Middleton rolls past Beloit Memorial

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Middleton running back Elijah Gray (left) is swarmed by teammates after a touchdown run Friday night./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

They had waited nearly 17 months for this moment.

When it finally arrived, Middleton’s football team was filled with passion, fury and hunger.

And Beloit Memorial paid the price.

In its alternate-fall season opener on March 26, Middleton’s defense and special teams dominated. The offense also played well after a slow start and the host Cardinals rolled to a 38-0 win.

“It felt great. It was amazing,” said senior safety Josh Stormer, who had a touchdown on offense and another on special teams. “We haven't played in so long. It felt great being back with the team. It was awesome.”

Running back Elijah Gray, who had a rushing touchdown and a kick return score, agreed with Stormer.

“It was just great to be back,” Gray said. “I felt we played a good game, especially because it was our first game in over a year.

“But there’s a lot of things we have to clean up, especially going into next week against Verona. So we’ve just got to stay focused, stay hungry and I think we’ll be good for the rest of the year.”

In this historic season that saw the Cardinals begin play when there’s often snow on the ground, they were gifted a terrific night for football. The kickoff temperature at Otto Breitenbach Stadium was a manageable 45 degrees, the winds were light and rain stayed away.

“I told the kids before the game, it doesn’t feel like March. It feels like October,” Middleton coach Jason Pertzborn said. “I said, when I was watching you guys warm up on the field, I didn’t know what day it was. I didn’t know what time it was. I just knew it was football season. It felt normal.”

This also had the feel of a normal Middleton-Beloit Memorial game. The Cardinals haven't lost to the Purple Knights this century and won the last 10 meetings by an average score of 43.8-6.7.

Less than three minutes into this game, Middleton led 22-0 and there was a running clock by the start of the third quarter.

“We knew we were going to have a lot of questions to answer,” Pertzborn said. “And I think we probably did that.”

Tim Simon, who was Middleton’s head coach from 2004-’18, now runs the special teams. And Middleton’s units were certainly special against the Purple Knights.

It took the Cardinals just 15 seconds to get on the scoreboard. Gray fielded the opening kickoff at his 6-yard line, Middleton formed a five-man wall on the right side, and at the 15-yard line Gray shot through the pack.

By the time Gray hit the 30, he was in front of everybody. Five Purple Knights chased from behind, but the speedy Gray left them all in his wake and raced to a 94-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Middleton lead.

“In practice, we always work hard on our returns,” Gray said. “And I just had a lot of faith in the guys up front, trusted my blocks, trusted my abilities and was able to make a play.”

Beloit fumbled on its first offensive play and Middleton outside linebacker Blake Van Buren recovered. Two plays later, Gray followed terrific blocking from center Taylor Simmons and guard Kevin Spahn and shot up the middle for an 18-yard touchdown.

After Beloit was offsides on the extra point, Cardinals quarterback Sawyer Pertzborn hit wideout Nolan Franzen for a two-point conversion to make it 15-0 just 36 seconds into the game.

“I just trusted my guys up front, made a good cut and just had to finish hard,” Gray said of his scoring run. “The guy had my leg around the 3- (yard line) and I just had to finish.”

Beloit went three-and-out on its next possession, then Stormer returned the ensuing punt 62 yards to make it 22-0.

Stormer fielded the ball on the right hash and took off down the right sideline. Stormer made two Purple Knights miss at the Beloit 35, got a key block from Bryce Hensen and waltzed into the endzone.

“He’s dangerous. You saw that tonight,” Pertzborn said of Stormer. “He’s one of the fastest kids on the field.

“And our special teams were huge. Even the ones we didn't score on, when you watch it on film it will be something to be concerned about. It’s a great asset to have. It’s a dangerous weapon and you have to take advantage of it.”

Middleton’s offense went consecutive series without a first down, then finally got things going midway through the second quarter.

After a 12-yard Beloit punt, the Cardinals started at the Purple Knights’ 28. Pertzborn and junior wideout Cole Toennies hooked up for 11 yards on a fourth-and-1, then three plays later, senior running back Parker Winkler plowed in from 1-yard out to give the Cardinals a 28-0 lead.

On Middleton’s next possession, it had a second-and-10 from Beloit’s 42. The Cardinals lined up in an I-formation with wideouts flanked to each side.

Stormer came in motion right to left and caught a pass from Pertzborn two yards behind the line of scrimmage. Stormer made a man miss at the line of scrimmage and slipped another tackle at the Beloit 33.

Stormer raced for the left sideline, where Beloit’s Jacob Raisbeck cut him off at the 10. But Stormer made a beautiful cut back to the middle of the field, left Raisbeck on the ground and finished off a sensational 42-yard touchdown reception.

“We’ve been repping that in practice and I was feeling good on it,” Stormer said. “So coach puts me in and just do my thing.”

Added Pertzborn: “We designed that play for him. We’ve been practicing that. He knew that’s what we were running when he came in and it worked out well.”

With a running clock, the second half took just 33 minutes in real time. And Sawyer Pertzborn drilled a 30-yard field goal late in regulation to account for the final score.

Afterwards, the Cardinals were awfully happy with their first performance since Nov. 1, 2019.

The defense allowed just 63 total yards and five first downs. Beloit was held to minus-7 rushing yards. And Middleton’s reserves played the majority of the second half and more than held their own.

“I had so much fun tonight,” Stormer said. “I was concerned we weren’t going to have a season this year, but I’m so glad we are.”

• On deck: Middleton is at Verona Thursday at 7 p.m.

The Wildcats dropped their season-opener, 17-0, to Sun Prairie.

“Now our feet are wet,” Jason Pertzborn said. “We know what it’s like. We’ve been in the battle, so now we know what it’s like and we just have to get better. Get better.”

 

MIDDLETON 38, BELOIT MEMORIAL 0

Beloit Memorial ………….. 0 0 0 0 — 0

Middleton ………………. 22 13 0 3 — 35

M: Gray 95 kickoff return (Pertzborn kick), 11:45

M: Gray 18 run (Toennies run), 11:24

M: Stormer 62 punt return (Pertzborn kick) , 9:13

M: Winkler 1 run (kick failed), 7:17

M: Stormer 14 pass from Pertzborn (kick failed), 3:19

M: Pertzborn 30 field goal, 6:26.

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs — BM 5, Mid 2. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — BM 29-(-7), Mid 25-85. Passing yards — BM 70, Mid 68. Passing (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — BM 5-7-0, Mid 3-9-1. Penalties-yards — BM 8-46, M 4-40. Fumbles-lost — BM 1-1, M 0-0.

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

Rushing (Att.-Yds) — BM: Reisbeck 11-18; Mid: Gray 5-28. Passing (Att.-Comp.-Int.-Yds): — BM: Oberneder 7-5-70; Mid: Pertzborn 8-3-68. Receiving (Att.-Yds) — BM: Kilgore 1-35; Mid: Stormer 1-42.

 

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