Football Cardinals off and running

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MTT News's picture
Bill Cooney/For the Times-Tribune
Middleton senior running back Kallion Buckner led the Cardinals to a 35-15 win over Madison East in their season-opener last Friday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

MADISON — The moment he plucked the short screen pass from the sky and spun around last Friday night, Middleton senior tailback Kallion Buckner had a pretty good idea six points were about to be added to the scoreboard — even though he was standing just inside midfield.

Three of his giant offensive linemen were already picking up steam ready to devour blockers in front of him. He had a fresh pair of cleats attached to his speedy feet. And there was plenty of open field to show off his skills.

“If they’re there it’s a touchdown every time,” Buckner said of his highly-touted linemen, who on this play were Billy Johnson, Clay Craker and Taylor Simmons. “Whenever I see them, I feel so protected. Untouchable.”

Buckner put an exclamation point on the 38-yard catch-and-run, second-quarter touchdown with one of his signature jukes to the inside, then celebrated with his teammates in the end zone. That was one of four touchdowns by Buckner that helped send the Cardinals to a season-opening, never-a-doubt 35-15 victory over Madison East in a Big Eight Conference football game at Breese Stevens Field.

Middleton (1-0 overall, 1-0 Big Eight) forced five turnovers, making plays and benefiting from some sloppy play by the Purgolders (0-1, 0-1) on its way to a 35-0 lead that forced a running clock early in the third quarter.

By that point, Buckner and many of his starting teammates headed to the sidelines for good. The senior finished with 19 carries for 141 yards (7.4 average) and three touchdowns on the ground, as well as four catches for 47 yards and a score through the air in roughly two quarters of play. That’s because while he exited in the third, Buckner had to take a few plays off early on as he left the playing field while getting sick.

The reason? Too much water.

“When I started running I felt like I was just going to blow up,” said the 5-foot-10, 165-pound Buckner, who switched to a pair of shoes with lower cleats before the game to add traction, which certainly showed in his ability to violently change directions with one sudden step.

“The kid is tougher than nails,” Middleton coach Jason Pertzborn said. “If you look at him, you don’t think he’s going to run people over but he does. When he gets into space you see his speed — nobody on the field can seem to catch him when he gets in the open. He’s a nice weapon to have.”

Sophomore quarterback TJ Bauer hit Michael Gustafson with a deep spiral for 45 yards to set up another Buckner TD in the third, putting the Cardinals ahead 35-0.

East coach Jeremy Thornton — whose team gave up a defensive touchdown on its first possession with one of multiple snap miscues — was impressed with Middleton’s blocking up front, particularly mentioning the tight end, fullback and wide receiver positions. Afterward, he was specifically asked about senior tight end Sam Engler.

“He takes on the edge of our defensive linebackers and D-ends and he puts them in the dirt,” Thornton said of Engler. “It’s that simple and he does it very well. And that’s what makes them go.”

Pertzborn, meanwhile, was happy to get a victory in his first game as head coach after sharing duties with Tim Simon last season. But he certainly wasn’t pleased with too many penalties by the Cardinals, who committed six for 78 yards in the first half alone, including two for personal fouls.

Middleton finished with seven penalties for 88 yards.

“The last thing I said to them before we left our locker room before the game was shut your mouths and play football and be disciplined,” Pertzborn said. “And we weren’t disciplined at all.

“East made some plays. I never felt like we were in danger, but we were just playing stupid and we couldn’t put the game away because of it. We just have to get smarter and be more disciplined.”

Pertzborn did concede that his team may have been too jacked up for the opener, which is understandable at any level of this sport, when teammates simply get tired of smacking into each other instead of the opponent every day.

As for his two-quarterback approach with Teff and Bauer, Pertzborn said he’d look at the game’s video before making a decision on signal-callers. By his description, both quarterbacks came out of the gate slow before picking things up as the game carried on. 

Pertzborn is also hoping to get back senior wideout Henry Patterson and senior offensive guard Zac Mayhew, both of whom missed Friday’s game with injuries.

With rival Verona on the horizon this week, Pertzborn said he’ll have the Cardinals work on conditioning in practice and attempt to cut back on those killer penalties. He was asked point-blank if his team could beat the Wildcats with a performance similar to Week 1.

“I don’t think we win,” he said. “We won’t win if we have that many penalties. That was last year. We should have won last year.

“I think the kids are hungry for next week. Everybody knows this is a big game early. The team who can get prepared and get this done next week is going to have a leg up.”

• On deck: Middleton hosts Verona Friday at 7 p.m. and several events will be taking place.

1. Veteran’s Night — all veteran’s will receive free admission as a small thank you for their service.

2. Youth football night — all youth players will receive free admission, will be announced at halftime and will be able to warm-up with Middleton’s players after halftime.

3. Pediatric Cancer Awareness & Fundraiser — There are several activities associated with this event, including:

• A fundraising page at

• The Middleton players will be wearing yellow laces to raise awareness. A donation was also made to Lace-up for Pediatric Cancer Awareness.

• The Student section is wearing yellow in support.

• There will be two honorary captains — Noah Sanger, a student at Sunset Ridge who was diagnosed with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and has about seven months of treatment left; and Ella White, a three-year old member of the community whose mother, Annie, is a teacher at Elm Lawn who was recently diagnosed and is just being released from American Family Children’s Hospital.

• There will also be a pass the bucket between the first and second period and Noah’s foundation will be selling bracelets before the game.


Aug. 23

Middleton 35, Madison East 15

Middleton ………. 14  14  7  0 — 35

Madison East …… 0  0  0  15 — 15

                   First quarter

Mid -- Buckner, 52, run (Pertzborn kick) 9:51

Mid -- Buckner, 48, run (Pertzborn kick), 7:18

                 Second quarter

Mid -- Buckner 38 pass from Teff (Pertzborn kick), 1:47

Mid -- Jake Pavelski, fumble recovery in end zone (Pertzborn kick), :16, 

                   Third quarter

Mid -- Buckner 5 run (Pertzborn kick), 8:44, 3rd

               Fourth quarter

ME -- Boyton 17 pass from Roh III (pass good)

ME -- Boyton 59 pass from Roh III (Link kick)

First downs: M 14, ME 19; Rushing: M 36-193; ME 31-100; Comp-Att-INT: M  6-10-0; ME 14-26-2. Passing yards: M 117; ME 258. Fumbles-lost: M 3-1; ME 3-3; Penalties-yards: M 7-88; ME 11-90.

Rushing: M, Buckner, 19-141; ME, Thomas 14-65. Passing: M, Teff, 5-8-0, 72; Bauer, 1-2-0, 45; ME, Roh III 14-26-258-2. Receiving: M, Gustafson 2-60; Buckner 4-47; ME Boyton 6-128.



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