By Drew Goodman / Scrimmageplaycva.com
It would have been easy for the Madison County football team to hang its head after allowing a pair of Nelson County touchdowns on its first two defensive series’ in Friday’s non-district clash.
After 12 minutes of play, the host Governors had the same amount of touchdowns as the Mountaineers had first downs, as the Madison offense fared no better than their counterparts to start the game.
Despite allowing a bevy of big plays in the first quarter, the veteran MCHS defense knew that if it could get just one stop, the momentum would eventually reach the visitors’ side.
On their third defensive series of the contest, the Mountaineer defense finally came up with a stop.
And then another, and then another, and then another.
Madison County followed up Nelson’s two scoring drives with six straight defensive stops and turned the Governors over on downs in the final minutes to hold on for a 21-20 triumph on the road.
“Playing on the road at any level is very very hard to do,” Madison County head coach Chandler Rhoades said. “I was really really really proud of how our kids fought through adversity, being down 14-0 and coming back to tie it up and getting stops when we needed to. Those are all things that we gotta do when we’re on the road.”
The one-point triumph in Nelson County comes on the heels of Madison’s 67-7 win at Rappahannock on September 28.
After allowing touchdowns of 21 and 47 yards respectively in the first quarter, the Mountaineers bottled up the big plays and contained George Brown Jr., Brice Wilson, and the rest of Nelson’s offensive weapons for the remainder of the contest.
The Governors’ lone second half touchdown, a 12-yard fourth-quarter scamper by Brandon Jamerson, came on a short field, after Wilson picked off a pass in Madison territory.
Nelson appeared to be poised to tie the game following Jamerson’s shifty run, but a 15-yard celebration penalty forced the home team into a long two-point try. On the go-ahead two-point conversion attempt, a host of Mountaineers bottled up Wilson well before he reached the end zone, which preserved the slim lead for the victors.
The Nelson offense had one final opportunity to regain the lead with 3:38 remaining in the fourth quarter. Two straight punishing runs by Sergio Rodriguez moved the ball to midfield, but the Madison County defense did not allow the ground game to advance any further. Sophomore Matthew Peterson and a gang of Mountaineers thwarted back-to-back rushing attempts, before a key drop on fourth down ended any hopes of a Nelson County comeback.
The big plays that worked for the Governors in the first quarter were not there in the second half and during crunch time, thanks to the improved push up front by the Madison front-seven.
“We made an adjustment; they were hurting us off-tackle, so we switched up front,” Rhoades said. “Our front guys really bought into that adjustment and we were able to get stops.”
“We were all worried, shaken up, but we all came together at halftime and just stopped it,” Madison County linebacker William Graves said.
With the defense doing its part, the Mountaineer offense shook off some early drops and costly penalties to come alive in the second quarter.
Madison County answered Nelson’s big gains with an eight-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with a 39-yard run to paydirt by Matthew Lewis. Following yet another three-and-out by the defense, Sam Estes needed just one play to outrun the entire Nelson secondary for a 51-yard catch-and-run to setup the game-tying extra point.
With repeated cries of “impose your will” from the Madison coaching staff, the Mountaineers took control of the game in the third quarter.
Fresh off of yet another defensive stop, Madison County methodically marched 76 yards in eight plays, all on the ground. Quarterback Elijah Lewis, polished off the drive with a 13-yard draw for a touchdown to give the Mountaineers the lead for good.
“I thought our line did a great job; that’s really what they’ve been working for, putting themselves in position to control games,” Rhoads said of the third quarter scoring drive. “I thought we controlled part of the third quarter. I thought Matthew Lewis ran the ball well, and we were able to execute.”
While Rhoades favored a grind-it-out approach with his rushing attack, Nelson head coach Matt Hicks preferred to hit his opponents with big plays that his team had been practicing all week.
Following what he called “a great week of practice” his explosive offense looked like a hot knife through butter on their first two offensive possessions.
After the Nelson defense stopped Madison on fourth down, Wilson hit the unsuspecting Mountaineers with a nifty 18-yard run. Minutes later, Brown was dancing in the end zone following a powerful 21-yard dash for a touchdown.
With the Mountaineers trying desperately to decipher where the ball was going on each play, the Governors then burned their guests from the Bull Run District through the air. Following a Madison punt, Brown dropped back to pass and found a streaking Devon Cousins for a 47-yard strike, and the two-point conversion gave Nelson a 14-point advantage.
The Mountaineers would clamp down on the big gainers following the second quarter, but Hicks was proud of the way his young team executed what they had worked on in practice, and is excited about the offense’s potential going forward.
“With a young team… I think they’re seeing, how you prepare for a football game immediately translates to how you come out in a football game,” Hicks said. “We’ve had some tough weeks practice-wise and we’ve gotten behind early. We’ve had some great weeks in practice and we’ve had some success. We were pleased with what we got from the team this week, and it was nice to see how important that practice is to them.”
Due to a forfeit by Massanutten Military Academy, the Governors will be back in action on October 19 against Strasburg. After two straight road victories, Madison will return home next Friday to battle district rival Central Woodstock.