The element of surprise rarely makes an appearance with Madison High School’s football team.
The Mohawks play power football with a straight-ahead, stop-us-if-you-can mentality, and it’s taken them to the top of the Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division and within smelling distance of their first-ever playoff berth.
“I feel like when we play our best, there’s not many teams that can play with us,” junior defensive end Cole Pelgen said Friday night after Madison threw a wet blanket on Carlisle’s homecoming with a 31-14 victory at Laughlin Field. “And it’s all a team effort.”
Pelgen, Tanner Limon and Max Evans led the D-line charge for the Mohawks, while Cameron Svarda pounded his way to 149 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.
Madison improved to 5-2 overall and — after Dixie’s 20-7 loss to Preble Shawnee on Friday — stands alone on top of the SWBL Buckeye at 3-0.
“Carlisle is very hard hitting,” said Svarda, a 5-foot-8, 180-pound junior fullback. “No matter what our records are, we always look into this game as the biggest game of the season. I think they had more guys going both ways … we just wore ’em down. We had fresh legs all game.”
The Mohawks took a forceful step toward the Division V, Region 20 postseason, though Madison coach Steve Poff said he’s only worried about next Friday’s homecoming game against Dixie.
“We’ll cross that bridge in Week 11 if we can get there,” Poff said. “Our entire focus is going to shift from Carlisle to Dixie. I don’t know how they did tonight against Preble Shawnee, and I really don’t care. We’re going to attack them exactly the same way.”
Carlisle (5-2, 3-1) came to play Friday night and was in a 7-7 game with the Mohawks in the last four minutes of the first half. But the visitors scored the next 24 points.
The Indians finished the contest with No. 3 quarterback Johnathan Sheperd on the field because of injuries. Starter Jake Moore couldn’t play after halftime, and Zach Jewell went down in the fourth quarter.
“We don’t know the extent of their injuries, but they were unable to finish tonight,” Carlisle coach Mike Brown said. “So we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
Brown did like his team’s perseverance. Jewell cut into the 31-7 deficit with a touchdown run with 4:45 remaining, then the Indians recovered an onside kick.
“We didn’t quit,” Brown said. “I don’t think we ever will.”
The two ground-based offenses produced passing touchdowns in the first period. Madison’s Mason Whiteman hit Luke Cornele with a 34-yard toss to open the scoring, and Moore connected with D.J. Chambers for a 60-yard TD less than two minutes later.
“That’s just what happens sometimes,” Poff said. “You exchange blows and keep working to figure it out. It’s a four-quarter game. I thought our backs ran hard, but I really thought our offensive and defensive lines played exceptional football tonight.”
Whiteman was 1 of 2 through the air and didn’t attempt another pass after his touchdown. The Mohawks piled up 273 yards on the ground behind Svarda and Tyler Baumgartner, who had 65 yards and a pair of TDs on 13 rushes.
“He doesn’t stop, and they’re going to give it to him,” Brown said of Svarda. “I’ve nothing but respect for Coach Poff because he says, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ and that’s what they do. He gets his team to play hard.”
Svarda went to the sideline for good after absorbing a head-rattling hit early in the fourth quarter. He said he was fine, but Poff kept him out as a precaution.
“He was fighting to come back in,” Poff said. “In a 31-7 game, we didn’t see any reason to take a chance.”
Svarda said his O-linemen made things “very easy for me. They opened up the hole, and I had to beat one guy. That’s all.”
Carlisle found little running room against Madison’s defensive front. Chambers had 36 yards on 11 carries, but the Indians managed 15 rushing yards as a team.
“That’s a hell of a stat, isn’t it?” Poff said. “Our guys up front are working hard. It’s nice to see them have the success they want. It’s a collision game, and that’s how we try to play.”
“I’ll probably be talking about their defensive front for a while too,” Brown said. “Their ends and interior shut down our roll game and those backers shut down the inside run, and that’s what we like to do. They did a great job.”
The 6-2, 245-pound Pelgen said the Mohawks’ defensive unit is playing with a lot of confidence.
“We feel like we can handle ourselves very well on the defensive line, and we are able to stop the run very well against almost any team,” he said. “And I couldn’t ask for any better from our DBs.”
Madison, which limited Carlisle to 100 total yards, got a 27-yard field goal and four extra points from Graham Reich.
The Indians will travel to Milton-Union next Friday.
M: Luke Cornele 34 pass from Mason Whiteman (Graham Reich kick)
C: D.J. Chambers 60 pass from Jake Moore (Ande Allison kick)
M: Tyler Baumgartner 4 run (Reich kick)
M: Reich 27 field goal
M: Cameron Svarda 13 run (Reich kick)
M: Baumgartner 14 run (Reich kick)
C: Zach Jewell 9 run (Allison kick)