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Disappointing 2012 motivates football Cards

Middleton’s 2013 training camp was just four days old.

The Cardinals had held only a handful of practices and were just getting rolling with their new season.

But before Middleton could move ahead, it opted to look back.

During the Cardinals’ training camp at Glacier Creek Middle School in Cross Plains last week, Middleton took a trip down memory lane. And it wasn’t a pleasant one.

Middleton’s coaching staff popped in a tape of its 44-9 playoff loss to Sussex Hamilton. The reason?

“That game is still a thorn in our side,” Middleton defensive coordinator Tom Cabalka said. “And we want to use that game as a tool to get better.

“That game still bugs you because it was Game 9 and we made mistakes you’d hope to get out of your system in Game 1 or Game 2. Things just snowballed that night, and instead of playing as a team, our kids played as individuals.”

Nothing about the Cardinals’ playoff loss was pretty that night.

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Bellissimo returns to girls tennis team

She’s baaaack.

And that’s terrific news for Middleton’s girls tennis program.

Bridget Bellissimo, a senior-to-be at MHS, is returning to the program after playing on the USTA circuit as a junior. Bellissimo’s return figures to make Middleton one of the favorites to win the state title this fall.

“I decided to return to high school tennis because since I've become closer to my college decision, I can relax and enjoy my senior year with the best team anyone could ask for,” Bellissimo said last week. “I've missed playing with my team a lot, and I can't wait to get out on the Middleton courts again, cheering my teammates on. You could say I've missed the whole team aspect, because I'm used to traveling to tournaments with no team to cheer me on.”

Bellissimo was one of the state’s brightest stars her freshman and sophomore years.

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Great expectations for Middleton golfers

Jeff Kenas has seen this movie before. And in the eyes of Middleton’s girls coach, it was a box office smash.

Now, Kenas is hoping the sequel is as thrilling as the original.

Back in 2008, Kenas fielded a tremendously young varsity lineup of four sophomores and a junior. That group grew up spectacularly well, won a WIAA Division 1 state title in 2009 and finished third in 2010.

Kenas went back to a youth-filled lineup in 2011 that included four sophomores. And now that group has matured and seems poised for a grand sendoff.

Middleton begins its season Friday at the Madison Edgewood Invite at Yahara Hills. And the Cardinals will do so with great expectations.

Middleton finished in sixth place at last year’s state tournament. And with its Fab Five all returning, the Cardinals could be poised for another sensational season.

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Ten reasons to get excited about Middleton football

Middleton’s football team went a highly unsatisfying 5-4 a year ago.

Although the Cardinals reached the postseason for a 17th straight year — and made it a perfect nine-for-nine under head coach Tim Simon — no one was thrilled with the year.

Middleton dropped four of its final five games, and was routed by Sussex Hamilton, 44-9, in the first round of the playoffs.

As the 2013 campaign dawned last week, there were many reasons to believe Middleton is in for a huge turnaround this fall.

“We can’t wait to get going,” Simon said. “Everyone around here has been so excited for a long time.”

The Cardinals open their new season Aug. 23 when they host Madison Memorial. Here are 10 reasons to believe Middleton can make a run at its first Big Eight title since 2010.


1. Motivation

Middleton is used to winning — or at least challenging — for conference titles.

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Three Middleton golfers honored


It was a transition year, of sorts, for Middleton’s boys golf team.

Several standouts were lost to graduation. There were more holes to fill than usual.

In the end, though, the Cardinals had several players step up and eventually earn postseason awards.

Middleton senior Mike Wiebe was named first-team all-Big Eight Conference. Junior Josh Haunty was named second-team all-league and freshman Emmett Herb was named honorable-mention all-conference.

Madison Memorial’s Peter Webb was named the conference’s player of the year. Verona’s Tyler Reinecke and Caleb Baltes, along with Madison Memorial’s John Springer were also named first-team all-league.

All-conference teams were determined by totaling a players’ top three conference scores, three at-large scores and the Big Eight Conference meet.

