Football Cards ready for playoffs

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Dion Huff and Middleton's football team open the postseason at Oconomowoc Friday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

One team wants to ground and pound, run the clock and impose its will.

The other travels primarily by air, will fling the ball all night and try hurting you with quick strikes.

Polar opposites.

That’s what the football teams from Middleton and Oconomowoc are.

The fourth-seeded Raccoons and fifth-seeded Cardinals meet in a WIAA Division 1 Level 1 playoff game Friday at 7 p.m. that features a complete contrast in styles. And whichever group is able to best execute its brand of football will emerge victorious.

“It will be a very interesting game,” said Middleton coach Tim Simon, whose team takes a 7-2 record into the postseason. “They’re a quick strike team and they throw it as well, or better, than anyone we’ve seen.

“Our strength this year is our running game, and we want to hammer it at you. It’s probably going to come down to who does their thing the best.”

Oconomowoc, which went 8-1 in the regular season and captured a share of the Little Ten Conference with a 6-1 mark, is one of the state’s most prolific passing teams.

Everything the Raccoons do begins with senior quarterback Ben Nuenhuis. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Nuenhuis has thrown a remarkable 28 touchdowns, just one interception and passed for 2,682 yards.

“He’s one of the best we’ve seen in a long time,” Simon said of Nuenhuis.

Senior Zach Clayton is one of the top wide receivers in the state, although he’s already accepted a baseball scholarship to Oregon State. On the gridiron this season, Clayton has 82 receptions for 1,367 yards and 15 touchdowns.

For comparison’s sake, Middleton has 81 receptions as a team and eight receiving touchdowns all year.

“(Clayton) is a good one,” Simon said. “We’re going to have to try some different things with him.”

The Raccoons’ offensive prowess goes behind its dynamic duo, though.

Christian Gurule has 26 receptions for 517 yards (19.9) and five touchdowns. Running back Jake Rams has 499 rushing yards, is averaging 7.7 yards per carry and has eight rushing touchdowns.

In all, Oconomowoc is averaging 43.3 points and 450.2 yards of offense per game.

“They’re explosive. They really are,” Simon said. “We’ll have to find a way to slow them down.”

Middleton’s defense, which has allowed just 11.8 points per game, rivals most in the state. But interestingly, the Cardinals’ best way to slow the Raccoons could be via their offense.

Middleton has run the ball on 70.0% of its snaps this season. That figure could be even higher Friday night.

The Cardinals feature an offensive line that averages 260.0 pounds per man, led by UW recruit Kayden Lyles. And Oconomowoc’s defense has been a sieve, allowing 184.4 rushing yards and 31.3 points per game.

So if the Cardinals can control the ball and the clock, they can keep the Raccoons’ offense on the sideline while eating up lengthy chunks of the game.

“Well there’s no doubt, we need some four- and five-minute drives,” Simon said. “Our strength is obviously the run game and we want to get that going. If that happens, it certainly helps our defense, as well.”

Middleton finished the regular season with a 46-6 dismantling of Madison East last Friday.

Junior running back Dion Huff ran for 148 yards on just 17 carries (8.7) and scored a pair of touchdowns. Quarterback Davis Roquet completed 12-of-18 passes for 137 yards and two scores.

Senior wideout Myron Ashford caught four passes for 97 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown. And both junior running back James Pabst and senior fullback Joe Ludwig had rushing touchdowns.

Middleton raced to a 21-0 lead at halftime, extended that to 34-0 early in the third quarter, then cruised home.

“I think we’re back on track,” said Simon, whose team had dropped two of four games before facing East.

Middleton should also be back to full strength Friday.

The Cardinals have been shorthanded the last three games as several players served suspensions for athletic code violations. According to Simon, those suspensions are now finished, and Middleton should have its full arsenal Friday.

The Cardinals believe they have the talent and firepower to make a deep postseason run. They’ll try taking their first step in that direction Friday.

“I can’t wait,” Simon said.


Oct. 14

Middleton 46, Madison East 6

Madison East ………………… 0 0 6 0 — 6

Middleton ……………………. 14 6 19 7 — 46

MID — Ashford Jr. 54 pass from Roquet (Wipfli kick)

MID — Huff 4 run (Wipfli kick)

MID — Ludwig 4 run (Wipfli kick)

MID — Pabst 8 run (pass failed)

MID — Fermanich 7 pass from Roquet (Wipfli kick)

ME — Saffold 80 pass from Thompson (pass failed)

MID — Huff 2 run (run failed)

MID — Toennies 5 pass from Carey (Wipfli kick)


First downs — ME 2, MID 24. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — ME 20-86, MID 45-299. Passing yards — ME 151, MID 142. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — ME 16-3-1, MID 13-19-2. Fumbles-lost — ME 2-8, MID 1-0. Penalties-yards — ME 8-40, MID 5-55.


Rushing: ME, Daff 11-49. MID, Huff 17-148.

Passing: ME, Thompson 7-13-1-100. MID, Roquet 12-18-2-137.

Receiving: ME, Saffold 2-83. MID, Ashford 4-97.


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