Football Cardinals drill La Follette

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
James Pabst and Middleton's football team rolled past Madison La Follette last Thursday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

There was every reason for excitement.

Middleton’s football team had just defeated Madison La Follette, 24-6, last Thursday. The Cardinals notched their fifth straight win, a victory that puts Middleton in the driver’s seat to finish second in the Big Eight Conference.

But afterwards, few of the powers-that-be in Middleton’s camp seemed happy.

Cardinals defensive coordinator Tom Cabalka stewed by the bench. Middleton head coach Tim Simon was visibly upset.

That’s what happens when the bar is set as high as it is at MHS.

“We just made too many mental mistakes,” Simon said. “Physically, we played fine. But I think some of our mental mistakes in the first half kept us from having a little bit more of a comfortable lead in the second half. Some of the things that happened shouldn’t be happening in Week 7.”

Middleton improved to 6-1 overall and in the Big Eight Conference and moved into sole possession of second place in the league. Middleton is one game behind league-leading Sun Prairie (7-0) and finishes the year with an extremely favorable schedule.

The Cardinals host Beloit Memorial (2-5) Friday at 7 p.m., then travel to Madison East (0-7) on Oct. 13 at 7 p.m.

If Middleton wins out, it will secure second place in the league and likely have at least one home playoff game.

“It’s definitely my goal. I want to play here again and get that extra home game as a senior,” Middleton senior linebacker Jimmy Frusciante said. “That would be awesome, so we need to close the season strong.”

While the Cardinals were far from perfect, they played a solid game against a respectable La Follette (3-4) team. What had Middleton’s coaches upset were some early mental mistakes and a turnover on special teams.

The Cardinals cleaned much of that up, though, and put together another winning performance.

Middleton’s defense was terrific again, allowing just 148 total yards. During the Cardinals’ five-game winning streak, they’re allowing just 4.6 points per game.

“I think it’s coming together,” Frusciante said. “It’s starting to click … and we’re a smart defense. Very intelligent. That helps a lot.”

On the flip side, Middleton’s offense controlled the ball, the clock and the scoreboard.

Senior running back Dion Huff had 20 carries for 163 yards (8.2 average) and a touchdown, while senior running back James Pabst had seven carries for 71 yards (10.1) and a score.

Middleton also held the ball for 11 minutes in the third quarter and gradually wore the Lancers out.

“You can see guys getting tired and breathing heavy,” Huff said. “So we know to just keep pounding, keep working hard and keep moving the football.”

Middleton knocked Lancers starting quarterback Ben Probst — a solid pocket passer — out of the game on the first series. La Follette inserted Anthony West, a dangerous runner who typically plays wide receiver.

While West made plays with his feet and finished with a team-high 48 rushing yards, Middleton largely kept him in the pocket and got interceptions from senior defensive back Cole Ragsdale and Frusciante.

“He was a great athlete,” Simon said of West. “And when he went in there, it changed some of the things we were doing. But I thought we adjusted pretty well.”

Middleton put together a seven play, 68-yard drive late in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead. Pabst began the march with three carries for 22 yards, quarterback Davis Roquet hit tight end Connor Hellenbrand for 20 yards and Huff finished the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run.

After Middleton forced a three-and-out, the Cardinals muffed the ensuing punt and the Lancers took full advantage. La Follette marched 38 yards in nine plays, and capped the drive when West scored from one yard out to pull the Lancers within 7-6.

Middleton stretched its lead to 14-6 after it marched 61 yards in five plays for a score on its next possession. Pabst capped the drive when he ripped off a 20-yard touchdown run out of the wildcat formation that had Huff lined up at quarterback.

At halftime, though, Simon and Co. weren’t thrilled.

“At halftime, the coaches weren’t very happy,” Simon said. “The players weren’t very happy. We didn’t play a very good half. We didn’t play a very smart half. But to the credit of our kids, they turned the page and came out and played the game we wanted to play. I was pretty happy how we played the second half.”

With good reason.

Middleton put together a 14-play, 51-yard drive to start the second half that ended with a 27-yard field goal by freshman Sawyer Pertzborn. The seven-minute march included an eight yard run by Huff on third-and-8, and a 16-yard pass from Roquet to wideout Bryce Carey on a fourth-and-7.

Middleton then pushed its lead to 24-7 late in the third quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run from Roquet. Pabst had a pair of 12-yard runs on the drive and Roquet hit tight end Luke Ballweg for 17 yards to the 1-yard line, setting up Roquet’s score.

Slowly but surely, Middleton had taken the game over physically.

“I came out for an extra point and there were (La Follette) guys bending over,” Frusciante said. “I was like, ‘Yeah. Offense is playing really well.’ ”

Added Huff: “Our O-line did great. I just ran where they made holes and you can really wear out a defense that way.”

In the closing minute, La Follette drove to Middleton’s 22-yard line and had a third-and-2. By this point, the game was over and the only thing at stake was pride.

But the last thing Frusciante wanted was to allow the Lancers into the endzone. So when Frusciante intercepted West’s pass, he and the Cardinals reacted like they had won Game 7 of the World Series.

That was the type of passion Middleton’s coaches were looking for from the start.

“I think our team is really getting our stuff together and playing together as a team right now,” Huff said. “With our coaches yelling at us all the time, we had no other choice. We had to get better. But we’re fixing the mistakes and I think we’re looking pretty good.”

 

Sept. 28

Middleton 24, Madison La Follette 6

Madison La Follette ………. 0  6  0  0 — 6

Middleton ………………... 7  7  10  0 — 24

MID — Dion Huff 11 run (Joey Culp kick)

ML — Anthony West 2 run (pass failed)

MID — James Pabst 20 run (Joey Culp kick)

MID — FG Jacob Pertzborn 27

MID — Davis Roquet 1 run (Joey Culp kick)

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs — ML 12, MID 15. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — ML 24-65, MID 32-229. Passing yards — ML 83, MID 83. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — ML 4-14-2, MID 12-21-1. Fumbles-lost — ML 1-0, MID 1-1. Penalties-yards — ML 5-45, MID 5-23.

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

Rushing: ML, West 14-48. MID, Huff 20-163. Passing: ML, Turner 1-7-1-39. MID, Roquet 12-21-1-94. Receiving: ML, Nix 1-39. MID, Carey 6-31.

 

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