Football Cards put 17 on all-Big 8 team

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MTT News Desk's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton senior running back Charles Braxton (2) was named first-team all-Big Eight./File photo

Tim Simon was borderline giddy.

And really, who could blame him.

Simon, Middleton’s football coach, recently learned that 17 of his Cardinals received some form of all-Big Eight Conference recognition. And after a year in which Middleton went 7-2 in the league and tied for second place, Simon knew that his team was extremely well represented.

Only league champion Sun Prairie (22) had more all-conference picks than Middleton.

“Overall, I’m very pleased,” Simon said. “To get 17 on there is really good.”

Middleton senior offensive linemen Hayden Acker and Jack Mayers, senior running back Charles Braxton, senior defensive end Derek Rogeberg, senior linebackers Matt Hong and Elliot Tanin, and senior cornerback Luke Schafer were all named first-team all-conference.

The Cardinals’ second-teamers included senior wideout Derek Rongstad, junior tight end Mitchell Herl, junior defensive lineman Chase Jollie and senior safety Max Oelerich. Rongstad was also named second-team at kicker.

Middleton’s honorable mention all-conference players were senior quarterback Kasey Miller, senior wideout Demond Hill, senior offensive lineman Lon Yeary, junior offensive lineman Derek Ramsey and junior defensive tackle Nikko Miller.

Acker and Mayers were two major reasons Middleton averaged 190.8 rushing yards per game and 6.0 yards per carry.

Acker benefitted greatly from Middleton’s offseason conditioning program. And after working as the Cardinals’ No. 6 offensive lineman in 2012, Acker became a force at right tackle this fall.

“He met all of our expectations and was very consistent,” Simon said of Acker. “He spent a lot of time last winter reconstructing his workout … and at first he wasn’t sold. But in less than three weeks, we started seeing the difference.”

Mayers added 20 pounds of muscle between his junior and senior seasons, and played left tackle this fall at a sturdy 240.

“He’s a kid who put the time in the weight room and reaped the benefits,” Simon said. “He was a real pleasant surprise. He has a long frame and long arms, and when he’s locked on you, forget about it.”

Braxton played very little as a junior, but he erupted with a huge senior season. Braxton ran for 1,275 yards, 13 touchdowns and averaged 5.8 yards per carry.

“We knew he was gifted,” Simon said. “But with Charles, it was a matter of being “all in.” But he bought in and he was “all in” and he had a great season.”

Rogeberg led Middleton with eight sacks and nine tackles for loss, and was third on the team with 64 tackles. Rogeberg was also named honorable-mention all-state.

“He has really good speed off the edge, long arms and quickness,” Simon said of Rogeberg. “Pass rush was his calling card and teams had to look out for No. 11.”

Hong missed most of his junior season with a broken foot. But he rebounded with a terrific senior year in which he led Middleton with 97 tackles, was second with eight tackles for loss and second with 2.5 sacks.

“He was a downhill player who loved contact,” Simon said of Hong. “There were probably some growing pains that first game against (Madison) Memorial. But he shook off the rust pretty quick and had a great year.”

Tanin was one of Middleton’s leaders, and made most of the defensive calls. He also had a sensational season and finished second in tackles (89) and third in tackles for loss (seven).

“He’s a great athlete and a student of the game,” Simon said of Tanin. “In the classroom, he gets it. He knows how to organize a front seven. And he could really run sideline to sideline. Great year.”

Schafer was Middleton’s quarterback in 2012, and platooned with Miller at the outset of 2013. But when the Cardinals were hit with injuries in their defensive backfield, Schafer moved to cornerback.

Schafer took to his new position rather quickly, and the coaches in the league took notice. In six games at cornerback, Schafer had eight passes defensed.

“What can you say about Luke Schafer?” Simon exclaimed. “His heart was at quarterback, but he said, ‘I’ll do what’s best for the team.’ And that’s what a leader and a captain does.

“He sacrificed his first love and that helped us to be a second place team in the conference. And the coaches respected how good of an athlete Luke is.”

Rongstad led Middleton in receiving yards (518) and receiving touchdowns (eight) and finished second on the team with 27 catches. The 6-foot-5 Rongstad used his size to his advantage on shorter routes and jump balls. But Rongstad, who will play basketball at UW-Milwaukee next year, also had deceptive speed and could run away from defenders.

As a kicker, Rongstad went 33-of-34 on extra points and made all four of his field goal attempts.

“His first love is basketball,” Simon said of Rongstad. “But he gave everything he had to football. And I’m sure his experiences on the football field are going to make him a better basketball player.”

Herl, a converted wide receiver, had a big year at tight end. Herl finished third on the Cardinals in receptions (23), receiving yards (323) and receiving touchdowns (three).

“His speed and receiving ability at tight end are outstanding,” Simon said. “And he started to pick up the run blocking part of the position, too. He was much improved as the year went on.”

Jollie finished the year fifth in total tackles (49), fourth in tackles for loss (five) and had 1.5 sacks.

“We knew Chase could play and he could be really good if he stayed within the scheme,” Simon said. “Defensive tackle isn't a glorious position, but Chase really bought in. He’s just a fighter. He has some grit in his teeth.”

The 6-foot-3 Oelerich was a wide receiver as a junior, but moved to safety this season. The move was seamless, as Oelerich finished fourth on the team in tackles (61), had one forced fumble and an interception.

“We talked with Max last winter about playing defense,” Simon said. “And he picked up the free safety position right away. He was another kid that had a great year for us.”

Simon insisted that Yeary was the best center in the conference. But the Big Eight doesn’t pick its all-conference offensive linemen by position. Instead, they just select the best linemen.

“Lon’s a wrestler and he uses his hands and feet so well,” Simon said. “Shotgun snaps, under snaps. We knew if Lon could handle center, the offensive line could be very good … and that’s exactly what happened.”

Ramsey had a terrific year at right guard, and should be poised for bigger and better things as a senior.

“Derek’s a kid who’s kind of like Chase Jollie,” Simon said. “He just fights you all the time. He’s so gritty … and when he gets underneath you, it’s over.”

Miller took over the quarterbacking position early in the season and enjoyed a solid year. Miller completed 59.1% of his throws, threw for 1,442 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions.

“We knew Kasey could throw the ball,” Simon said. “We worked on his mobility and that certainly improved.

“And as the year went on, he got to know his receivers and their routes a lot better and that helped make him a better player, too.”

Hill had a terrific season and led Middleton with 33 receptions. He also finished second in yards (407) and second in touchdown catches (four).

“Demond had a great year,” Simon said. “He’s an explosive kid and he could go over the top on you. I know he put a scare into some teams.”

Miller was another inside force who helped anchor the defense. Next season, he and Jollie should form one of the top defensive tackle duos in the league.

“He’s just a fighter and such a tough, hard nosed kid,” Simon said of Miller. “He was really consistent all season … and just a pleasant surprise.”

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