Football Cardinals aiming for repeat

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Tim Simon and Middleton's football team are the defending Big Eight Conference champions. The Cardinals begin their season Friday at Janesville Parker./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Twelve months ago, they were ignored, overlooked, and many believed disrespected.

Today, it’s exactly the opposite.

Middleton’s football team — which begins the year Friday at Janesville Parker at 7 p.m. — has been picked to win the Big Eight Conference. And Cardinals head coach Tim Simon, who’s beginning his 12th season, is just fine being the hunted instead of the hunter.

“Things are a little bit different when you’re the team everyone is gunning for,” said Simon, who led the 2014 Cardinals to the Big Eight Conference championship. “But our kids are aware of the tradition here, what it takes to be successful.”

Middleton has certainly been successful during Simon’s tenure.

The Cardinals have reached the postseason each of Simon’s 11 seasons. In all, Middleton has reached the playoffs 19 straight years, which is tied for the longest streak in Division 1.

Simon has guided Middleton to five Big Eight Conference titles, including two undisputed crowns. And last year’s Cardinals went 8-1 in the league and 9-2 overall, eventually losing in the second round of the playoffs to Fond du Lac.

Simon, who runs the offense in conjunction with coordinator Jason Pertzborn, should have a high-powered group in 2015. Middleton averaged 33.5 points per game last season, and could have the pieces to field another explosive unit.

“I think we all know what’s expected and we saw the success the offense had last year,” said senior Brennan Schmitt, who won the starting quarterback job. “We want to bring that knowledge and try to lead by example.”

The show-stopper is undoubtedly senior running back Cam Maly. Last season, Maly ran for 1,143 yards, 19 touchdowns and averaged 5.7 yards per carry.

Maly (5-9, 182) has added nearly 20 pounds of muscle, is as quick as a hiccup, and could be poised for a huge season.

“He’s so fast and he’s so quick,” Simon said of Maly. “He doesn't need much room. It’s one cut and go.”

Senior wideout Mitchell Bacon is another player who could be ready for a huge senior season. Bacon caught 27 passes for 404 yards and four touchdowns last year and was named second-team all-Big Eight.

“He’s explosive and a really athletic kid,” Simon said of Bacon. “If anyone’s watched him in basketball you’ve seen that. So we’re hoping for big things from him.”

Senior left guard Ka'Juan Redus is the third returning starter who earned all-conference honors. Redus (5-7, 215), who was a first-team all-Big Eight selection, dominates opponents with speed, technique and strength.

The rest of the line will be small and quick, as well.

Senior William Braxton (5-7, 195) returns at center, while Kamon Ennis (6-0, 262) will play left tackle. Senior Jake Hollfelder (5-9, 187) will play right guard, while junior Seth Craker (6-4, 217) will start at right tackle.

In all, Middleton’s starting offensive line averages 5-foot-10 and 215 pounds.

“We’re not going to be as big as we have been,” Simon said. “But we’ve got some kids up there who can move.”

Middleton ran about 65% of its plays from the shotgun a year ago, and Simon believes that number will be similar this fall.

Schmitt threw just two passes a year ago. But he impressed the coaches throughout fall camp with his passing accuracy and improved arm strength.

“I worked hard in the weight room and threw a lot with our wide receivers,” Schmitt said. “Hopefully it’s going to pay off now.”

Seniors Brandon Munoz and David Vande Sande will line up at split end, opposite Bacon. Middleton’s tight end tandem of seniors Mitchell Andrews and Cody Markel also have immense potential.

“The thing I like about our tight ends is they can really run,” Simon said.

Senior Travis Raffel and junior Noah Helbach will be the primary fullbacks. And juniors Trevaun Turner and Austin Delaney both figure to see time running the ball behind Maly.

“We know that every team wants to beat Middleton and we’ll have a target on our backs,” Schmitt said. “But we have high expectations, too.

“I know we lost a lot of great players from last year, but there’s a lot of talented guys still here. We can’t wait to get going.”

• Captain, my captain: Middleton’s seven captains are all seniors. They are linebacker Garrett Graf, wideout Mitch Bacon, defensive end/tight end Cody Markel, linebacker/fullback Travis Raffel, center William Braxton, nose tackle/left guard Ka'Juan Redus and quarterback Brennan Schmitt.

• Ready to roll: Janesville Parker, Middleton’s Week 1 opponent, went 3-6 last season. But Simon believes the 2015 Vikings will be much improved.

“They had a lot of underclassman play last year, so they should be very good,” Simon said. “They looked very good in their scrimmage last Friday.

“They’ve got some big boys up front and a lot of speed on the offensive and defensive perimeter and a very fast tailback. Very good team.”

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