MIDDLETON — Quarterback Luke Schafer couldn’t have been sure what to expect from his Middleton offense in the second half Friday night against Madison West after the Cardinals had two touchdowns taken off the board because of penalties to end the first half.
A pair of 11-play touchdown drives to open the third quarter and some redemption in the fourth.
Schafer hooked up with fellow junior Derek Rongstad for a 19-yard TD on a fourth-and-14 play midway through the fourth and the Cardinals prevailed 35-21 in a Big Eight Conference game at Breitenbach Stadium to stay perfect on the season and hand West its first loss.
The pair had connected for an apparent 33-yard TD on a similar fourth-down play near the right pylon late in the second quarter, but the score was wiped away because of a holding call.
“We felt like we didn’t catch many breaks in the first half, but yeah, I looked off the safety to the left side, threw it over to Rongstad and didn’t see it,” said Schafer, who also had a pair of TD runs on the night. “I didn’t see him catch it, but I found out with the crowd roaring. It was awesome.”
West regained possession at its own 8-yard line trailing 28-21 with 2 minutes, 35 seconds remaining in regulation, but senior quarterback Alex Brown was intercepted by Kenji Passini on the Regents’ first play of the drive.
Middleton senior Jevarious Rockmore, who finished with a pair of scores and 152 rushing yards, provided a 4-yard TD run on the following play to ice the game.
“We were a little sloppy,” said West coach Greg Valaskey, whose team finished with four turnovers. “You know, the first half, we didn’t really execute offensively or defensively. I thought we came out in the second half and played hard, but we still didn’t make plays when we needed to and that’s what it came down to.”
With the win, the Cardinals joined Sun Prairie atop the league at 4-0 and clinched postseason consideration from the WIAA.
West, which had gotten off to a surprising start in the league play after winning just one game a season ago, fell to 3-1.
Middleton opened the third with an 11-play, 66-yard drive — capped by a 1-yard sneak by Schafer, his second rushing TD of the game — to take a 14-0 lead.
West provided a quick answer, though, as Marquise Pollard took a pitch 52 yards for a score on a play nearly identical to the one the junior scored on against Madison Memorial a week earlier.
But Schafer and Co. didn’t relent, marching back down the field on an 11-play, 68-yard drive to take a 20-7 lead thanks to a Rockmore 3-yard TD run.
“We run the ball so well and to get out there and take time off the clock demoralized them,” said Schafer, whose team called just one passing play in the third. “They were tired. You could tell they were tired, and it was just a great feeling to march down the field.”
The Regents pulled back within 20-14 on their next drive as Brown found junior Terrell McFadden for a 7-yard score on a slant route, but that was as close as West would get.
On the Cardinals’ ensuing drive, Schafer and Rongstad delivered with their 19-yard hook-up — followed by a two-point pass to senior Makonnen Ramsey — to push Middleton’s advantage back to 28-14 with 7:08 to go in regulation.
West came back on its next drive with a 6-yard TD run by junior Aubrey Johnson, but couldn’t capitalize after forcing a Middleton three-and-out, which was followed by Brown’s second interception of the season.
“I was telling the guys (after the game), ‘There’s a point in every season where you look back at a really frustrating moment and it can turn out to be a really good learning experience for you.’ ” Valaskey said. “So I don’t think we came out and played really well right away and obviously against a good team, you can’t get away with that.”
Madison West 0 0 7 14 — 21
Middleton 0 7 13 15 — 35
Middleton — Schafer 15 run (Rongstad kick)
Middleton — Schafer 1 run (Rongstad kick)
Madison West — Pollard 52 run (Morales kick)
Middleton — Rockmore 3 run (pass failed)
Madison West — McFadden 7 pass from Brown (Morales kick)
Middleton — Rongstad 19 pass from Schafer (Ramsey pass from Schafer)
Madison West — Johnson 6 run (Morales kick)
Middleton — Rockmore 4 run (Rongstad)
First downs — MW 14, M 19. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — MW 35-211, M 54-294. Passing yards — MW 146, M 124. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — MW 8-20-2, M 7-13-1. Fumbles-lost — MW 4-2, M 1-0. Penalties-yards — MW 6-31, M 11-112.
Rushing: MW — Pollard 5-74; M — Rockmore 21-152.
Passing: MW — Brown 7-19-2, 99; M — Schafer 7-13-1, 124.
Receiving: MW — Graf 3-84; M — Rongstad 3-54.