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Cabalka calls it a career

Tom Cabalka’s path to becoming a coaching legend was highly unorthodox.

And it’s certainly not recommended at home.

In the fall of 1971, Cabalka was a junior tight end at the University of Iowa and was off to a terrific start. In just the fourth week of the season, though, Cabalka suffered a broken neck.

Cabalka missed the rest of the 1971 season, then redshirted in 1972 when he also helped the Iowa coaches. It was then that the 21-year-old Cabalka could see his future.

“Even though I couldn’t play, I had a lot of fun coaching that year,” said Cabalka, who returned to the field in 1973 and regained his starting tight end job. “That’s kind of when I knew my future was going to be coaching at the college level or to get teaching job and coach high school football.”

Luckily for the folks at Middleton High School, it was option No. 2.

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Middleton's boys edge Sun Prairie

Free throws, free throws, and more free throws.

When Middleton’s boys basketball team met Sun Prairie last Friday night, free throw attempts were abundant as the teams combined to shoot 68.

Middleton came out victorious in the free throw battle, though, and survived a last-second shot attempt by visiting Sun Prairie in the back-and-forth affair to notch an important 62-60 win.

Middleton won its sixth straight game and improved to 8-3 overall, 5-3 in the Big Eight Conference. The win also moved Middleton ahead of Sun Prairie (4-4, 6-4) for sole possession of fourth place in the Big Eight.

“We told our guys before the game we had won five in a row, but it was against competition that we knew we could play against,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said. “But going up against Sun Prairie it was ‘are we good enough?’ and ‘can we stop all of their firepower?’

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Middleton girls suffer tough loss

Hannah Flottmeyer issued the challenge.

Now, we’ll see what Middleton’s girls basketball team does with it.

Flottmeyer, the Cardinals’ senior center, was brilliant last Saturday with 21 points against visiting Sun Prairie. But turnovers and countless missed opportunities doomed Middleton, and Sun Prairie escaped with a 48-43 win in a Big Eight Conference showdown.

Afterwards, Flottmeyer realized Middleton had hit a critical point in its season. Now, where the Cardinals go from here is entirely up to them.

“This loss stinks and I kind of think right now we’re at a crossroads,” Flottmeyer said. “Are we going to take this and learn from it and improve from it and see what we need to get better at and excel in that way? Or are we just going to keep doing this and have a mediocre season?

“Truthfully as a senior, I’m not trying to go out with a mediocre season. So we need to pick it up at practice, challenge each other and finish strong.”

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Middleton's top-10 sports stories of 2018


It was another great year for the sports teams at Middleton High School.

There were conference championships, state tournament appearances and coaching changes.

Here’s my ranking of the top-10 stories of the year.


1. Three times the fun

Not many programs could survive the disqualification of an elite relay teams.

Then again, not many programs are like the girls swimming and diving team at Middleton High School.

The Cardinals competed at the WIAA Division 1 state meet without their 400-yard freestyle relay team, which was disqualified at sectionals due to a false start.

No worries.

Middleton finished with 249.50 points – 61.5 points ahead of second-place Cedarburg (188) and brought home its third straight state championships. Sun Prairie finished third with 170 points and Verona /Mount Horeb took fourth with 169 points.

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Middleton's girls hammer Verona

Jeff Kind doesn’t need to go into Tony Robbins-mode when Verona comes to town.

Kind, Middleton’s girls basketball coach, simply needs to point at the schedule.

“With Verona, we don’t have to sell anything,” Kind said. “It’s just one of those games. The kids know it’s a big game.”

And on Dec. 20, Middleton gave a big-time performance.

The Cardinals got 16 points and 12 rebounds from senior post Hannah Flottmeyer and junior forward Sitori Tanin had 14 of her 18 points in the second half as Middleton drilled Verona, 65-49. Senior guard Charlotte Dunn added 10 points and did a masterful job getting the Cardinals into their offense, while junior forward Karina Bursac added nine points and eight rebounds.

