Middleton will undergo a big transition in 2018, as longtime coach Tim Simon will be co-head coach with Jason Pertzborn this season before stepping down at the end of the year. (You can read more about this by going here)
Simon was candid about the process, describing it as "a lot of sleepless nights" as he made the difficult decision to turn over the program to the Middleton alum and fellow longtime Cardinals coach Pertzborn.
"It's the right thing to do," said Simon, describing the process. "I could coach for another 10, 15, 20 years, and he wouldn't get his shot here," he said, noting that Pertzborn and he are about the same age.
"I'm happy as long as I get to coach. For him, this is what he's been working towards."
Simon doesn't expect there to be anything different about how the 2018 season unfolds, other than that there will be a new title for the co-head coaches. "To the fans watching, to the players, I don't think anything will be different," Simon said. "We went through summer contact days and it was business as usual."
Pertzborn, who has been calling the offensive plays as the offensive coordinator, should fit right in, says Simon. "What's nice is that we can use this year so I can show him the other stuff that goes with being a head coach, while being here to actually do that other stuff," Simon told The Big 1070.
Simon, Pertzborn, and the Cardinals will be losing some very productive players, including their backfield trio of Davis Roquet, James Pabst, and Dion Huff, as well as a senior-laden front five on offense, and two outstanding linebackers on defense in Shane Bick and Jimmy Frusciante. However, Simon notes that with all of the early-season injuries, several younger players had a chance to step up.
"It's not uncommon in a program out size to reload rather than rebuild," said Simon, citing Middleton's 2,000-plus enrollment. "However, we had several younger players get their jerseys dirty in 2017."
Some of those players include returning safeties Devon Jackson and Kevin Meicher, both outstanding playmakers who had some big moments in some of the biggest games of 2017. Up front, the returning offensive line will have a handful of spot starts between them, including possible left tackle Clay Craker, now a junior, who started in place of Jarrett Horst, who missed the first seven weeks of the season with an unusual broken foot injury.
"Our strength will be the lines," said Simon. "We have experience coming back, so we can lean on them a bit."
Defensively, that would include players like Ortez Lockett, who was in the rotation along the defensive line. In fact, most of the defensive experience will come up the middle, although the Cardinals also bring back three-way threat Bryce Carey, who plays on the perimeter.
On special teams, Jackson was the primary punt returner last year, and Carey fielded some kickoffs. The Cardinals also bring back three different kickers with experience, including a pair of seniors, so the kick game should be in good hands despite the graduation of the very talented Jake Genyk. Finding depth at receiver, backfield production behind a stalwart line, and fresh faces on the edges of the defense appear to be the biggest challenges during August camp.
After their season opener against Madison East, Middleton gets right into the thick of the Big 8 battles with a road game against Verona, the fourth-place finisher in the conference a season ago. This will be our Madison Taxi Game of the Week on August 24. The very next week, Middleton is at Madison West, in their first meeting since the Regents shocked the Cardinals in Level 2 of last year's playoffs.
A pair of home games kick off September, with Madison Memorial and Beloit Memorial visiting Breitenbach Stadium in back-to-back weeks. After a road game at Janesville Parker, the Cardinals will host Janesville Craig in Week 7 on September 28.
October 5 is the date for the Sun Prairie game, annually one of the better match-ups in the entire state. It's also Homecoming, and it's also The Big 1070's Madison Taxi Game of the Week. Middleton wraps up the regular season with a road game at Madison La Follette.
Here's The Big 1070's conversation with Middleton co-head coach Tim Simon. The first part is on the decision to step down as head coach at the end of the season, while the second part is previewing the upcoming season.
Middleton Cardinals - Big Eight
Co-Head Coaches: Tim Simon (15th Season), 112-37 Overall, and Jason Pertzborn
2017 Result: 9-2 (8-1), 2nd in the Big 8 (Lost in Level 2 of the D1 Playoffs 30-27 to Madison West)
Three-Year Record: 26-7 (3-3 Playoffs)
2017 All-Conference Honors: 8 First-Team, 4 Second-Team, 5 Honorable Mention (17 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 21 First-Team, 11 Second-Team, 15 Honorable Mention (47 total)
Other Players To Watch: FS/WR Devon Jackson, Sr.; OL/DL Tyler Haack, Sr.; OL/DL Patrick Meier, Sr.; OL/DL Austin Ballweg, Sr.; TE/DL Max Norris, Sr.; WR/DB Sam Close, Sr.; DE/OL Ortez Lockett, Sr.; LB/WR Nick Kryshak, Sr.; LB/RB Connor Smith, Sr.; K Joey Culp, Sr.; K Jake Hoskins, Sr.; S/RB David Schwartz, Sr.; FB/LB Conner Hellenbrand, Sr.; RB/DB Tyler Kalscheur, Sr.; OL/DL Clay Craker, Jr.; S/WR/ST Ben Lichtfield, Jr.; K Sawyer Pertzborn, So.
BIG Games: at Verona, August 24 (🔊Madison Taxi Game of the Week); at Madison West, August 31; vs Sun Prairie, October 5 (Homecoming; 🔊Madison Taxi Game of the Week)