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The Middleton football team didn’t want to work overtime on Labor Day weekend.

The Cardinals got after Madison West early Friday night at Mansfield Stadium, scoring 16 first-quarter points and then held on for a 30-22 Big Eight Conference victory.

The Cardinals didn’t want a repeat of last week’s marathon, four-overtime game against Sun Prairie — which Middleton won 37-31.

“We sure as heck didn’t,” Middleton coach Tim Simon said after he watched hard-charging Madison West rally from a 23-0 deficit in the third quarter.

“We came out and got off to a good start with the safety and the offense scored on our second possession. Then things flattened out a little bit,” he said. “I think that was being a little uninspired and it was a little that we didn’t respect West as much as we should have.”

Two-time defending Big Eight champion Middleton, ranked third in the Large Division of the Associated Press state rankings, improved to 3-0 overall and in the Big Eight. But Simon let his team know in its postgame huddle that he wasn’t pleased.

“We feel fortunate and really happy, but we have to be hungry,” Simon said. “We are a good team, not a great team. We want to make that jump from good to great.”

Cardinals junior running back Dion Huff took a swing pass from senior quarterback C.J. Fermanich, received clearing blocks from Justin Sarbacker and Seth Craker, and raced 67 yards for a touchdown that gave Middleton a 30-15 lead with 7 minutes, 6 seconds remaining in the game.

“The coaches were watching everything from the press box, and they called the play and it worked,” Huff said. “The line blocking was great.”

Madison West (2-1, 2-1) dropped its first game under first-year coach Brad Murphy after defeating Beloit Memorial and Madison Memorial.

The Regents rallied behind the passing of junior quarterback Keishawn Shanklin, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for West’s final score with 2:34 left. Senior Terrell Carey caught 10 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns, and senior Terrence McNeal Jr. caught six passes in his first game after missing the first two (for school and family reasons, Murphy said).

“I put a lot of the onus on myself,” Murphy said. “I put my kids in some poor positions (schematically early in the game). I loved that our kids were resilient and didn’t quit. They showed their character.”

Middleton was on the scoreboard after only 1:22 in the game when a high snap went over the head of punter Shanklin, who stepped out of the end zone while retrieving the ball.

The Cardinals’ second offensive series began at the Regents’ 35-yard line and six plays later Middleton had a 9-0 advantage.

Huff covered the final 6 yards with his touchdown run with 5:03 left in the first quarter.

Middleton, which moved Kayden Lyles from right guard to center Friday, again took advantage of a short field in scoring its second touchdown. Middleton began its fourth series on the West 22, after a 17-yard punt. On the second play, junior quarterback Davis Roquet rolled right and delivered a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Myron Ashford Jr. for a 16-0 lead with 37 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Middleton defense bottled up the Regents’ offensive attack early on, not permitting a positive yardage play until West’s fourth series late in the first quarter. Cardinals senior defensive back Tre Turner came up with two first-half interceptions.

“We are excited for what kind of team we can be, but we have some work to do,” Turner said.

Middleton took a 23-0 lead when senior Joe Ludwig, a starting outside linebacker, lined up in the Wildcat formation, took a direct snap and scored on a 3-yard run with 3:48 left in the third quarter.

The Regents responded on the next drive when Shanklin and Carey connected on a 44-yard touchdown pass with 2:06 left in the third quarter. Carey caught a 13-yard touchdown pass with 7:27 left, rallying the Regents within 23-15 after also catching a 2-point conversion pass.

Shanklin completed his final 13 passes as the Regents’ comeback came up just short.

Middleton 16 0 7 7 — 30

Madison West 0 0 7 15 — 22

Mid — Safety

Mid — Huff 6 run (Polecek kick)

Mid — Ashford 20 pass from Roquet (Polecek kick)

Mid — Ludwig 3 run (Polecek kick)

MW — Carey 44 pass from Shanklin (Bye kick)

MW — Carey 13 pass from Shanklin (Carey pass from Shanklin)

Mid — Huff 67 pass from Fermanich (Polecek kick)

MW — Shanklin 7 run (Bye kick)

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs — Mid 10, MW 12. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — Mid 41-190, MW 27-59. Passing yards — Mid 123, MW 252. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — Mid 8-11-1, MW 17-25-2. Fumbles-lost — Mid 3-1, MW 2-0. Penalties-yards — Mid 5-50, MW 7-48.

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

Rushing: Mid, Huff 23-1058. MW, McNeal 8-30.

Passing: Mid, Fermanich 4-6--75. MW, Shanklin 17-25-2-252.

Receiving: Mid, Huff 3-71. MW, Carey 10-200.

Bucky!

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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.