Football Cards earn all-Big 8 honors

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton's Kevin Meicher was named first-team all-Big Eight Conference as a defensive back and utility player/return specialist./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Middleton’s football team enjoyed another solid year on the field.

And the Cardinals were justly rewarded when it came to all-Big Eight Conference recognition.

Middleton players were named all-conference at 19 different spots. Five Cardinals were also named all-region.

Senior Kevin Meicher was named first-team all-conference at both cornerback and as a utility player/return specialist. Senior offensive lineman Gavin Adler, junior running back Kallion Buckner, junior defensive lineman Billy Johnson and junior punter Jake Wuebben were all named first-team all-Big Eight, as well.

Those players were also named all-region.

Senior offensive lineman Dylan Kalscheur, senior quarterback Bryce Carey, senior wide receiver Jake Klubertanz, sophomore kicker Sawyer Pertzborn, junior defensive end Jake Wuebben, senior inside linebacker Connor Smith, junior outside linebacker Ben Litchfield and senior safety Devin Jackson were all named second team-all-conference.

And Middleton’s honorable-mention all-league players included senior tight end Max Schlicht, senior wide receiver Sam Close, senior fullback Connor Hellenbrand, senior offensive lineman Tyler Haack and senior defensive lineman Ortez Lockett.

Only conference champion Sun Prairie with 20 honorees had more all-conference players than Middleton.

In addition, Middleton defensive coordinator Tom Cabalka was named the Assistant Coach of the Year in the Big Eight and the region.

Meicher finished the year with 44 tackles, 10 passes defensed and three interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown. He also had one tackle for loss, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles.

Meicher had two touchdowns in the return game this year and five over the last two seasons.

“Kevin is without a doubt one of the very best athletes on the field, regardless of which team Middleton plays,” Middleton coach Tim Simon said of Meicher. “He is a lockdown cover corner, yet can play safety. He is a sure-tackler and a smart player. A state champion wrestler, Kevin is just an amazing and game changing athlete.”

Adler was rated as the league’s second-best offensive lineman by eight of the conference’s nine coaches. And after earning second-team all-conference honors in 2017, he took it up a notch in 2018.

“Gavin is just an outstanding player and athlete,” Simon said of Adler. “He is extremely quick and plays with really good pad level and leverage. Because of his quickness, he was very dangerous as a lead blocker and excellent when he would pull on a power, counter or trap play.”

Buckner was one of three running backs in the Big Eight to run for more than 1,000 yards in conference play. Buckner rushed for 1,021 yards on 130 carries (7.9 average) and finished with 12 touchdowns in conference games. He was also an extremely dangerous kick returner. Then during Middleton’s playoff loss to Sun Prairie, Buckner had three touchdowns, 113 rushing yards, a 60-yard receiving touchdown and a 97-yard kickoff return for a score.

“His vision, patience and speed were all assets that enabled him to be so good,” Simon said of Buckner. “And his explosiveness allowed him to be a threat for a big play on any given snap.”

Johnson had 20 tackles, two sacks and one tackle for loss during a breakout junior season.

“Billy was arguably Middleton’s best all-around lineman,” Simon said of Johnson. “Though he could have started on offense, he was needed more on defense this year — and he did an outstanding job at that.

“Billy played with a great power and was consistently double-teamed throughout games enabling the linebackers and safeties to fill the gaps. Billy has great size — yet is very athletic and deceivingly quick. He is a great all-around athlete.”

Wuebben averaged 40.8 yards per punt and had five punts of more than 50 yards. Wuebben had a long punt of 64 yards and knocked seven punts inside the 10-yard line.

“Jake was without a doubt the conference’s best punter,” Simon said. “He led the conference in punt average … and had great hang time on his punts.”

Wuebben was also recognized as a defensive end, where he finished with 30 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and one fumble recovery.

“Jake’s dedication to the weight room in the offseason gave him the strength to hold his own even when needing to play in the defensive line between the tackles,” Simon said. “His overall strength was definitely a difference maker when compared to other defensive ends in the conference.”

Kalscheur, who was injured his junior season, had a terrific season at center, helping the Cardinals rush for 220.3 yards per game.

