Pertzborn's Middleton roots run deep

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Jason Pertzborn was a three-sport standout at Middleton High School and has been a Cardinals' football assistant coach since 2002./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Jason Pertzborn remembers the games, the moments, the years like they happened yesterday.

The 1988 campaign in which Middleton went undefeated in the regular season and won the Badger Conference championship, before losing in the postseason to Kettle Moraine. The 1989 season in which Middleton began the year ranked No. 1, but suffered a heartbreaking, 35-33 loss to eventual state champion Marinette in the WIAA Division 2 state semifinals.

“Those were great times,” said Pertzborn, who was Middleton’s starting quarterback those two years. “And those games stay with you forever.”

Pertzborn has long been part of the fabric and tradition of Middleton football. And now, his imprint will be embedded even deeper.

Pertzborn, who’s been part of Middleton’s coaching staff since 2002 and the Cardinals’ offensive coordinator since 2013, will serve as MHS’ co-head coach this season with Tim Simon. If things go well, Pertzborn is expected to transition into the head coaching position beginning in 2019.

“There’s something about coaching at the school you went to,” Pertzborn said. “I’ve always bled Cardinal red and that’s never stopped.

“I want to give back and continue to build this program. That’s the way I was taught growing up.”

The 47-year old Pertzborn — a 1990 MHS graduate — grew up in the Middleton program. And even when school and his career took him outside the area, Pertzborn remained a Cardinal.

Pertzborn was a reserve on Middleton’s 1987 state championship team — the last group of Cardinals to hoist a gold ball. He then was a two-year starting quarterback and a standout baseball player.

Pertzborn played baseball for three years at UW-Stevens Point and graduated from there with a business degree in 1995. He later added a teaching degree from Concordia University.

Pertzborn’s first high school football coaching experience came under Jay Redders at Madison West from 1998-2001. Pertzborn was also the Regents’ offensive coordinator in both 2000 and 2001.

Pertzborn joined Middleton’s staff in 2002 as a volunteer assistant at the sophomore level. Former MHS coach Kurt Gundlach — who Pertzborn played for in high school — brought him back into the program, something he’s still thankful for today.

“We would have run through a brick wall for Kurt,” Pertzborn said of Gundlach. “He was definitely crazy and he’d scare the hell out of you. But you knew he always had your back, no matter what happened.”

Pertzborn was the head sophomore coach for 10 seasons, where he credits Gregg ‘Doc’ Cramer for helping him grow as a coach.

“Early on, I was pretty wound up as a coach,” Pertzborn admits. “But ‘Doc’ really helped mellow me out. I think those years really helped me grow with the mental side of coaching and reflection.”

Pertzborn jumped up to the varsity level in 2013 and became the Cardinals’ offensive coordinator. Those close to the program rave about Pertzborn’s offensive knowledge and his ability as a play caller, and it’s easy to see why.

In the five years Pertzborn has been Middleton’s offensive coordinator, the Cardinals averaged 31.1 points per game.

“He just really seems to have a feel for how to call a game,” Middleton athletic director Bob Joers said of Pertzborn. “I think that’s a real strength.”

Added Simon: “Jason has a really good brain for the offensive side of the game. That’s definitely a strength of his.”

Pertzborn, the No. 1 assistant in the baseball program, stepped down from that job at the end of the 2018 season to devote all of time to football. And he knows he’ll need it.

While Middleton has been a model of consistency for years now — and is tied for the longest streak in the state for playoff appearances by a Division 1 team (22 years) — it’s also been 31 years since the Cardinals won a state championship.

Pertzborn believes the Cardinals have everything in place to succeed at the highest level. And he can’t wait to get started in his new role.

“I’ve prepared for this my whole life,” said the 47-year old Pertzborn. “I’m ready. And there’s no reason we can’t get it done. If I can’t get it done, then I want them to find somebody who can.

“We won two state titles in the 80s and it should have been four. We’ve got to get back to that. We definitely want to get back to Camp Randall and that’s going to be our goal.”

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