Waiting is the hardest part for Pertzborn

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Rob Reischel
Middleton football coach Jason Pertzborn admits he’ll have a tough time watching teams across the state begin playing games./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Jason Pertzborn recently added a stone patio and fire pit in his backyard.

And last Friday, that’s where Middleton’s football coach spent the evening.

“It just felt kind of surreal,” Pertzborn said.

This Friday could be even stranger.

The majority of high school football teams in Wisconsin will begin their 2020 seasons. Pertzborn and Middleton will be watching from afar.

Middleton elected to push fall sports to the spring of 2021 due to concerns surrounding COVID-19. That means the Cardinals’ alternate season will now run from March 8-May 3.

Pertzborn, who has played and coached football every fall for the past four decades, still finds it wild that he has his Friday nights free.

“Never in a million years if you told me this would happen would I have believed you,” he said. “I think we’ll all think differently going forward because we never thought this would be a reality.”

Schools across the state had to declare by Sept. 1 if they were going to play a traditional fall season or push fall sports to the spring.

Of the 377 schools in the state that play 11-man football, 256 are playing this fall — a whopping 67.9%. That means just 32.1% will compete this spring.

Middleton and the rest of the Big Eight Conference all opted for the spring season. So when the Cardinals released their schedule last week, there were no real surprises.

Middleton’s first game will be Friday, March 26 when it hosts Beloit Memorial. The Cardinals will play seven games in all — four at home and three away — and finish with a May 7 home contest against Madison East.

All games will be on Friday nights, except for an April 1 game at Madison La Follette. That contest will be on a Thursday, one day before Good Friday.

With Janesville Craig and Janesville Parker moving to the Badger Conference for football, the seven-game schedule allowed Middleton to play entirely league foes.

“There were no surprises, really,” Pertzborn said. “Our conference worked hand in hand and kind of all stayed together. Beloit (which is in Rock County) has different restrictions than us, but they stayed with the conference and will play in the spring, too.”

Pertzborn knows a spring season will be littered with challenges.

In a typical Wisconsin winter, there is still snow on the ground in early March, which is when the Cardinals’ football season now begins. March and April often include frigid temperatures, sleet, rain and everything else imaginable.

So, trying to navigate a season through nasty weather could be tough.

Athletes might also have to make some tough choices when it comes picking sports.

The alternate football season will have three weeks of overlap with spring sports baseball, track and field, and golf. Many athletes that would have played football, as well as a spring sport in a normal calendar year, might now elect to play one or the other.

“It’s all really crazy,” Pertzborn said.

Pertzborn is also trying to get a better handle on when he can have contact with his team.

The WIAA gave coaches 15 contact days last week. That number is largely irrelevant, though, as Middleton High School isn't allowing students or athletes in the building right now.

“Trying to plan things has been the most difficult thing in the world,” Pertzborn said. “It just feels like it’s pointless. I want to get ahead, but it’s impossible, really.

“This whole thing has become a political football and decisions aren’t being made together. They’re not being made properly.”

When MHS first announced it wouldn’t play football this fall, it was rumored that several students might transfer in search of that opportunity. Pertzborn said, though, that none of his players transferred.

“I think giving them the spring option took care of that,” Pertzborn said.

As teams across the state kick things off this weekend, Pertzborn is hoping games go off without a hitch. He would love it if teams playing this fall provided a blueprint for teams playing in the spring.

Still, come Friday night — when pads start cracking and teams begin celebrating — Pertzborn admits it will be tough.

“It’ll be weird,” he said. “It’s just really crazy to think about.”

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