SUN PRAIRIE — The Middleton football team’s offensive game plan was crystal clear Friday night.
Middleton coach Jason Pertzborn wanted this team to run the ball time and again, led by its formidable offensive line and the Big Eight Conference’s leading rusher, senior tailback Kallion Buckner. No matter that the opponent, host Sun Prairie, had demonstrated a stout defense against the run this season.
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Buckner exploded for second-half touchdown runs of 80 and 91 yards in leading Middleton to a 35-19 victory.
“All I saw was daylight,” Buckner said. “I took off. My linemen did everything they needed to do. … One hundred percent credit to them.”
Buckner said he loves running behind his line, which often includes Luke McChrystal, Taylor Simmons, Clay Craker, Air Force commit Billy Johnson and Zac Mayhew.
“It is fantastic,” Buckner said.
“I’ve been reflecting lately and we need to trust those guys — trust them and not give up on them,” Pertzborn said. “Just let them keep grinding. They are a big group of guys and they wear on people. They are just a special group. I love ‘em. They work so hard and they deserved my trust, and they came through.”
Middleton (6-2 overall, 6-2 Big Eight) won its fourth consecutive game and remained tied for second place in conference play.
Undefeated Madison Memorial clinched the outright title with a victory over Janesville Parker on Friday. Middleton, Verona and Madison La Follette are in second, while Sun Prairie (5-3, 5-3) fell to fifth place.
On the first play from scrimmage after halftime, Buckner raced 80 yards for a touchdown — erasing a 13-7 halftime deficit and giving Middleton a 14-13 lead.
Sun Prairie was closing in on the go-ahead score as the third quarter ended.
But on first-and-goal from the Middleton 2-yard line as the fourth quarter began, Sun Prairie junior quarterback Brady Stevens was hit by Middleton senior linebacker Jake Pavelski — who applied heavy pressure all game — and fumbled. Middleton senior Brian Frusciante recovered at the 7-yard line.
On second down from the 9, Buckner broke free on a run along the right sideline, then evaded defenders with a cut to his left and completed the 91-yard touchdown scamper with 11 minutes, 16 seconds remaining in the game.
“We were going in to score and take the lead, then we fumble and two plays later they had a big run,” Sun Prairie coach Brian Kaminski said. “We can’t afford turnovers, especially inside the 5-yard line. We can’t have that.”
Sun Prairie, trailing 21-13, responded on its next possession. The left-handed Stevens, who threw three touchdowns, fired a 26-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Dominick Landphier, rallying Sun Prairie within 21-19 with 9:57 to play. But the two-point conversion pass attempt failed.
Middleton continued to pound the ball on the ground with Buckner and senior Keewon Buford. Buford’s 9-yard touchdown run capped a 78-yard scoring drive and gave Middleton a 28-19 lead with 7:33 left.
Buford scored his second rushing touchdown on a 20-yard run with 54 seconds remaining, sealing the victory.
From the start, Middleton set the tone with the running game, led by Buckner (who wound up with 247 yards rushing) and quarterback Drew Teff, on its first series and moved the ball to the Sun Prairie 10-yard line. Teff maneuvered through traffic on a middle run, but fumbled at the 1-yard line.
Johnson pounced on the football in the end zone for a Middleton touchdown, and was credited with the score.
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Sun Prairie, with the wind in the second quarter, turned to its passing game and some trickery.
Using a flea-flicker play, Stevens connected on a 43-yard touchdown pass to junior Peyton Jenkins with 9:49 left in the first quarter. Stevens handed off to senior running back Nathan Schauer, who handed off to senior receiver Colin Schaefer, coming around on a reverse. Schaefer then pitched the ball to Stevens, who threw downfield to a wide-open Jenkins, bringing Sun Prairie within 7-6 (a two-point conversion pass was incomplete).
On the next play from scrimmage, Buckner fumbled and Sun Prairie senior defensive back Dom Backes recovered at the Middleton 12.
Stevens then threw a 12-yard touchdown strike to Schaefer — who had seven receptions — in the right corner of the end zone with 9:39 left in the second quarter. Two touchdowns within 10 seconds gave Sun Prairie a 13-7 lead.
“Buckner is pretty good, we knew that coming in,” Kaminski said. “We had some assignment miscues. But you have to give them credit. Their offensive line had some holes. We had some opportunities to maybe tackle him in the backfield and he was able to break free and make some plays.”
Middleton 7 0 7 21 — 35
Sun Prairie 0 13 0 6 — 19
MID — Johnson fumble recovery in end zone (Pertzborn kick)
SP — Jenkins 43 pass from Stevens (pass failed)
SP — Schaefer 12 pass from Stevens (Konopacki kick)
MID — Buckner 80 run (Pertzborn kick)
MID — Buckner 91 run (Pertzborn kick)
SP — Landphier 26 pass from Stevens (pass failed)
MID — Buford 9 run (Pertzborn kick)
MID — Buford 20 run (Pertzborn kick)
First Downs — MID 14, SP 15. Rushes-Yards — MID 43-330, SP 24-18. Passing Yards — MID 5, SP 196. Comp-Att-Int — MID 1-3-0, SP 18-27-1. Fumbles-Lost — MID 4-2, SP 1-1. Penalties-Yards— MID 9-79, SP 9-97.
Rushing: MID, Buckner 28-247. SP, Schauer 10-26. Passing: MID, Teff 1-3-5-0. SP, Stevens 18-27-196-1. Receiving: MID, Buckner 1-5. SP, Schaefer 7-83.