Middleton outlasts Sun Prairie in 4 OTs

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Middleton football coach Tim Simon and his Cardinals earned a hard fought, 37-31, win over Sun Prairie in four overtimes last Friday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

The Middleton and Sun Prairie football programs have a long and storied history of memorable games.

Ryan Oliversen made the play of the 1990s inside Middleton football when he hauled in a fourth down, game-winning touchdown catch against Sun Prairie in the 1999 playoffs.

Sun Prairie came to Middleton in the postseason a year ago as a substantial underdog, then proceeded to post a stunning upset.

And these two programs, which have largely dominated the Big Eight Conference over the past two decades, had gone 12-12 against each other in their last 24 meetings.

But nothing in this battle of titans compared to what took place at Middleton High School’s Brietenbach Stadium last Friday.

Middleton rallied from three different deficits, got heroic efforts from a handful of players, and upended Sun Prairie, 37-31, in a four-overtime, 3 1/2 –hour marathon.

It was the longest game in the history of Middleton football.
“It was an incredible game,” said Middleton quarterback/cornerback C.J. Fermanich, who helped his team improve to 2-0 on the young season. “We’re all pretty tired.”

Senior wideout Myron Ashford, who caught eight passes for 116 yards and had a critical touchdown in the first overtime, agreed.

“That was really fun. Really fun,” Ashford said. “Hats off to Sun Prairie. They were really, really good. We just made one or two more plays.”

Middleton put the final stake in Sun Prairie when junior running back Dion Huff had a 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth overtime and MHS’ defense held.

Sun Prairie appeared to counter with a tying score when junior running back Draven Peeples ripped off a 20-yard touchdown run. But Sun Prairie was called for holding on that play, then flagged for another holding call two plays later.

That set up a fourth-and-14 for Sun Prairie from its own 29-yard line. Middleton rushed just three, but defensive end Nate Helbach — who was a force all night along with fellow end Max Elliott — pressured Sun Prairie quarterback Nathan Florek to throw incomplete.

Finally, after 133 plays, Middleton could exhale.

“I’ve never seen a four-overtime game,” Middleton coach Tim Simon said. “I’ve seen a triple overtime game, but not four.

“Sun Prairie is an excellent team. We feel fortunate to come out on top.”

With good reason, as there several moments in the overtimes where the outcome hung in the balance.

Sun Prairie scored on the first play of the first overtime when wideout Nate Verstegen beat Fermanich and Florek tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass for a 24-17 lead.

Middleton quickly faced a fourth-and-goal from the 10. With the game on the line, though, Fermanich answered with a perfect fade pass to the left corner of the endzone that Ashford went up and caught to tie the game, 24-24.

“It was a fade call and C.J. just said, ‘Myron, you make the play,’ ” said Ashford, who set career-highs in receptions and yards. “And I said, ‘C.J., let’s go. We’ve got this.’ ”

Middleton took a 31-24 lead in the second overtime when Huff had a 4-yard touchdown run behind what MHS calls its ‘Animal’ package. Middleton moves 270-pound left tackle Jarrett Horst to the right side to team with guard Kayden Lyles (6-3, 320) and tackle Seth Craker (6-4, 243).

That trio combines for 833 pounds of beef, and Huff followed the beefy threesome into the endzone to give Middleton momentary control.

“It’s man on man,” Simon said of the ‘Animal’ package. “You’re just pushing a blocking sled … and they’ve got everybody in the box. We’ve just got to try and get them blocked.”

Peeples answered with a 16-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 that tied the game, 31-31, and forced a third overtime.

Both teams failed to score in the third OT, then Middleton survived the fourth extra period.

Fermanich had a huge 2-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the 6-yard line to keep the game-winning drive alive. And one play later, Huff again plowed in off the right side as Middleton employed its ‘Animal’ package.

Middleton’s try for two points — something both teams are required to do after three overtimes — failed. But two holding penalties — and Helbach’s fourth down pressure — put an end to Sun Prairie’s night.

“We just never gave up,” Fermanich said. “There were a lot of times where it didn’t look great, but we kept fighting.”

That’s for sure.

Sun Prairie dominated the first half, outgaining Middleton, 180-73, and taking a 7-3 lead to the break.

“In the first half, we didn’t make a lot of plays,” Simon said.

Middleton got a lift from junior quarterback Davis Roquet, who replaced Fermanich early in the third quarter.

Late in the period, Roquet and Ashford hooked up for a 39-yard reception to the Sun Prairie 15. And five plays later, Huff scored the first of his three touchdown to give Middleton a 10-7 lead with 10:53 left in the game.

Sun Prairie answered, though, midway through the fourth when Roquet was sacked and lost a fumble on the Middleton 18-yard line. Three plays later, Florek and Verstegen hooked up on a 4-yard touchdown and Sun Prairie reclaimed a 14-10 lead with 5:32 left.

Fermanich then made one of the plays of the night when he returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown that gave Middleton a 17-14 lead.

“I wasn’t sure they’d kick it to me,” said Fermanich, an all-conference return man in 2015. “But I was glad they did. We needed a big play.”

Sun Prairie forced overtime when junior Alex Oakley drilled a 33-yard field goal with 59 seconds left. And that set the stage for the memorable dramatics that followed.

“We kept telling our guys, ‘Just keep fighting through, fighting through,’ ” Simon said. “They’re going to make their plays. They’re a good football team.

“We feel fortunate to come out on top. We got some things going in the second half and the overtimes and we played a lot better. But that was a battle.”

Perhaps the most memorable battle in this sensational rivalry. And one that will be talked about for years to come.

 

Aug. 26

Middleton 37, Sun Prairie 31 (4 OTs)

Sun Prairie ………… 7 0 0 10 7 7 0 0 — 31

Middleton …………. 3 0 0 14 7 7 0 6 — 37

M — FG Polecek 22

SP — Jenkins 56 pass from Florek (Oakley kick)

M — Huff 1 run (Polecek kick)

SP — Verstegen 4 pass from Florek (Oakley kick)

M — Fermanich 91 kickoff return (Polecek kick)

SP — FG Oakley 33

SP — Verstegen 25 pass from Florek (Oakley kick)

M — Ashford Jr. 10 pass from Fermanich (Polecek kick)

M — Huff 4 run (Polecek kick)

SP — Peeples 16 run (Oakley kick)

M — Huff 4 run (run failed)

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs — SP 10, M 13. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — SP 37-72, M 41-141. Passing yards — SP 268, M 189. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — SP 16-27-0, M 17-28-0. Fumbles-lost — SP 0-0, M 1-1.Penalties-yards — SP 6-50, M 7-55.

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

Rushing: SP, Taylor 23-50. M, Huff 28-99.

Passing: SP, Florek 13-20-0-210. M, Roquet 8-12-0-116.

Receiving: SP, Jenkins 4-92. M, Ashford Jr. 8-116.

 

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