MIDDLETON — The Middleton boys soccer team is off to a torrid start.

And senior midfielder/forward Derek Waleffe is smack-dab in the middle of the Cardinals’ offensive production.

Waleffe scored a goal on a header off a corner kick from Gregory Pauly and assisted on another goal, leading host Middleton to a 3-1 victory over Madison Memorial in a Big Eight Conference opener Tuesday night at Firefighters Memorial Park.

Waleffe has totaled seven goals and four assists in the past three matches for the Cardinals (3-0-1 overall, 1-0-0 Big Eight), who have scored 19 goals in that span. Middleton was coming off 8-0 victories over Wauwatosa West and Brookfield East.

“It’s just being as aggressive as possible both on offense and defense and creating chances on the counter, and catching them off-guard,” Waleffe said about the key to Middleton’s early-season scoring outbursts. “That’s been something that has worked well for us, especially in the two 8-0 games and then today it worked again.

“And also connecting on through balls and being patient when we are building on offense.”

Pauly, a junior who plays defense and midfield, scored the game’s first goal in the 26th minute for Middleton, third in Division 1 in the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association state rankings.

Pauly then delivered a ball off a corner kick that Waleffe headed home for a goal in the 42nd minute, boosting the Cardinals’ advantage to 2-0.

“We usually try to get them high and behind the goalie, so he gets confused,” said Waleffe, who has committed to play at the Ivy League’s Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. “It was nice because I got free because there was a scramble.

“It was a pretty easy header to head in.”

Waleffe, who was a second-team All-State selection by the coaches last year, assisted on junior midfielder Bryce Schuster’s goal at 71:46.

That provided the final margin and gave Middleton some breathing room after Madison Memorial senior forward/midfielder Noah Mesdjian converted a penalty kick at the 69:39 mark, rallying the Spartans (1-3-1, 0-1-0) within 2-1. The penalty kick was awarded after Spartans senior Tyshawn Caldwell made a nice run into the box and was taken down.

The Cardinals have a potent tandem in the midfield with Waleffe and senior Drake Vandermause, who has two goals and four assists this season.

“Anywhere the ball is they always have one (of those two) surrounding the ball,” Madison Memorial coach Ben Voss said. “It’s a smart tactic because you have your better players around the ball. … It’s hard to stop one and when they are both clicking that is really, really difficult to deal with.

“They are quiet and they just play, and they play hard. So, it’s hard to stop both of those (players). And other guys (on Middleton) are rising to the occasion to play at that level and that level is to play fast and hard.”

Pauly has two goals and six assists and senior midfielder Isaiah Williams has scored three times this season as the Cardinals are demonstrating a balanced attack, after having a dominant scorer in Bradan Allen — now with the University of Wisconsin — last year.

“Derek Waleffe is a big part of that (production), with two hat tricks and another goal tonight,” Middleton coach Ben Kollasch said. “But it’s not just him. It is him bringing spaces to everybody else.

“This year, we’ve planned our offense around more than just him. We are trying to put pressure on the other team to make those openings for everybody else.”

The Cardinals have started strong on defense, too, only permitting one goal in their first four games.

Madison Memorial 0 1 — 1 Middleton 2 1 — 3

First half: Mi — Pauly (unassisted), 25:14; Waleffe (Pauly), 41:36.

Second half: MM — Mesdjian (penalty kick), 69:39; Mi — Schuster (Waleffe), 71:46.

Saves: MM (Laflash) 7; Mi (Scher) 4.

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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.