Sun Prairie rolls past Middleton

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MTT News's picture
Gregg Hammill/For the Times-Tribune
Middleton's Colin Liegel (59) tackles Sun Prairie's Colin Fluno last Friday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

SUN PRAIRIE — Middleton's football team found out the hard way it has a lot to learn.

Loaded with talent, but sorely lacking in varsity experience, the Cardinals came up on the short end of a 34-6 Big Eight Conference game to Sun Prairie at Ashley Field last Friday night.

Middleton, which entered the season with nine new starters on defense and an entirely new starting offensive line, faced one of the league's more experienced teams in Sun Prairie with 12 returning starters.

“It was just one of those nights where it's tough and I think our inexperience showed tonight,” Middleton coach Tim Simon said. “That's not an excuse, but over half their team are returning starters, and for us, I think we had four or five returning starters and that showed. One team had a little bit more savvy out there than the other team.”

Middleton struggled to get anything going on offense against Sun Prairie's relentless defense led by seniors Marty Strey and Josh Dinga. Strey, a first-team all-state selection by the Wisconsin Coaches Association last year at defensive end, spent a good portion of the game in the Middleton backfield and also returned an interception for a touchdown. Sun Prairie intercepted quarterback Davis Roquet three times and limited Middleton to just 124 total yards, including just 24 yards rushing on 25 attempts.

“Their 33 stack is a good defense,” Simon said. “It's a defense that they're going to stuff you on plays and you've just got to find those ones that break away. We've been successful against Sun Prairie the last few years and that's usually what happens. You have to plug away, plug away, and rip off a 20-yarder, plug away, plug away, and rip off a 15-yarder. We just weren't able to do that.”

Middleton's longest play from scrimmage was a 15-yard completion from Roquet to senior tight end Luke Ballweg with the Cardinals trailing by 21 points late in the game.

“Offensively it was one of those interesting evenings where, when we had pass protection, we’d drop the balls or we misfired on throws,” Simon said. “When we had guys open we didn't have good pass protection.”

Defensively, Middleton held its own with the exception of a handful of big plays. Sun Prairie had 286 total yards, but 219 of those came on four plays.

“Our coaches always say it comes down to three, four or five plays and we've just got to capitalize and get off the field when we can,” Middleton senior wide receiver/defensive back Cole Ragsdale said.

Said Simon: “I thought we bottled them up really well. They're going to end up with whatever yardage they got, but a lot of it was on big plays. Good football teams like Sun Prairie are going to make some big plays and they did.”

Sun Prairie, ranked fourth in the state in the Associated Press Large Schools poll, improved to 2-0 overall and in the league, while Middleton, ranked seventh in the AP poll, dropped to 1-1 overall and in league.

“They're a good team,” Middleton senior defensive end Ryan Lewis said. “I knew they were going to be a good team going into the game and they proved they were and I'm ready to play them again in the playoffs. That's what I'm hoping for.”

Sun Prairie, coming off a 56-0 win over Madison East in its season-opener, picked right up where it left off when senior running back Brian McKenzie burst through a hole and scored on a 62-yard run on the second offensive play of the game. Alex Oakley's extra-point kick gave Sun Prairie a 7-0 just 31 seconds into the game.

Middleton answered back, thanks to a pair of big plays by Lewis. Lewis sacked Sun Prairie quarterback Jack Zander then partially blocked Oakley's ensuing punt to set Middleton up at the Sun Prairie 17-yard line.

“My guy, I realized he wasn't blocking me, so I went past him and got there,” Lewis said of the blocked punt.

Four plays later, Roguet’s pass deflected off Sun Prairie defender Caden White’s hands right to Ragsdale for a 14-yard touchdown with 3:45 left in the first quarter. Joey Culp’s extra-point was blocked and Sun Prairie maintained a narrow 7-6 lead.

“I was running my route and he just tipped it and it came right into my hands for a score,” Ragsdale said.

“If we put together more plays like that, more drives like that, that'll be good for us,” added Lewis. “I think we can and we will in the next few weeks.”

Sun Prairie took advantage of great field position to take a 13-6 lead into halftime on field goals of 47 yards and 35 yards by Oakley. Sun Prairie started both drives inside Middleton's 40-yard line.

“Defensively we had some big stops,” Simon said. “Those two field goals with the field position they got were small victories.”

Middleton's defense continued to hang tough in the third quarter. Sun Prairie took over at the Middleton 19 after an interception, but the defense held after stuffing McKenzie on a fourth-and-one play at the 10.

Sun Prairie got the ball right back after forcing a three-and-out and went to work. Zander connected with Cooper Nelson on a 39-yard pass play to the Middleton 1. Three plays later, tight end Ty Hamilton hauled in a 2-yard touchdown pass from Zander, just managing to break the goal line before getting hit by Middleton's Kevin Meicher with 1:01 remaining in the third quarter.

Sun Prairie put the game away on Strey's interception on the first play of the fourth quarter that gave it a 27-6 lead. Strey, who also plays tight end, showed his receiving skills as he snagged the interception in stride at the Middleton 21 and easily scored.

A 43-yard pass from Zander to Nelson set up Sun Prairie's final score. Zander capped the drive with a 4-yard run to make it 34-6 with 7:20 to play.

“We just gave up a couple big plays and part of that was on their quarterback,” Simon said. “That quarterback put a couple of those fades right on the money. We had good coverage on them.”

After the loss, Simon said the focus will be on getting better heading into Thursday's matchup against Madison West at Brietenbach Stadium.

“The good thing is this is only game two so we've got a lot of games in front of us,” Simon said. “We've got a great challenge as coaches and players to really focus on getting better.

“Our focus is always on ourselves first, so we want to watch film and learn from this one, but we've got to turn the page fast and come in  determined to get better. It's a good week to have that. You come off a tough loss you want to get back on that field right away.”


Aug. 25
Sun Prairie 34, Middleton 6
Middleton …………….………… 6  0   0   0 — 6
Sun Prairie …………………… 10  3  7  14 — 34

SP — Brian McKenzie, 62, run (Alex Oakley kick)
M — Cole Ragsdale, 14, pass from Davis Roquet (kick failed
SP — FG, Alex Oakley, 47
SP — FG, Oakley, 35
SP — Ty Hamilton, 2, pass from Jack Zander (Oakley kick)
SP — Marty Strey, 21, interception return (Oakley kick)
SP — Zander, 4, run (Oakley kick)

First downs — M 8, SP 7. Rushing (Att-Yds) — M 25-24, SP 34-186. Passing yards — M 100, SP 100. Passing (Att.-Comp.-Int.) — M 35-13-3, SP 14-6-0. Total plays-yards — M 60-124, SP 50-286. Fumbles-lost — M 1-1, SP 2-2. Penalties-yards — M 9-39, SP 9-37.

Rushing: M — Dion Huff 14-33. SP — McKenzie 18-177. Passing: M — Roquet 33-11-3; SP — Zander 14-6-0-100. Receiving: M — Ragsdale 1-14. SP — Cooper Nelson 4-103.



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