Football Cardinals hammer Craig

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Gregg Hammill/For the Times-Tribune
Tyler Kalscheur and Middleton's football team rolled past Janesville Craig on Sept. 28./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

On two occasions this season, Middleton led a Big Eight Conference power at halftime.

Both times, the Cardinals squandered those leads.

On Sept. 28, Middleton took care of business.

The host Cardinals led Big Eight Conference co-leader Sun Prairie, 13-7, last Friday. Middleton then outscored Janesville Craig, 29-0, in the second half and cruised to an impressive 42-7 Big Eight Conference victory on Senior Night at Otto Breitenbach Stadium.

“At halftime the discussion we had with the kids was, ‘Listen we played a pretty decent first half, but we left plays out on the field. We made some mistakes that may have cost us a little bit, so let’s not do that in the second half,’” Middleton co-coach Tim Simon said. “We had the football to start (the second half) so we had to put a good drive together and get a good defensive stop and if we do that we’re going to be in pretty good shape. So the message at halftime was finish, don’t let up on anything, finish every play, finish every series and then finish the game. And the kids, that’s what they did. We finished each drive on offense and we finished each drive on defense.”

Middleton put it all together in the second half as the offense rolled up 195 yards and scored three touchdowns. The defense also forced a pair of turnovers, including an interception return for a touchdown, and the special teams recorded a fumble recovery.

“Janesville Craig is a very good football team, but I just think we played really well tonight,” Simon said. “We had guys rise up to the occasion and again we talked about how important it is for all three phases of the game … everything from our kick coverage, to the field goals, the offensive line play and obviously the running backs, the quarterbacks and the receivers making plays and defense. The defense played outstanding. They’re the only team that runs an option in our conference and that’s a tough offense to prepare for.”

Middleton improved to 5-2 overall and in conference and clinched a playoff spot for the 23rd consecutive season, something no other team has done in Division 1. Hartland Arrowhead (4-3) can match the Cardinals for the state’s longest playoff streak with one more win this season.

“It’s something that we take a lot of pride in as a program and the kids know it,” Simon said. “It’s nothing we have to talk about, but they just know it.”

Middleton senior cornerback Kevin Meicher — who was huge in the win with a pair of interceptions, including one that he returned 57 yards for a touchdown — agreed with Simon.

“That was our goal at the beginning of the season first was to make the playoffs and then win conference and then hopefully all the way to state,” Meicher said.

The victory helped Middleton atone for a pair of losses earlier this season.

The Cardinals fell at Verona, 27-22, in Week 2 and dropped a 30-27 game to visiting Madison Memorial in Week 4. The Cardinals have won three straight games since then and seem to have some momentum heading into a showdown against Sun Prairie Friday at 7 p.m.

Sun Prairie and Madison Memorial are tied for first place in the league at 6-1, while Middleton, Verona and Janesville Craig are tied for third at 5-2.

Middleton still has a shot at a share of the conference title if it can win its final two games vs. Sun Prairie and at Madison La Follette, and if Madison Memorial loses one of its final two games vs. winless Janesville Parker on Friday and at Janesville Craig on October 12.

“We needed this,” Simon said. “It’s three in a row, but we needed some momentum going into the Sun Prairie game because they’re playing really well.

“Sun Prairie is really rolling. They stubbed their toe the first game of the season and have been rolling ever since. Obviously, we wanted to come out with a win and wanted to come out and qualify for the playoffs for 23 years in a row, but we also wanted to come out on an upswing with some momentum going into next week.”

The Cardinals took control on the opening drive of the second half when Bryce Carey capped a 9-play, 70-yard drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Jake Klubertanz in the back of the end zone. Carey lofted a perfect pass that Klubertanz hauled in over a pair of defenders.

Carey then connected with senior Max Schlicht who was wide open on the two-point conversion attempt to give Middleton a 21-7 lead with eight minutes, 33 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Carey set up the touchdown with a 22-yard run to the Cougars 19-yard line on a third-and-seven play.

“He’s fast and that’s one thing that we’ve added to our game plan is the ability to put him in position where he can make plays with his legs, not just his arm,” Simon said of Carey, who rushed five times for 70 yards.

Craig drove from its own 26 to the Middleton 30, but was stymied when Meicher intercepted Ben Coulter’s first down pass at the Middleton 7-yard line.

“On that one we had two guys on the receiver,” Meicher said. “Keewon Bufford was the guy covering the receiver on the outside and he had perfect coverage on him, so that allowed me to just come up and jump that route and get the interception.”

Middleton senior defensive lineman Alex Struck pressured Coulter just as he released the pass.

“I give credit to the D-line pressuring that quarterback and making him throw the ball,” Meicher said. “He throws it and the DBs got to make the play. It all starts with the pressure up front.”

