Middleton rolls in playoff opener

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton quarterback Gabe Passini threw five touchdown passes and ran for a sixth as the Cardinals routed Milwaukee Marshall, 55-0, Friday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

MILWAUKEE — Jack Madigan didn't mince words.

“A lot of us were pretty angry about traveling,” Middleton’s standout linebacker said.

Gabe Passini didn’t try sugarcoating it.

“We weren’t happy about going on the road,” Middleton’s quarterback said. “So we used it as energy.”

Boy, did they ever.

Middleton’s football team felt disrespected, insulted and offended after being handed a No. 5 seed in the WIAA Division 1 playoffs. So the Cardinals proved they deserved better by routing fourth-seeded Milwaukee Marshall, 55-0, in a Level 1 playoff game held at Milwaukee Custer Stadium Friday.

Middleton won its sixth straight game, improved to 7-3 and will travel to top-seeded Waunakee for a Level 2 playoff game Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. Marshall finished its year 6-4.

“We told the kids, you’re not getting any respect,” Middleton coach Jason Pertzborn said. “So we said, you have to go earn it. Make it a mission to prove everybody wrong and prove ourselves right that we did deserve better.”

The Cardinals had every reason to be perturbed about receiving a No. 5 seed and being forced to travel 95 miles east.

Middleton went 6-1 in the Big Eight, which was good for second place in the league. The Cardinals beat Madison Memorial by 24 points and finished ahead of the Spartans in the conference, only to see Memorial receive a No. 4 seed and a home game.
And Middleton played the toughest non-conference schedule in the state, suffering losses to undefeated powers Bay Port and Waunakee.

After that résumé didn't help the Cardinals get a home game, they took out their frustration on the Eagles, dominating from start to finish in what was arguably their best performance of the year.

Passini threw for five touchdowns and ran for a sixth in just two quarters of work. Middleton forced four turnovers and limited Marshall to 153 total yards.

And the Cardinals sprinted to a 41-0 halftime lead, rested their starters in the second half, then watched their reserves outscore the Eagles, 14-0, in the final two quarters.

“It was nice. It was smooth,” Pertzborn said of Middleton’s effort. “We looked sharp. I felt like we executed and were all business. When you don’t punt, you’re doing something right.”

Middleton did just about everything right in this contest.

On the Cardinals’ second offensive play of the night, junior tight end Carter Kadow lined up next to the right tackle and snuck behind the Eagles’ secondary. Passini delivered a strike, the 6-foot-7 Kadow outran Marshall’s secondary and scored from 47 yards out to give Middleton a 6-0 lead.

“He’s a big target and has some nastiness in his game,” Pertzborn said of Kadow. “He’s like an extra offensive lineman, but he can also run and catch. He’s a tough son of a gun.”

On Marshall’s next possession, quarterback Alijah Ortiz lined up 7 yards behind his center and the ball was snapped at least a foot over his head. The hard-charging Madigan beat Ortiz to the ball and recovered at Marshall’s 6-yard line.

On third and goal from the 3, Passini eluded pressure and rolled right. He then hit fullback Tyler Mayhew for a touchdown that made it 13-0 with 4:34 left in the first quarter.

“Gabe pretty much made the right read every time,” Pertzborn said. “He was really sharp.”

Passini and his pals were just getting started, too.

After forcing a Marshall punt, Middleton had second down from midfield. Passini faked a handoff to running back Bryce Falk, headed right and saw nothing but green grass.

Passini ran the first 30 yards untouched, then stiff armed a would-be Marshall tackler to the ground around the 20. Passini walked in from there, stretching Middleton’s advantage to 20-0 with 11 seconds to go in the quarter.

“It was a great play fake,” Passini said. “We got the whole defense flowing and then I was just one-on-one with a guy. Then I just waited for the right time to stiff arm him.”

Pertzborn said the key to Passini’s big run wasn’t anything that happened Friday. It was what happened last offseason.

“That right there was a tribute to his offseason work ethic and preparation,” Pertzborn said. “Gabe put on 20 pounds and always finishes the run now. He’s hard to bring down and he makes you feel it.”

