BRAGA RELISHES SENIOR MOMENTS MIDDLETON'S TAILBACK SHOWS HIS VERSATILITY ON THE BASKETBALL COURT AND THE BASEBALL DIAMOND.

BRAGA RELISHES SENIOR MOMENTS MIDDLETON'S TAILBACK SHOWS HIS VERSATILITY ON THE BASKETBALL COURT AND THE BASEBALL DIAMOND.

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He'd spent most of his high school career moving from football to basketball and then onto baseball, juggling the demands of each sport when he wasn't focused on theone that was in-season.

So how did Brooks Braga react earlier this month once the final out had been recorded on his days as a Middleton Cardinal and there was no next season for the versatile senior to look forward to?

"I'll admit it: I cried like a baby," Braga said of the scene at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute, a few minutes after midnight and a few minutes after Middleton had dropped a 3-2 decision to Bay Port in the WIAA Division 1 state baseball semifinals.

"At first, I wasn't really feeling anything because it wasn't sinking in that everything was over. But as I walked up into the grandstands and I saw a lot of our parents there waiting for us, I realized that it wasn't just about us.It was about everybody. It was about our parents. The community. Friends. We weren't just playing for us."

And Braga played for them year-round throughout most of high school, giving them memory after memory and earning the first Wisconsin State Journal male prep athlete of the year for the 2008-09 school year.

He began his senior year as a featured tailback by rushing 288 times for 2,183 yards and 36 touchdowns on the football field. Braga earned first-team Associated Press all-state honors and led the Cardinals (11-2) to the Division 1 state semifinals - the first Big Eight team to advance that far into the postseason since 1999 when Middleton and Beloit Memorial reached the semifinals.

"Stats are great, but it was really a whole team effort," Braga said.

The stats weren't as great on the basketball court for Braga, who averaged about 9.5 points a game but relished his role as a distributor.He said he got more out of Middleton's 8-13 season than the Cardinals' record might suggest.

"Each sport is crucial to who you might be as an athlete and basketball was really no different," Braga said. "Our record might not have showed where we wanted to be ... but we had a lot of fun doing it."

Things weren't as easy-going for Braga once the baseball season began. The Cardinals were coming off back-to-back seasons in which they went into postseason ranked among the top five teams in Division 1 only to fall short of the state tournament. This year, Braga hit .346 as the Cardinals finished 21-7 and made it to the state semifinals.

"We would have liked to get to the state championship and shown that we were the best team in the state, but it didn't happen," Braga said. "That can't take away from the memories we had this season. It was an incredible season."

It's been an incredible career for Braga, who will attend UW-La Crosse this fall. He had hoped to play football and baseball for the Eagles - "I couldn't bring myself to give up either," he said - only to have those plans thrown in limbo by the school's recent announcement that it intends to drop baseball.

In the meantime, he will look back on his high school career and the way he was able to excel in three sports.

"The biggest challenge was always staying motivated in each and every sport," Braga said. "Playing three sports, it might be easy to kind of get lost in the same old routine every single day. But I definitely think I overcame that this year. I had fun each and every day; each and every practice was fun.

"I really feel I made the most out of my senior year."

\ THE BROOKS BRAGA FILE\ Football: Rushed for 2,183 yards and 36 touchdowns on a team that went 11-2, won the Big Eight Conference and reached the WIAA Division 1 state semifinals.\ Basketball: Averaged 9.2 points per game on a team that went 8-13, tied for sixth in the Big Eight Conference and lost in a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal.\ Baseball: Hit .374 for a team that went 21-7, won the Big Eight Conference and finished runner-up at the WIAA Division 1 state tournament.

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