JANESVILLE—Janesville Parker gave reigning Big Eight Conference champion Middleton all it could handle to open the 2015 high school football season Friday night.
The Vikings, who won seven games the past three years combined, had one final drive at Monterey Stadium with a chance to beat the Cardinals, who won nine games a year ago.
Parker's last-ditch effort stalled out about 35 yards short, and Middleton escaped with a 21-19 victory.
“Our kids were ready to compete, and I think we kind of just showed the league what we're about,” said Parker's Clayton Kreger after coaching his first game. “We're not going to go down without a fight. Our kids played four quarters, and we're going to do that week in and week out.”
The Vikings went toe-to-toe with the Cardinals throughout.
Middleton struck first when standout running back Cam Maly took a handoff 24 yards for a score midway through the first quarter. The score capped a drive that would have gone three-and-out, but Parker had too many players on the field on Middleton's punt, extending the series.
The Vikings answered through the air when sophomore quarterback Jordan Bailey hit Sandy Toyer streaking down the sideline for a 40-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to 7-6. The extra-point attempt was blocked.
“I have all the confidence in the world in Jordan,” Kreger said of the first-time starter who played with composure and threw for 68 yards.
A Parker penalty extended another Middleton drive in the second quarter, and the Cardinals turned the opportunity into another touchdown, this time a one-yard pass.
It took less than 90 seconds for Parker to respond. Junior running back DJ Vance, who finshed with 159 yards on 21 carries, scampered 54 yards for a touchdown.
“We have four good tailbacks and we'll use all four,” Kreger said. “But DJ has done a great job for us.”
Maly, who carreid 25 times for 90 yards, scored again to give Middleton some cushion early in the fourth quarter.
After trading possessions, Parker clawed back within a score. Middleton helped the Vikings by committing a silly personal foul, and Parker later converted on 4th-and-26 on a double pass that set up Eric Schuhmacher's four-yard plunge with 2:37 to play.
Parker forced a three-and-out and used a couple timeouts. It got the ball back with 93 seconds left and 58 yards to go to the end zone. The Vikings got two first downs, but Middleton stood tall in the final seconds.
“We knew our youth was going to be exposed at some point, and tonight it was exposed a little more than we hoped with some of the stupid penalties,” Middleton coach Tim Simon said. “But Janesville Parker played a great game.
“That one could have gone either way.”