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Hellenbrand, Thomas power Cards

Casey Hellenbrand has waited a long time for his chance to shine.

The same goes for Chandon Thomas.

Middleton’s duo both erupted on Dec. 18 and powered the Cardinals to a 67-54 win over visiting Janesville Craig.

Thomas, a senior guard who’s been in and out of the starting lineup all season, led Middleton with 15 points. Hellenbrand, a reserve senior guard, added a career-high 13 points.

Hellenbrand added five rebounds and two steals, while Thomas had four rebounds and two steals.

The Cardinals improved to 5-3 overall and 4-3 in league play, while Craig fell to 4-3, 3-3.

“Chandon is all out, all the time,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said. “He can get out of control at times, so we do have to reel him in a bit, but he’s starting to get better at picking and choosing when is a good time to gamble and when is a good time to just play sound.

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Middleton girls KO Madison Memorial

Evie Coleman wasn’t about to let a mangled pinkie finger stop her.

Coleman dislocated the finger during the volleyball season and has been playing with the injury during the girls’ basketball season. In a Big Eight Conference showdown against visiting Madison Memorial last Thursday, Coleman banged the finger several times before and during the game and was asked by the trainer if she just wanted to stay on the bench.

That was an easy answer for Coleman.

“She told me at half that I could sit if I wanted or play and it was fine,” Coleman said. “It’s okay, I’ll just tape it.”

Fortunately for the Cardinals, Coleman stayed and played a huge role in Middleton’s 67-46 victory over the previously unbeaten Spartans. The junior guard scored 16 points while connecting on four 3-pointers and helped form a lethal inside-outside attack with post players Sitori Tanin, Hannah Flottmeyer and Karina Bursac.

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Boys basketball team takes their lumps

This was not the kind of week anyone envisioned.

And now, Middleton’s boys basketball team has a lot of work to do to get its season back on track.

The Cardinals fell to host Madison West, 79-78, in overtime last Tuesday. Madison Memorial then routed Middleton, 60-34, last Friday at MHS.

Middleton fell to 1-3 in the Big Eight Conference and is 2-3 overall.

“We’re five games in with mixed results,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said. “So we'll continue to work while looking at making some changes that fit our personnel to take advantage of many of the strengths that we have on both ends of the court that are starting to emerge in practices and games.”

Right now, though, finding those strengths — and taking advantage of them — has been a challenge.

Madison West was coming off a 4-20 season and many believe the Regents aren’t greatly improved. Middleton would likely disagree.

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MHS swimmers off to sensational start

Middleton and Madison West were the top two boys swimming teams in the state last year.
And early indications are this year will be much of the same.

Middleton continued its terrific start to the season last week by winning the Brookfield Central Invite on Tuesday and the Beloit Memorial triple dual on Friday.

The Cardinals then had an impressive showing at the Janesville Parker Invite last Saturday, finishing second to defending state champion Madison West.

“We have a great attitude this year, with some really solid leadership,” Middleton coach Danny Lynam said. “The guys are holding themselves with a confidence I haven't seen before and it is having a great impact on their racing. If we keep this going, I think we can have another really solid year.”

That was evident during another impressive week.

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Thomas leads MHS past Verona

VERONA — Chandon Thomas relishes his role on Middleton’s boys’ basketball team.

The 6-foot senior guard is a key reserve for the Cardinals, tasked with the responsibility of providing a spark off the bench any way he can.

“We told him we want him to create 10 points for everybody else by setting great player screens, by getting offensive rebounds and finding open cutters, by taking charges, all those things,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said.

“But we’ve always known that if he takes his time and is in the flow of things, we know he’s capable of scoring.”

You can add scoring to Thomas’ to-do list after he recorded a game-high and career-best 18 points, including 3 of 4 free throws in the final minute, as Middleton held on for a thrilling 57-51 victory over host Verona in a Big Eight Conference game last Saturday night.


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