Verona knocks off Middleton

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton’s Kallion Buckner ran for 201 yards and two touchdowns in Middleton's loss to Verona on Aug. 24./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

VERONA — Ortez Lockett stood in the west endzone at Verona High School late last Friday.

Middleton’s senior defensive yelled, he pleaded and he implored. And when Lockett finished, he wiped away tears.

It was, by many accounts, the most impassioned speech a Middleton football player had given in years.

“This is our last year for me as a senior and the other seniors,” Lockett said. “And I just have to get that across the juniors’ heads. Our team, I know it’s the strongest team out there in the conference. We just have to go and prove it.”

Middleton failed to prove that last Friday and suffered a 27-22 defeat to Verona. The Cardinals hurt themselves with inconsistency on offense, defensive breakdowns and a bevy of self-inflicted wounds.

Verona moved into a three-way tie atop the Big Eight Conference at 2-0, while the Cardinals slipped to 1-1. And afterwards, Lockett & Co. vowed not to let it happen again.

“We need to go home and watch film,” said Middleton junior running back Kallion Buckner, who had 201 rushing yards on 22 carries. “Take the negative things that we did and make them a positive next week and show people that we're better than this.”

Despite the Cardinals uneven performance, they had a chance to win in the final minutes. Middleton began on its own 39-yard line with 5:02 remaining and trailing, 27-22.

Fullback Connor Hellenbrand plowed for eight yards on a third-and-2 to the Verona 46. On the ensuing first down play, Buckner busted off right tackle for eight yards and took a nasty — but legal — hit as he went out of bounds.

Buckner jumped to his feet and says he told the Verona defensive back, “Good hit.” The officials flagged Buckner, though, for 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. So instead of second-and-2, Middleton faced a second-and-17.

“I personally I felt I blew the game by doing that,” Buckner said.

Middleton quarterback Bryce Carey followed with runs of 6 and 10 yards, setting up a fourth-and-1. But the Cardinals took a long time in the huddle, then didn’t get the ball snapped in time and were hit with a delay of game penalty.

“There’s no reason for that. None. Absolutely not,” Middleton co-coach Tim Simon said of the penalty. “We saw it was kind of a long huddle and we were yelling, ‘Hurry up! Hurry up!’ But yeah, there’s no excuse for that, by players or coaches.”

Middleton then changed its run play to a pass play, and Carey’s attempt was batted down at the line of scrimmage by Verona junior defensive end Adam Vandervest.

The Cardinals forced a quick three-and-out and took over again at their own 37 with 57 seconds left. But Carey’s first pass on the ensuing possession was intercepted by Wildcats sophomore cornerback Cam McCorkle.

“I think what we lacked tonight, on both sides of the ball, was consistency,” Simon said. “We looked like a million dollars at times on defense, then we’d have two missed tackles. We looked like a million dollars on offense a couple of times and then we’d sputter or get a penalty.”

Middleton trailed 7-0, midway through the first quarter when Buckner ripped off an 83-yard touchdown run.

The Cardinals ran a bunch formation and Buckner started left. When he hit the second level, he cutback to the right and had open field to the Verona 40.

Buckner was nearly pushed out of bounds, but somehow kept his balance and tiptoed down the sideline. Verona safety Maxx Kaminski was the last player with a shot at Buckner, but the Cardinals’ speedy back won the foot race and finished off a brilliant 83-yard scoring run.

The extra point snap bounced back to the holder, though, and kicker Sawyer Pertzborn didn't have a chance to attempt the PAT, allowing Verona to maintain a 7-6 lead.

“To be honest, I don’t even know how I scored,” said Buckner, who leads the Big Eight with 346 rushing yards. “I just go 100% and do whatever I can for this team.”

Middleton embarked on an 11-play, 90-yard drive on its next possession. And when Carey scored from 1-yard out, the Cardinals grabbed a 12-7 lead.

The big play on the drive came when senior wideout Sam Close ran a go-route down the right sideline, and Carey delivered a strike for 42 yards to the Wildcats’ 1-yard line. Two plays later, Carey scored himself, although the two-point conversion try failed.

Pertzborn drilled a 38-yard field goal with 3:57 left in the first half to give Middleton a 15-7 advantage.

But the Wildcats answered with a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive and pulled within 15-13 shortly before halftime. Verona’s two-point conversion try came up inches short, though, and Middleton clung to a narrow lead at the break.

Verona took the second half kickoff and marched 64 yards in just six plays, converted the two-point conversion and grabbed a 21-15 lead. The Wildcats had pass plays of 31 and 14 yards on the drive as Middleton seemed perplexed by Verona’s pistol Wing-T offense.

“Our defense was just breaking down,” Lockett said. “We did our jobs, but we didn’t do them to our full potential.”

Middleton countered with a six-play, 58-yard touchdown drive on its first possession of the second half to reclaim a 22-21 lead. Buckner had all 58 yards on just five carries — highlighted by a 25-yard burst behind left tackle Zac Mayhew and a 10-yard touchdown run up the gut.

“Things went pretty well with our running game,” Buckner said. “I tell you, I was so tired, but I just kept going.”

Middleton finished the night rushing for 272 yards on 36 carries (7.6). The Cardinals’ offensive line — which is still missing standout tackle Clay Craker (knee) — consisted of Mayhew, Tyler Haack, Dylan Kalscheur, Gavin Adler and Luke McChrystal and did yeoman’s work up front.

From there, Buckner did the rest.

“I thought we did a good job up front,” Simon said. “And Kallion’s got some talent. I thought we ran the ball just fine.”

Middleton couldn't stop the Wildcats, though. And Verona put together an eight-play, 69-yard touchdown drive midway through the fourth quarter to reclaim a 27-22 advantage.

The big play of the drive came when Wildcats quarterback Adam Bekx hooked up with Haakon Anderson for a 44-yard completion on a third-and-12 play to the Middleton 15.

Cardinals standout cornerback Kevin Meicher had perfect coverage on the play, but the ball went through his arms and into the waiting hands of Anderson.

Four plays later, Anderson plowed in from two yards out for his third touchdown of the night to put Verona ahead for good.

“If that ball was thrown one inch in either direction, they don’t complete it,” Simon said of the long pass to Anderson. “But close games all come down to five, six, seven plays, and of those seven or eight plays, they made a few more than us.”

Middleton still had chances in the final minutes, but failed to capitalize. And that led to Lockett’s emotional speech which he hopes leads to brighter days ahead.

“You go through negatives your whole life,” Lockett said. “You just have to turn them into positives. No person I know went through a negative and said, ‘Oh I give up.’ No, that’s not it. Everybody goes through a negative in their life. We’re going to turn this into a positive.”


Middleton ……………. 6  9  7  0 — 22

Verona …………….. 7  6  8  6 — 27

V — Anderson, 1, run (Garcia kick)

M — Buckner, 83, run (kick failed)

M — Carey, 3, run (run failed)

M — FG, Pertzborn, 38

V — Anderson, 10, run (run failed)

V — Lindell, 10, run (Keegan Lindell run)

M — Buckner, 10, run (Pertzborn kick)

V — Anderson, 2, run (pass failed)


First downs — M 10, V 12. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) —M 36-272, V 39-196. Passing yards — M 81, V 167. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — M 4-14-1, V 7-13-0. Fumbles-lost — M 1-0, V 1-0. Penalties-yards —M 8-53, V 6-40.


Rushing: M, Buckner 22-201. V, Lindell 18-110.

Passing: M, Carey 4-14-1-81. V, Bekx 7-13-0-167.

Receiving: M, Close 2-47. V, Anderson 4-136.


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