Middleton excited for rematch with Memorial

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Middleton football coach Jason Pertzborn and the Cardinals face Madison Memorial in the second round of the playoffs Friday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

To a man, they insist they’re a different team now.

They’ve figured out personnel issues, grown as a team and have rolled off six straight wins.

Now, Middleton’s football team is ready for the rematch.

Middleton vs. Madison Memorial — Part II.

This battle between neighbors and rivals takes place in a WIAA Division 1 Level 2 playoff game Friday at 7 p.m. at Mansfield Stadium.

“I can’t wait,” Middleton head coach Jason Pertzborn said after his team edged Madison La Follette, 21-20, in a first round playoff game on Oct. 25. “Our guys have wanted a rematch with Memorial for a while now and they’ve earned the chance to play them again.”

Memorial, the No. 1 seed in the bracket, is a perfect 10-0. The Spartans won the Big Eight Conference with a 9-0 mark, then routed Madison West, 42-6, in a first round playoff game.

Memorial defeated Middleton, 28-11, back on Sept. 13. The Spartans led that game just 14-11 midway through the fourth quarter, but scored two late touchdowns to put the Cardinals away.

Middleton fell to 2-2 that night, but hasn’t lost since and is 8-2. Now, the Cardinals can’t wait for another chance to face the Spartans.

“Oh yeah, we’re coming for Memorial,” Middleton senior running back Kallion Buckner said. “We’re coming. It’s about us coming out and not letting them play their game. Just play our game the whole time.”

Middleton junior cornerback Josh Stormer, the hero of the Cardinals’ win over La Follette, agreed.

“We’re going to bring it to them,” Stormer said. “We’re going to get better during practice and I feel like we have the capability of beating them.”

Memorial is definitely one of the state’s most complete teams, having outscored its foes by an average of 37.1-11.9.

Quarterback Jason Ceniti has thrown 18 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Ceniti has also thrown for 1,627 yards and completed 57.3% of his passes.

The Spartans have a pair of dynamic running backs in Kam Marshall and Kabaris Vasser. Marshall has rushed for 896 yards and 10 touchdowns and is averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Vasser has run for 686 yards, 11 touchdowns and is averaging 9.7 yards per rush.

“What Memorial does isn’t overly complicated, but they’re really good what they do,” Middleton defensive coordinator Brad Rogeberg said. “They’ll attack your weaknesses. They’re just a really solid team.”

Defensively, Spartans sophomore defensive end Cole Hendrickson has a team-high 7.0 sacks, while senior linebacker Kyle Murphy has a team-high 90 tackles and has forced three fumbles. Senior linebacker Kaden Reetz and senior defensive back Kole Kerkhoff share team honors with three interceptions each.

Middleton has been a different team since facing the Spartans nearly two months ago, though. The Cardinals last six wins have been by an average of 26.0 points and Middleton has posted three straight wins against teams that reached the playoffs.

Buckner has put himself in strong contention for first-team all-state honors, rushing for 1,721 yards and scoring 30 total touchdowns.

The defense has also improved by leaps and bounds, and is allowing just 15.2 points per game in the last six contests after giving up an average of 29.0 points in the first four games.

“It took us a little while to get the right guys on the field and in the right spots,” Rogeberg said. “Once we figured some of that out, we’ve played a lot better.”

Now, the Cardinals hope to be at their best against Memorial.

“There won’t be any real big surprises,” Pertzborn said. “They know us and we know them. It should be a great game.”

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