The Cardinals capitalized on the turnover, as Carey scored on a 26-yard run to cap a six-play, 93-yard drive. Carey found a hole and sped around the left side into the end zone to make it 28-7.

“He’s got his reads and his checks, but if he sees an alley, he’s got full permission to go and attack it because he can get from 0 to 20 in a heartbeat,” Simon said.

The drive included a nifty 51-yard run by junior running back Kallion Buckner, who surged through a hole and raced down the sideline before being brought down.

“I thought I was going to score,” Buckner said. “I’m doing what I can for the team and just something I can do. I just do it for the team so we can get the ‘W’.”

Buckner, who rushed for 166 yards on just 15 carries, came out with extra motivation in the second half.

“We went into the fitness room (at halftime),” Buckner said. “I went in there kind of upset. I mean something happened, first half where I got chewed out by the coach, but they’re only trying to get me better so I can improve. We came out in the second half and did what we had to do.”

The Cougars attempted to strike back, driving from their own 11-yard line to the Middleton 12, but came up short when Tressin Kussmaul was stopped for no gain on fourth down.

Meicher clinched the victory later in the fourth quarter when he stepped in front of wide receiver Tegan Christiansen and picked off Coulter again. This time he took it 57 yards down the sideline beating Kussmaul and Coulter en route to the end zone. Sawyer Pertzborn’s extra-point kick made it 35-7 with 8:19 remaining in the game.

“He’s a pretty special player,” Simon said. “Those don’t happen unless our defensive line has got pressure on the quarterback. That quarterback was scrambling and when that happens then that puts our DBs in positions to make plays.”

Senior Tyler Kalscheur’s 1-yard TD run capped the scoring with 1:54 remaining.

Carey opened the scoring with an impressive 18-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Carey faked a handoff on the play, rolled out to his right then cutback and sprinted into the end zone, colliding with Craig’s Parker Glissendorf as he crossed the goal-line to make it 7-0 with 5:41 remaining in the first quarter.

After Carey’s third-down pass to Schlicht fell incomplete, the Cardinals settled for a 30-yard field goal by Pertzborn to make it 10-0 at the 9:11 mark of the second quarter. The drive included a 32-yard run by Buckner.

Craig then took advantage of a Middleton turnover to score its first points. Middleton senior Sam Close mishandled a punt and the Cougars’ Asa Albrecht recovered at the Middleton 41-yard line. Seven plays later, Coulter hooked up with Cuame Harriel on a 16-yard touchdown to trim the deficit to 10-7.

Middleton drove to the Cougars’ 3-yard line on its next possession, but the drive stalled when the Cardinals were called for a false start penalty on first-and-goal and Carey threw three straight incompletions. Pertzborn converted the 25-yard field goal to make it 13-7 at halftime.

Meicher said the Cardinals spent extra time preparing for the Cougars’ attack and it paid off.

“It was a lot of preparation at the beginning of the week,” Meicher said. “It started even Sunday watching film. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday we had really good practices and I think that led to tonight.”

With a playoff berth in hand, the Cardinals are now looking to peak at the right time.

“The best part is we haven’t reached our full potential yet,” Meicher said. “Each week we’re going to keep preparing harder and harder and hopefully we reach our full potential and peak by playoffs.”

“I really hope we can win the playoffs because I’ve still got another year,” Buckner said. “I’ve still got a lot more to show. I really love the game of football.”

 

Sept. 28

Middleton 42, Janesville Craig 7

Janesville Craig …………… 0  7  0  0 — 7

Middleton ………………….. 7  6  15  14 — 42

M – Bryce Carey 17 run (Pertzborn kick)

M – FG Pertzborn 30

JC – Cuame Harriel 16 pass from Ben Coulter (Mitchell Woelfle kick)

M – FG Pertzborn 25

M – Jake Klubertanz 18 pass from Carey (Schlicht pass from Carey)

M – Carey 26 run (Pertzborn kick)

M – Kevin Meicher 57 interception return (Pertzborn kick)

M – Tyler Kalscheur 1 run (Pertzborn kick)

 

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs – JC 13, M 16. Rushing (Att-Yds) – JC 40-147, M 37-282. Passing yards – JC 115, M 92. Passing (Att.-Comp.-Int.) – JC 19-12-2, M 15-8-0. Total plays-yards – JC – 58-262, M – 52-374. Fumbles-lost – JC 1-1, M 1-1. Penalties-yards – JC 6-39, M 1-5.

 

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

Rushing: JC – Tressin Kussmaul 16-60. M – Buckner 15-166, Carey 5-70. Passing: JC – Coulter 19-12-2-115; M – Carey 13-6-0-76. Drew Teff 2-2-0-16. Receiving: JC – Trevian Moore 3-60. M – Klubertanz 2-54.

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