“Dylan was very consistent all year long,” Simon said. “Having to sit out last year with an injury, Dylan was very dedicated in the weight room in the off-season, working hard to put himself in a position to succeed this year. Dylan has a strong football I.Q. and was the leader of the offensive line.”

Carey was a second-team all-conference wideout as a junior, then had a terrific senior season at quarterback. Carey ran for 632 yards, threw for 667 more and completed 52% of his passes.

“Moving to quarterback this year was an easy transition for Bryce,” Simon said. “He has arguably the strongest arm in the conference. He is also one of Middleton’s best overall athletes, beating teams with his running speed as much as his passing ability.”

Klubertanz led the Cardinals with 14 receptions and 238 yards. He also was a terrific blocker who helped spring several of Middleton’s long runs.

“Something that separates Jake from the typical wide receiver is his ability and pride in blocking on run plays,” Simon said of Klubertanz. “Many of Kallion and Bryce’s longer runs were sprung by key blocks that Jake had on defensive backs downfield.”

Pertzborn led the conference with seven field goals in eight attempts (87.5%), with a long of 42. Pertzborn also made 32 of 34 extra points.

“He was also one of the tops in the conference in kickoffs, having the ability to consistently kick the ball inside the 10-yard line with good hang time,” Simon said.

Smith led Middleton with 59 tackles, added one tackle for loss, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and one fumble recovery for a touchdown.

“Playing inside Connor did a great job of controlling the inside gaps,” Simon said. “Connor’s football IQ and understanding of other team’s strengths definitely served as assets as he was a leader among the defensive front seven.”

Litchfield played both strongside and weakside linebacker this year, finishing with 46 tackles, four tackles for loss and one sack.

“Ben was one of Middleton’s most versatile linebackers,” Simon said.  “He had great speed and a tenacity for hitting. Whether he needed to fill on the run or cover on the pass, Ben’s overall athleticism allowed him to excel at anything the team needed him to do.”

Jackson, one of the top safeties in the conference, finished with 57 tackles, one tackle for loss, one fumble recovery and three passes defensed.

“Devin was certainly one of the very best — if not the best — safety in the conference,” Simon said. “Unfortunately (for him), since Kevin Meicher was already an all-conference pick, no coach would ever vote for two players from the same team for first-team all-conference defensive backs. Devin was a very smart player, and a great leader of the defense and team.”

Schlicht caught nine passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. He was poised for an even bigger year before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 8.

“Max was arguably the best tight in the conference,” Simon said. “Max is an outstanding tight end and a great blocker with many “decleating” blocks. With his length and strength, he is a great reach blocker. He drew a lot of attention and double teams from opposing defenses this year because of his ability to run and catch the football.”

Close, a two-year starter, had 16 receptions for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Close also returned a punt for a touchdown.

“Sam was a two-year starter at wide receiver and was dramatically improved from last year,” Simon said. “He is a great technique runner and the team’s best route runner and really improved as a blocker.”

Hellenbrand was a two-year starter at fullback who helped Buckner enjoy a breakout season. Hellenbrand also led the team with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

“There is no separate position for fullback,” Simon said. “They fall into the same category as running backs, therefore it’s hard to garner a first- or second-team award. Connor used his leverage and strength to overpower opponents despite his modest size for a fullback. He is great at delivering a blow on defensive ends and linebackers and was always a threat catching the ball out of the backfield.”

Haack’s versatility helped him have a sensational senior year and was a big reason Middleton’s offensive line was one of the best in the conference.

“Tyler was a versatile and strong blocker,” Simon said. “His strength was in his ability to lock on and drive defensive lineman backwards, opening holes for pulling lineman and the fullback. Getting some playing time last year, Tyler worked hard in the off-season to earn a starting spot this year and was an anchor on the line and a consistent, dependable player this season.”

Lockett finished the year with 38 tackles, two tackles for loss, three sacks and one fumble recovery.

“Ortez is a dangerous and athletic defensive lineman,” Simon said. “He is very quick off the ball which enabled him to play both on the inside of the D-Line and at times as a defensive end.

“His strengths were his quick and strong hands and feet, a product of both the weight room and also as a wrestler for Middleton. A gifted athlete, he drew many double teams this year and was tenacious chasing down the ball carrier.”


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