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Passing game comes through for Madison

On the third play of Madison’s 31-10 win over Edison on Friday night, Warhawks quarterback Eric Roland rolled to his right and completed an eight-yard pass to Ben Powers in the flat. Meanwhile, Ryan McGuire ran a corner route and was wide open down the field.

Coach Gordon Leib, as he does after most pass plays, talked with Roland and pointed out the glaring amount of open space around McGuire. Then later, with time winding down in the third quarter, Leib called the same play again -- to the left side. And this time, Roland found Ryan McGuire on that corner route to put the Warhawks ahead, 24-10.

“I always tell [Roland], ‘I’m putting all three guys in your vision; pick one of them,’” Leib said. “He threw a perfect pass.”

Madison, though, is anything but a passing team. In fact, Roland attempted only seven passes all night, completing two of them for a total of 52 yards. Still, it was enough to help Madison (7-4) snap a two-year postseason losing streak to Edison, which bounced the Warhawks from the playoffs in 2007 and 2008.

Last year Edison crushed Madison, 47-7, in the Northern Region Division 5 semifinals and played in its fifth straight region championship game.

“Getting beat that bad and coming back to win this year, it feels good,” said senior Kevin Sampson, who recovered a fourth-quarter fumble that was forced by Charlie Pence.

The win on Friday was made possible by the Warhawks’ running game, which totaled 274 yards, and a defense that forced three second-half turnovers. Senior Tavin Thomas led the way with 138 rushing yards and two touchdowns while Tyler Wilkinson added 78 more on the ground. In addition to his touchdown pass, Roland ran for an 11-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

“We’re a running team, but our passing has increased and it came through [on Friday],” Thomas said.

Now Madison gets a rematch with Stone Bridge, a team that Warhawks know quite well. On Oct. 19, Madison handed Stone Bridge (10-1) a 28-14 loss, snapping the Bulldogs’ 54-game district winning streak that dated back to 2002.

While Madison is certainly no stranger to postseason football, the Warhawks are sometimes considered outsiders when it comes to having a dynamic passing game. Their offense looks like it was stolen from football’s ancient days -- except, of course, for the leather helmets. Leib runs a Wing-T-type offense, and there often isn’t a whole lot of variation.

On more than one occasion Friday night, I heard Leib send in a very simple play call: run the same play … again. It sort of makes me think of Denzel Washington’s line as T.C. Williams Coach Herman Boone in “Remember the Titans.”

Talking about his split veer offense, Washington/Boone said, “It’s like Novocain. Give it time … always works.” Guess that’s at least partially true for Madison.

“Everybody says I have to run a ‘West Coast, East Coast, North Coast or South Coast offense,’” Leib said. “You have to run what you believe in and run what you get the kids to believe in.”

By Jason Mackey  |  November 14, 2009; 12:13 AM ET
Categories:  Football , Madison , Northern Region  
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