Madison High School’s defensive line became a force when Steve Poff decided to stop playing musical chairs up front.
The Mohawks were 1-2 and coming off consecutive losses to Monroe and Valley View when Poff, Madison’s fourth-year head football coach, felt it was time to pick a side for all of his linemen and leave them there.
“Everybody’s pretty excited about things right now, but 10 weeks ago, it was a pretty somber mood around here when we were sitting 1-2,” said Poff, whose Mohawks will meet unbeaten West Jefferson for the Division V, Region 20 championship Friday night at Beavercreek.
WEEK 11: Madison 14, Anna 10
“We were still finding our way, and we made some hard decisions as a group about how the team was going to be. Basically the decision was to have one offensive line and one defensive line to keep guys fresh. We decided to stop teaching everybody two spots and put guys on the line and say, ‘Come beat us.’ ”
Madison is now on a nine-game winning streak and has been proficient and bruising when it comes to stopping the run. Last week, the Mohawks limited Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy to 25 rushing yards.
“We’re pretty proud of that,” junior tackle Tanner Limon said. “I believe we’re a hard-hitting team. I’d say we’re pretty good front to back. I don’t really think there’s a weak link on our defense.”
The starting D-line is all juniors. Max Evans (6-1, 250) is playing nose guard, and Cole Pelgen (6-2, 245) and Levi McMonigle (6-5, 200) are the ends.
Evans started the season as a tackle, while Pelgen and Limon are former linebackers. McMonigle is a transfer from Valley View who didn’t play football last year.
“They’re active, they can all run, and they’re all pretty physical,” Poff said. “Levi has brought a different level to our end spot. Pelgen beats people with his physicality, and Levi beats them with his intelligence and ranginess.”
Limon (6-0, 210) was a backup LB and special-teams player for Madison’s varsity in 2016, so he wasn’t exactly sure how this season would go for him.
“I knew I wanted to start and I didn’t really know how I was going to play this season, but I feel like I’ve achieved a lot of my goals,” Limon said. “As the season’s gone on, I believe I’ve gotten a lot better.”
“Tanner took a bunch of reps at linebacker early on this year, and he could go play linebacker right now,” Poff said. “We just wanted to be as athletic up front as we could be. I’m surprised at how well he took to the defensive line without ever playing it in his life. He came into it with no bad habits.”
West Jefferson is a high-scoring squad averaging 45.3 points a game. The Roughriders are compiling 198.8 rushing yards and 220.3 passing yards per contest.
Poff is a firm believer that the simplest plan is usually the right one. So the Mohawks will put their faith in their base 4-4 defense.
“There’s no secret to what we do,” Poff said. “Take your 11 fastest dudes that can actually bring somebody to the ground, and they play on defense.
“We run very few stunts. We run very few blitzes. Our guys are going to read their keys and go make a play. And they get blocked and they get cut and it doesn’t always go their way, but even if it doesn’t go their way, they’re coming at you on the next play. That’s what makes them special as a group.”
What: Division V, Region 20 final, Madison (10-2) vs. West Jefferson (12-0) at Beavercreek, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Frank Zink Field at Miami Valley Hospital Stadium, 2660 Dayton-Xenia Road, Beavercreek
Madison playoff history: 2-0 in one appearance (2017)
West Jefferson playoff history: 23-17 in 20 appearances (1976, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1998, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017), winning state titles in 1976 and 1982