This time, the Madison Memorial football team made certain a dramatic, last-second “Hail Mary” pass wasn’t required in its Big Eight Conference game against Middleton.
Senior quarterback Jason Ceniti ran for two touchdowns, connected with senior receiver Max Hoeser on a 69-yard score and picked up a crucial fourth-quarter sack playing defensive end in leading undefeated and host Memorial to a 28-11 victory Friday night at Mansfield Stadium.
Senior running back Kam Marshall had a touchdown run and 118 yards rushing and senior linebacker Kaden Reetz had two fourth-quarter interceptions for the Spartans (4-0 overall, 4-0 Big Eight), who pulled away after the Cardinals (2-2, 2-2) rallied within 14-11 in the third quarter.
“It’s a great next step,” said Ceniti, who threw for 201 yards. “We worked our hearts out. I’m just so proud of our boys. There were a couple times where we could have flinched and we could have gotten a little anxious. But throughout the entire game, we kept our composure. … We knew it would be a dogfight. Middleton is a great team.”
Memorial had a memorable finish against Middleton in the fourth game last season when the Spartans stunned the Cardinals 30-27 in Middleton on a “Hail Mary” touchdown pass from Ceniti to Dryden Schaefer as time expired.
Memorial coach Michael Harris — whose conference co-leader entered ranked seventh among large schools in The Associated Press state football poll but was without leading rusher Kabaris Vasser due to injury — believed Friday’s game also will be one the Spartans remember.
“One thing I’m going to share with the team is we are not going to have a Friday the 13th with a full moon for the next 30 years,” Harris said. “I told them we are going to memorize this one so when they are young men with families of their own I hope they can reflect on this one and have a good time.”
Senior quarterback Drew Teff scored on a 3-yard touchdown run, pulling the Cardinals within 14-11 with 4 minutes, 12 seconds left in the third quarter.
At that point, Middleton coach Jason Pertzborn said he believed his team was going to win the game.
“That was nice to see,” Pertzborn said. “But we just didn’t sustain it again. We have to do a better job playing together as a team. … (The defense is) playing well. They didn’t play bad at all. Our offense, just again this week, just like every week, we are not finishing drives. That is the one thing we are not doing this year.”
The 5-foot-11, 165-pound Reetz came up with his first interception when he picked off Teff’s second-down pass and returned it 21 yards to the Middleton 5 with 6:07 remaining. On second-and-5, Ceniti swept left end for a 5-yard touchdown run that pushed Memorial’s lead to 21-11 with 5:18 left.
On the next series, Teff completed a 29-yard pass to senior running back Kallion Buckner to the Memorial 32. But on third-and-6 at the 28, Teff was sacked by Ceniti for a 10-yard loss. It was Ceniti’s only play at defensive end.
“There are not many quarterbacks in the Big Eight or maybe the state who can squat 475 pounds and still can run as fast as he can,” Harris said about Ceniti. “We thought we needed a little extra push on the outside edge. This was a crucial moment for us. And, sure enough, it worked out very well for us.”
Reetz, a standout wrestler, then came up with his second interception on Teff’s fourth-down pass attempt. Marshall wound up scoring on a 3-yard run with 16 seconds to play, completing the scoring.
The Cardinals opened the scoring on junior Sawyer Pertzborn’s 20-yard field with 31 seconds left in the first half. Middleton, starting at its 40-yard line, pounded the ball on the ground behind Buckner (100 yards rushing), driving to the Memorial 3-yard line.
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But the Spartans answered on the next drive. On third-and-6 from the Memorial 31, Ceniti fired deep downfield to Hoeser, who made a leaping catch and broke into the clear. The 69-yard connection between Ceniti and Hoeser with 11:47 remaining in the second quarter gave Memorial a 7-3 lead.
The Spartans put together a seven-play, 70-yard drive, capped by Ceniti’s 1-yard touchdown sneak 38 seconds prior to halftime.
“Hats off to the team, and my coaching staff did a great job,” Harris said. “The defensive coordinators (Tim Richardson and Ben Mathias) busted their butts this week. They put in a lot of time and energy. Hats off to Chris Ceniti and Dave Hebgen up in the box figuring out what kind of (offensive) scheme we could use so we could try our best to control (the ball) when we had such sloppy field conditions.”
Middleton 3 0 8 0 — 11
Madison Memorial 0 14 0 14 — 28
Mid — FG Pertzborn 20
MM — Hoeser 69 pass from Ceniti (Kerkhoff kick)
MM — Ceniti 1 run (Kerkhoff kick)
Mid — Teff 3 run (Wuebben pass from Teff)
MM — Ceniti 5 run (Kerkhoff kick)
MM — Marshall 3 run (Kerkhoff kick)
First downs — M 12, MM 18. Rushes-yards — M 34-108, MM 40-172. Passing yards — M 86, MM 201. Comp-Att-Int — M 10-22-3, MM 9-14-0. Total yards — M 194, MM 373. Fumbles-lost — M 0-0, MM 1-1. Penalties-yards — M 2-10, MM 1-15.
Rushing: M, Buckner 22-100. MM, Marshall 27-118. Passing: M, Teff 10-22-86-3. MM, Ceniti 9-14-201-0. Receiving: M, Patterson 4-33. MM, Hoeser 4-114.