We had guys that were really devoted and we had a really core group of seniors that did that.

“We’re really proud of our guys, how hard they fought and battled different levels of adversity. Proud of what they did all year long.”

Afterwards, the seniors lingered on a wet and muddy field, hugging everyone they could find and doing everything they could to extend the season a few extra minutes.

“It’s been a fun journey,” Helbach said. “The coaches were great. It was a fun ride and I just wanted to enjoy it while it lasted.”

Added Pabst: “This is tough. But definitely for next year, this will give us some motivation. We want to come back here and go farther in the playoffs than we left off and make it to state. Definitely good memories and we want to make sure next year we give it everything we’ve got.”

The 2016 Cardinals did exactly that. Their journey just ended sooner than they’d hoped.

“State was the goal and we don’t settle for anything less,” Ludwig said. “We wanted to be the best and we all thought it was doable. It was definitely a great year, but not good enough.”

 

Nov. 4

WIAA Division 1 Playoffs

Level 3

Lake Geneva Badger 28, Middleton 7

Middleton ……………………. 0 7 0 0 — 7

Badger ………………………. 7 14 0 7 — 28

LGB — DuMez 29 run (Taddeo kick)

M — Huff 3 run (Wipfli kick)

LGB — Keller 51 pass from DuMez (Taddeo kick)

LGB — DuMez 4 run (Taddeo kick)

LGB — Keller 53 run (Taddeo kick)

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs — M 11, LGB 12. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — M 25-78, LGB 46-290. Passing yards — M 161, LGB 59. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — M 15-28-0, LGB 3-9-1. Fumbles-lost — M 1-0, LGB 1-0. Penalties-yards — M 5-40, LGB 0-0.

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

Rushing: M — Pabst 11-52. LGB — Keller 10-106.

Passing: M — Roquet 15-28-0-161. LGB — Dumez 3-9-1-59.

Receiving: M — Fermanich 5-81. LGB — Keller 1-51.

 

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