Middleton-Madison West meet in Level 2

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Rob Reischel
Middleton’s Ryan Handowski (left) and Devin Jackson (right) led a stout defensive effort against Madison La Follette last Friday. The Cardinals are hoping for a similar performance this week against Madison West./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Middleton football coach Tim Simon insists the Madison West team he saw two months ago won’t be the same group that comes to Otto Breitenbach Stadium Friday night.

The thing is, the Cardinals are much different themselves.

Middleton routed the Regents, 36-0, back on Aug. 31. Now, the two Big Eight Conference rivals will meet again in a WIAA Division 1 Level 2 playoff game Friday at 7 p.m.

Middleton is 9-1 overall and riding an eight-game winning streak. West is 8-2 with its only losses coming to Big Eight powers Middleton and Sun Prairie.

“They’re better than they were back then,” Simon said of West. “That was a game we got out in front and they’re a lot better right now.”

Middleton held the visiting Regents to just 146 total yards in their first meeting. West managed just two first downs in the first half and only eight for the game. Middleton kept explosive quarterback Keishawn Shanklin and dangerous running back Jaden Stephens in check, thanks to sensational play from all three levels of its defense.

“I think we didn’t let their athletes perform,” Middleton senior linebacker Jimmy Frusciante said. “Their two running backs are really good, great athletes. But we just didn’t let them get outside and beat us.”

Stephens is averaging 88.6 rushing yards per game and has 12 total touchdowns. Shanklin has nine passing touchdowns, five rushing TDs and is averaging 119.0 total yards per game.

Middleton’s defense has been sensational all year, though, holding nine of its 10 foes to 10 points, or less. The Cardinals are allowing just 7.9 points per game and have three shutouts this year, including their blanking of the Regents.

“Our defense stays just as intense every week,” Frusciante said. “We’re going to do the same things we always do.”

Offensively, Middleton has gotten better and better throughout the year and seems to be peaking at the perfect time.

The Cardinals are averaging 32.3 points per game and scored 36 points, or more, in six of their 10 games.

Senior running back James Pabst exploded for 202 rushing yards in Middleton’s Level 1 win over Madison La Follette. Pabst now leads the Cardinals in rushing yards per game (93.4), yards per carry (8.2) and rushing touchdowns (15).

Fellow senior running Dion Huff is averaging 84.9 rushing yards per game, 5.6 yards per carry and has 14 rushing touchdowns.

Senior quarterback Davis Roquet has been consistent, throwing for 107.0 yards per game, completing 53.6% of his passes and firing nine touchdown passes.

In addition, Middleton recently got standout left tackle Jarrett Horst back from a foot injury, while Logan Thomas returned from an ankle injury. That duo helped solidify an offensive line that was sensational in Middleton’s win over La Follette last week.

West has held six of its 10 opponents to single digits. But the other four teams the Regents faced averaged 27.3 points per game.

“I’d say we’re peaking right now, but we’re going to have to play another really good game against West if we want to keep playing,” Simon said. “We can’t have turnovers and penalties and mistakes.

“You can’t get to Level 2 of the playoffs and win the game by making a lot of mistakes. So we’re going to have to be at our best again.”

 

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