Middleton lives to see another game.
The state high school football playoffs opened last Friday night with 224 teams competing in seven divisions.
A couple of new and significant organizational changes are in place this year, including one that allows the highest-seeded teams to host games through the quarterfinals. This resulted in first-round games at DeForest, Madison La Follette, Marshall, Middleton, Monona Grove and Waunakee.
All six of those teams emerged victorious, even though only two -- Middleton, which hosted a contentious game against Big Eight Conference rival Sun Prairie, and La Follette, which squeezed past Verona -- probably needed home-field advantage to advance.
The Middleton Cardinals vs. Sun Prairie Cardinals matchup at Middleton's Breitenbach Stadium was more intriguing than the 33-10 final score suggests, as a tight game was blown wide open following a 41-yard Sun Prairie touchdown pass that was called back for unsportsmanlike conduct. That game was marred by more unsportsmanlike behavior after the final whistle, when alleged taunting from both teams prompted a nasty altercation behind the sidelines.
Another change the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association made to this year's playoffs involves placing all six Big Eight playoff schools in the same bracket. That means only one has any shot of making it to the quarterfinals. With La Follette and Middleton left as the conference representatives, it's going to take some big breaks for either team to advance.
On Halloween night, the fourth-seeded La Follette Lancers travel to the Fox Valley to face undefeated (and No. 1 seed) Kimberly. Kimberly, the reigning WIAA Division 2 state champions, moved up to Division 1 just this year, yet clobbered Madison West by 36 points last weekend. Meanwhile, No. 2-seeded Middleton hosts No. 3 Fond du Lac, which embarrassed Janesville Craig on Friday, 46-7.
The area's smaller teams have better shots at rolling all the way to Camp Randall for the state championship games on Nov. 20 and 21. In fact, a DeForest-Waunakee battle in the Division 2 quarterfinals isn't far-fetched, and Monona Grove (which hosts Reedsburg next) could make a deep run in Division 3.