Middleton eliminates Craig from playoff consideration
MIDDLETON—Janesville Craig head coach Ben McCormick knew the task was daunting, but his team was starting to give him reasons to believe.
Bouncing back to win two of their last three games following a three-game losing streak, the Cougars knew that a spot in the playoffs might be reserved for them if they could carry the momentum from last week’s upset with them on the road.
It just wasn’t meant to be, as Middleton’s defense extinguished Craig’s playoff hopes with a 31-7 victory at Otto Breitenbach Stadium on Friday night.
“I thought we would make it a little bit more of a competitive game, considering what we were playing for,” said McCormick, as Janesville Craig (3-5) will only have city bragging rights and The Rock on the line next week against Janesville Parker. “I give credit to Middleton. They came out and played really well.”
The Cougars might have had a chance had their fourth-down defense not let them down. On the Cardinals’ first touchdown, multiple defenders had a chance to bring down senior quarterback Kasey Miller on a fourth-and-11.
When they didn’t, Miller’s heave to the back corner of the end zone was hauled in by senior Derek Rongstad, who beat the defensive back in one-on-one coverage.
With Craig trailing 17-0 and needing stops at the start of the second half, Cardinals senior tailback Charles Braxton broke through multiple defenders on fourth-and-2. He didn’t stop until he reached the end zone on a 7-yard run to make the score 24-0. It was the second of his three scores.
“You’ve got to be able to get off the field and get stops,” said McCormick.
A week after their 20-point second quarter set the tone in a 27-14 upset over Madison Memorial, the Cougars’ run-oriented offense was stymied. Averaging 264 yards per game and 7.5 yards per carry, Craig managed only 158 yards on the ground on 39 carries (4.1 per carry).
Middleton (6-2) also registered 12 tackles for loss for 39 lost yardage and ruined the Cougars’ best scoring chance by recovering a fumble in the end zone.
To add a dose of irony, it was Middleton’s ground game that ran down Craig’s defense after the game’s opening touchdown.
“We have another week,” said McCormick, referring to the Parker game, “and it should be an easy week to get up for.”