Middleton holds off Janesville Parker

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Brennan Schmitt and Middleton's football team edged Janesville Parker, 21-19, Friday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

JANESVILLE — Tim Simon watched his Middleton football team struggle for 2 ½ hours Friday night.

Simon barked at his Cardinals for 15 minutes after their work had ended, then spent another 10 minutes discussing the frustrating effort with the media.

But as Simon stood in the middle of Monterey Stadium, with the lights shining off the Rock River, he seemed to have a moment of clarity.

“It was an ugly win,” Simon said. “But it’s better than an ugly loss.”

That’s for sure.

The Cardinals certainly didn’t win any style points in their 21-19 victory over host Janesville Parker. But Middleton did win its season-opener, and really that’s all that mattered.

The Cardinals committed two turnovers, had 90 yards of penalties and had far too many mental breakdowns. In the end, though, Middleton escaped and defeated Parker for the ninth straight time.

“It wasn’t good enough,” said senior Cody Markel, who caught a touchdown from his tight end position and was sensational from his defensive end spot. “We’re grateful to get a win, but we didn’t execute the way we need to.

“You have to give it to Janesville Parker. They’re a great team. But we have to get better.”

Middleton got a pair of touchdown runs from senior running back Cam Maly. Senior quarterback Brennan Schmitt also hit Markel with a 1-yard touchdown.

The Cardinals never trailed, but were in danger of falling in the closing moments.

Trailing 21-19, Parker took over on its own 42-yard line with 1:24 left. The Vikings converted a pair of fourth downs and had a first down at Middleton’s 33-yard line with 18 seconds left.

On second and 15, Parker quarterback Jordan Bailey’s heave near the endzone went off the fingertips of wideout Darin Empereur. Middleton then forced two more incompletions and escaped.

“I knew we were going to have some first game mistakes and we definitely had some growing pains,” Middleton defensive coordinator Tom Cabalka said. “But that was a good stand at the end. And this is a young group that should only get better.”

Middleton scored on its first drive of the season when Maly ripped off a 23-yard touchdown run behind left guard Ka’Juan Redus with 5:57 left in the first quarter.

The Cardinals’ drive had stalled, but Parker was penalized 15 yards for having too many men on the field during Middleton’s punt. Given new life, Maly and the Cardinals took advantage and grabbed a 7-0 lead.

“It was just kind of one cut and go,” said Maly, who gave credit to offensive linemen (from left) Kamon Ennis, Redus, William Braxton, Jake Hollfelder and Seth Craker. “It was pretty open for me.”

Parker answered on the first play of the second quarter when Bailey hit junior wideout Sandy Toyer for a 40-yard touchdown down the left sideline. Middleton blocked the extra point, though, and maintained a 7-6 lead.

The Cardinals answered with a 12-play, 77-yard drive that Schmitt capped with a 1-yard touchdown to Markel for a 14-6 Middleton lead.

The drive included a handful of big plays. First, Parker had a personal foul penalty after it had stopped the Cardinals on third-and-11. Schmitt then answered with a 33-yard completion to senior wideout Mitch Bacon and an 11-yard slant to junior wideout Myron Ashford. Then after Schmitt ran for seven yards on third-and-5, he hit Markel for a score.

“We saw them moving up,” Markel said, referring to Parker’s defense. “It was just a little pop pass and Brennan had an easy window.”

It took Parker just three plays to respond, though, when junior running back D.J. Vance exploded for a 55-yard touchdown. Vance had an initial crease, broke several tackles at the second level, then used his speed to pull away from Middleton’s secondary.

Vance’s two-point conversion run fell inches short, though, and Middleton maintained a 14-12 advantage.

Middleton held Parker to just six offensive plays and zero first downs in a scoreless third quarter. The Cardinals also won the field position battle, and began a critical march late in the quarter.

Middleton converted three straight third downs, highlighted by a 17-yard pitch-and-catch from Schmitt to Markel. Maly then accounted for the final 13 yards of the drive, including a 4-yard touchdown with 10:52 left that gave Middleton a 21-12 lead.

“I made a quick decision and just went as hard as I could to try getting in,” said Maly, who finished with 81 yards on 23 carries. “I didn’t think we played as good as we can. But we’ll get better.”

The Vikings drove to Middleton’s 16-yard line on their next drive. But the march stalled following a pair of penalties, then junior cornerback C.J. Fermanich intercepted Bailey.

“I thought our defense got a lot better in second half,” Cabalka said. “They had some really good running backs and we did a much better job against their trap. And that was a big play by C.J.”

The Vikings refused to go away, though, and pulled within 21-19 on their next series when junior Eric Schumacher plowed in from 4 yards out with just 2:37 left.

The key play on the drive came when the Vikings ran a double pass and converted on fourth-and-27. Bailey threw the ball back to Empereur, who then fired a strike to Toyer that brought the Vikings to Middleton’s 6-yard line.

Two plays later, Schumacher scored and kept his team in the game.

“There were times our guys just got too lackadaisical and that was one of them,” Simon said of the fourth-and-27. “Give Parker a lot of credit. But I thought our lack of experience showed more than it should have.”

Not at the end, though.

After Middleton went three-and-out, the Vikings had a chance to win the game. But the Cardinals’ defense stiffened, making the 50-mile ride home far more pleasant.

“I’m a little frustrated,” Simon said as he left Janesville. “Grateful, but frustrated.

“Hopefully this is a good wake-up call for us. Our guys need to understand what it takes to play at this level and just how much we need to improve.”

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