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Middleton's HTL team tied for league lead

ASHTON – Josh Hinson has earned a reputation as an elite power hitter during his Home Talent League career.

But the Middleton outfielder — who annually ranks among the league’s home run leaders — knows when taking a tip from a teammate can come in handy, too.

Hinson blasted his sixth home run of the season to help stake Middleton to a quick three-run lead en route to a 21-5 rout of Ashton in a Northern Section East Division game on Fan Appreciation Day on Sunday.

The victory moved Middleton (11-4) into a tie for first place with Black Earth (11-4), which lost to Cross Plains, 7-6. Ashton dropped into third place a half-game back at 10-4.

“I don’t want to say he was struggling, but Josh had been hitting some weak fly balls to right field,” Middleton manager Brandon Hellenbrand said. “So I asked Kevin Dubler to have a talk with him before the game. Kevin is the one player on the team who everybody will listen to because he’s been playing so well.”

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Middleton wins All-Big Eight Sports Award


It happens three times every year.

After the fall, winter and spring sports seasons end, several coaches at Middleton High School gather. Then they try to do the math and figure out where they stand in the race for the All-Big Eight Conference Sports Award.

“I know for many of the MHS coaches it means a lot,” Middleton football coach Tim Simon said. “It is something many of the coaches talk about often.”

More often than not, those are extremely happy talks. And this year was no different.

Middleton continued to set the gold standard in the Big Eight and won the All-Sports Award for the 17th time in its 19 years in the league. The Cardinals were second the other two times.

Schools are given one point if they finish first in a sport, two for second, etc., meaning low scores are desired.

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Middleton's HTL team wins twice


Must win games in the Home Talent League are still a couple of weeks away when the playoffs begin.

But that’s not how Middleton manager Brandon Hellenbrand approached Sunday’s game with Waunakee.

“I really felt that this was a must win game for us,” Hellenbrand said.

Fortunately for Hellenbrand and his team, they delivered.

Middleton scored a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the ninth and rallied past Waunakee, 4-3.

Middleton also hammered Richland Center, 14-4, last Friday and improved to 10-4 in the Northern Section’s East Division. Black Earth lost to Ashton Sunday, but the Bombers still lead the division at 10-3.

“I was happy with the way we swung the bat,” Hellenbrand said. “Some days you just have to keep battling and sticking with it and the big hit will happen.”

Middleton’s big hits came in the ninth.

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Middleton's best of the best

Several state tournament appearances — again.

Numerous conference championships.

Remarkable consistency throughout the athletic department.

It was another sensational year for the sports teams at Middleton High School, where the Cardinals remarkably seem to raise the bar every year.

Of course, some achievements rank as the best of the best. Here’s one person’s opinion of that list:


Girls team of the year: Golf

One year after struggling through a miserable season, Middleton’s girls golf team played with both passion and precision. The Cardinals won the Big Eight Conference dual meet championship, then won regional and sectional titles for the first time in head coach Jeff Kenas’ six years.

The Cardinals capped that with a solid showing at the WIAA Division 1 state meet and finished sixth overall.

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Sauk tops Middleton

It was ugly at the start. And it didn’t get any better by the end.

Middleton’s Home Talent League team was routed by host Sauk Prairie, 10-3, on Sunday. Middleton fell to 8-4 in the Northern Section’s East Division and now sits two games behind league-leading Black Earth.

“I feel that we played a lot better than the 10-3 score showed,” Middleton manager Brandon Hellenbrand said. “Sauk did an excellent job of putting the ball in play and making things happen.”

Sauk pounded out 20 hits against Middleton starter Drew Farrell and reliever Jeff Schafer.

Farrell threw five innings, allowed six runs. Schafer allowed four runs over the final three frames.

“Farrell threw well today, it just seemed like everything that hit their bat found a hole,” Hellenbrand said. “They really didn’t hit him all that hard, they just found the right holes.  The same thing with happened with Schafer.”


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