It's a new era for Middleton football as Jason Pertzborn assumes the head coaching role for the first time this year. The Middleton alum and former offensive coordinator will steer the Cardinals right into the thick of the Big 8 conference title race.
Pertzborn takes over for Tim Simon, who led the program for 15 years. Last year, the two coaches operated under a co-head coaching arrangement, as Simon groomed Pertzborn to take over the program. The former Middleton standout now gets a chance to lead his hometown program, and thinks that the year-long transition helped prepare him for this year and beyond.
"It went really well. Tim handled a lot of the day-to-day stuff, and it was more of a learning role for me," said Pertzborn. "It's nice to have him there, because you don't get caught with a lot of surprises."
The Cardinals had a number of close games last year, including a loss on a Hail Mary against Madison Memorial and a wild back-and-forth playoff game against Sun Prairie in which Middleton led going into the fourth quarter. Those experiences overall, said Pertzborn, motivated the team this offseason.
"The weight room commitment was excellent," said Pertzborn.
One of the positions leading the way is the linemen group, which bring back two all-conference performers and half of the starters from last year's team.
"You'll see how that hard work paid off when you see our lines this year," Pertzborn said. "They're leaders, and they make sure everyone gets the message.
That group includes all-conference performers Billy Johnson, an Air Force commit, and Jake Wuebben, who was second-team all-conference as a defensive end. Zac Mayhew, Luke McChrystal, and Clay Craker are back as starters along the offensive line, with Craker having missed last year due to an injured ACL after starting as a sophomore. Jadin Brown and Gavin Huml also saw action last year along the front lines.
With the strength up front, it bodes well for the Cardinals that they also bring back one of the best running backs in the state, Kallion Buckner, who had a 1,000-yard rushing season in a breakout junior campaign. The all-conference performer will be the lone holdover from the skill positions on offense. Some of last year's reserves stepping into larger roles could include quarterback Drew Teff, running backs Keewon Bufford and Marquez Winters, fullback Brian Frusciante, and receiver Henry Patterson.
Defensively, with Wuebben and Johnson anchoring up front, Middleton also has a decent amount of experience lined up behind them. Brown is another holdover on the defensive line, and linebacker Ben Lichtfield, who moves inside at linebacker after starting as the outside linebacker for the back half of last season (and at safety prior to that, in weeks one and two), returns after an all-conference season in 2018. Bufford is the lone starter returning to the secondary, with Jerry Huff back after subbing as a safety last season. Linebacker will be a healthy competition, with 2018 contributors like Isaiah Pflasterer-Jennerjohn and Jake Pavelski returning.
In addition to the lines, special teams will be a big edge for Middleton in 2019. First team All-Big 8 punter Jake Wuebben and second team all-conference kicker Saywer Pertzborn are back as multi-year starters, and Buckner and Bufford each fielded returns last year.
Some of Middleton's biggest games include week two against Verona, week four against Memorial, and week eight against Sun Prairie. Those were the three conference losses for the Cardinals last year, and The Big 1070 will air the entire revenge tour in 2019.
Here's The Big 1070's preview with coach Jason Pertzborn:
Head Coaches: Jason Pertzborn (1st Season)
2018 Result: 6-4 (6-3), 4th in the Big 8 (Lost in Level 1 of the D1 Playoffs 42-36 to Sun Prairie)
Three-Year Record: 24-9 (3-3 Playoffs)
2018 All-Conference Honors: 6 First-Team, 8 Second-Team, 5 Honorable Mention (18 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 17 First-Team, 17 Second-Team, 15 Honorable Mention (49 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (5): RB Kallion Buckner (1T-RB) (WSN-RB 🏈), Sr.; DL Billy Johnson (1T-DL) (WSN-DL 🏈), Sr.; DE/P/TE (1T-P & 2T-DE) (WSN-DL🏈) (WSN-P 🏈), Sr.; LB/FB Ben Litchfield (2T-LB) (WSN-LB 🏈), Sr.; K Sawyer Pertzborn (2T-K), Jr.
Other Players To Watch: G/DL Zac Mayhew, Sr.; OL/DL Luke McChrystal, Sr.; OL/DL Clay Craker, Sr.; OL/DL Jadin Brown, Sr.; OL/DL Gavin Huml, Sr.; QB Drew Teff, Sr.; CB/RB Keewon Bufford, Sr.; RB Marquez Winters, Sr.; WR Henry Patterson, Sr.; FB/LB Brian Frusciante, Sr.; LB Jake Pavelski, Sr.; LB Isaiah Pflasterer-Jennerjohn, Sr.; S/RB Jerry Huff, Sr.
BIG Games: vs Verona, August 30 (🔊 The Big 1070 Broadcast); at Madison Memorial, September 13 (🔊 The Big 1070 Broadcast); at Sun Prairie, October 11 (🔊 The Big 1070 Broadcast); vs Madison La Follette, October 18 (Homecoming)