The Cardinals pushed their lead to 27-0 early in the second quarter when Passini and Falk hooked up on a 5-yard TD pass. And when the Eagles were flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that allowed the Cardinals to kick off from the 50, Pertzborn called for an on-side kick.

Middleton kicker Owen Halverson expertly placed the kick and Middleton recovered at Marshall’s 33.

The Cardinals then marched to the Eagles’ 11-yard line, where they faced a fourth-and-2. Once again, Kadow came free over the middle, Passini found his giant target, and the big tight end scored from 11 yards out as Middleton’s lead grew to 34-0.

“Carter is a good blocker, a dominant blocker,” Passini said. “And when that safety roams up there, he can find that opening.”
On Marshall’s next possession, Ortiz was sacked and fumbled and linebacker Gus Wenning recovered at the Eagles’ 23. Two plays later, Passini found wideout Troy Teff in the back left corner of the endzone to make it 41-0.

That score gave Passini five touchdown passes in just 11 first half throws (45.4%) and ensured the second half would be played with a running clock.

“We’re all really proud,” Madigan said. “We brought it. We showed what we can do.”

That didn’t stop in the second half, either, even though the Cardinals went deep into their bench.

Teff — a gifted athlete who would start at quarterback for many teams across the state — moved under center and lit up the Eagles. Teff completed 8-of-9 passes for 115 yards and two TDs.

Late in the third quarter, Teff threw a gorgeous fade in the right corner of the endzone that junior Elijah Coleman hauled in for a 10-yard touchdown. Not only did Coleman make a tremendous catch, he tapped his toes just inside the endline and gave Middleton a 48-0 lead.

Then with 4 minutes left and Middleton at midfield, Teff rolled to his right, just a few yards from the sideline. Teff’s offensive line gave him ample time to throw, and he hurled a bomb that Coleman caught at the 10.

Coleman did the rest himself, eluding a tackler and scoring from 50 yards out to give the Cardinals a 55-0 lead.

“He’s really been coming on,” Pertzborn said of Coleman. “He’s been looking really good in practice, and that (first) touchdown catch he made was unbelievable. To get his feet down like he did was awesome.”

Now, Middleton turns its attention to a Waunakee team that edged the Cardinals, 17-14, in Week 2.

The Warriors are a perfect 10-0 after rolling over Sheboygan North, 39-14, in Level 1. And in Waunakee’s first 10 games, it’s outscored its opponents, 377-80.

The Warriors have been a force in Division 2 for nearly two decades, winning five state titles and finishing second three other times. But Waunakee moved up to Division 1 for the first time this year, and could find the road to a state title is much tougher playing against the state’s biggest schools.

Middleton believes it’s a much better outfit than the one that narrowly lost to the Warriors nearly two months ago. And the Cardinals can’t wait to prove it.

“We feel really so much better,” Madigan said. “We’re all prepared.”

The red-hot Passini agreed with Middleton’s standout linebacker.

“Getting Waunakee again is great,” Passini said. “I’ve wanted to see them since Week 2. There’s a lot we can build off from last time. We’ll change schemes a little, learn from what we did last time and be ready to go.”

Just like Middleton was against Milwaukee Marshall.


Oct. 21

Middleton 55, Milwaukee Marshall 0

Middleton ..............………. 20  21 7  7 — 20

Milwaukee Marshall …………. 0  0  0  0 — 0

Mid – Carter Kadow, 47, pass from Gabe Passini (run failed)

Mid – Tyler Mayhew, 3, Pass from Passini (Owen Halverson kick)

Mid — Gabe Passini, 50, run (Halverson kick)

Mid — Bryce Falk, 5, pass from Passini (Halverson kick)

Mid – Kadow, 11, pass from Passini (Halverson kick)

Mid – Troy Teff, 14, pass from Passini (Halverson kick)

Mid — Elijah Coleman, 10, pass from Troy Teff (Halverson kick)

Mid — Coleman, 50, pass from Teff (Halverson kick)


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