MHS hopes to get over the hump

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Tim Simon (center) has led Middleton to six Big Eight Conference titles in 12 years, but is just 8-12 in the postseason./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Middleton’s football program has largely been a pillar of excellence — both on and off the field — under Tim Simon for the past 12 years.

For the first time this offseason, though, Simon put together a handbook for his players that includes a mission statement, football specific goals and an overall philosophy.

There were six football goals, and most years, Middleton has aced the first five. They include competing for a Big Eight championship and ranking among the premier football programs in Wisconsin.
It’s the sixth and final goal that has given Simon and the Cardinals fits.

That reads: “Compete year in and year out to win the state championship.”

“We have a goal every year of winning a gold ball and playing in Camp Randall,” Simon said. “But we need to be more consistent in the playoffs than we have been.”

The Cardinals have done several great things under Simon.

Middleton has won, or shared, six Big Eight Conference titles — including the last two. The Cardinals have compiled an 82-21 record in the regular season, a sensational .796 winning percentage.

It’s the postseason where things have gone south.

Middleton is just 8-12 under Simon in the playoffs (.400) and has lost in the first round seven times. The Cardinals reached the state semifinals in 2008 and the state quarterfinals in 2010. Otherwise, they haven’t escaped the second round.

Last year, the Cardinals rolled through the Big Eight Conference again. In the playoffs, though, Middleton fell to Sun Prairie, a team it had thrashed, 45-13, in the regular season.

As the 2016 season kicks off, one of Middleton’s top priorities is erasing recent playoff disappointments.

“For whatever reason, we’ve had a hard time getting past our first game in the playoffs,” longtime defensive coordinator Tom Cabalka said. “And we’ve got to change that. We’ve got to get better.”

Perhaps the 2016 group is just the one to do it.

Middleton’s offensive line, led by Kayden Lyles — the state’s No. 1 ranked senior — should be sensational. Quarterback C.J. Fermanich is a dynamic player capable of destroying defenses with his arm or feet.

Wideout Myron Ashford is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. A bevy of speedy running backs should feast behind the gifted offensive line.

Defensively, Middleton’s linebackers — led by Joe Ludwig and Caleb Cymbalak — could rank among the best trios that Cabalka has had. There are gifted players ready to make their mark up front, while a revamped secondary could be a work in progress.

Overall, Simon does a terrific job overseeing the program. Cabalka has been one of the state’s most highly-respected defensive coordinators for years now, while offensive coordinator Jason Pertzborn is becoming a master of his craft.

The rest of the staff includes steady veterans such as Rick Vander Sanden, Ryan Oliversen, Joe Poehls and Dan Drangstveit, along with talented youngsters such as Seth Coyne, Max Peternell and Drew Graf.

“I think one reason we’ve had success is we don’t get a lot of turnover in the staff that maybe some other schools do,” Simon said. “It’s a great staff, and a lot of these guys have been here since I got the job (in 2004).”

When it comes to Middleton’s program, most teams would love to trade places.

The Cardinals win. They display terrific sportsmanship. They help develop high-character individuals that become extremely successful when they leave MHS.

But Simon admits that’s not quite enough.

No. 6 in the handbook — the passage about winning a state championship — drives everyone in this program. And Middleton would love nothing better than to make that happen in 2016.

“Our goals are always high, and the goal right now is to win state,” said Ludwig, the Big Eight’s Defensive Back of the Year in 2015 who’s moving to linebacker this fall. “Why not set the bar high?

“Winning the conference is always a goal and we start there. But we want to take it to the next step. That would be great.”

Let the games begin!

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