The Madison High School football team has made history by qualifying for the playoffs for the first time.
For seniors like Stephen Watts, it’s a time to rejoice and reflect on times when the postseason seemed like a far-away dream.
“My senior class has been pretty bad in years past,” Watts admitted. “We were not very good in pee-wee. We’ve definitely lost a lot of players too. But the ones that stuck with it are tough. We finally came together and started winning games.”
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound offensive guard is one of the key figures in a pound-it running game for the Mohawks, who will host Anna in a Division V, Region 20 quarterfinal Friday night at Brandenburg Field.
Madison ran its winning streak to seven last Friday with a 58-13 triumph at Northridge and had a playoff-clinching party with its fans upon arriving back home.
“The community is really coming together as a whole,” Watts said. “We’re all real excited to finally show what we have in the playoffs. We’re really happy to make the township proud.
“It’s never been done before in school history, so it’s really nice to be able to say that you’re on that team. Our goal was to make the playoffs, but now we actually want to do something there, set a name for ourselves. Of course no one’s going to know who Madison Township is, so let’s try to start something.”
Mohawks coach Steve Poff believes Friday will be “a pretty emotional time.”
“There will be a lot of people probably back at a Madison game that haven’t been there in a while,” he said. “We’ll be excited for those people and excited for our team and our community.”
What fans shouldn’t expect is something different from the Mohawks. They are succeeding with a hard-nosed, physical style of football that features a stop-us-if-you-can running game.
Madison’s Wing-T has produced 3,655 rushing yards and 8.3 yards per carry.
Five players have more than 200 yards — junior Cameron Svarda (152 carries, 1,437 yards, 20 TDs), senior Tyler Baumgartner (109 carries, 886 yards, 14 TDs), junior Evan Crim (98 carries, 591 yards, seven TDs), junior quarterback Mason Whiteman (44 carries, 315 yards, eight TDs) and freshman Justin Gray (11 carries, 227 yards, two TDs).
Where that all starts, of course, is up front.
“It feels good to able to say a back ran a big run right behind you when you’re making holes,” Watts said. “You’re doing just as much as they are, basically.”
That offensive line, from left to right, is comprised of junior tackle Noah Banks (6-0, 200), Watts, senior center R.J. Borgman (5-10, 225), junior guard Caleb Bolen (6-3, 255) and senior tackle Steven Ward (6-2, 240). Junior Cameron Baker (5-10, 215) is the tight end.
“We’re not really a wild bunch. We’re pretty calm, laid-back,” Watts said. “The key is playing fast. We have some pretty fast backs behind us, so we’ve got to be moving all the time.”
Said Poff, “Those guys are just phenomenal. They make mistakes, but they’re getting after people. There’s a lot of ways for a team to turn selfish, but these guys aren’t like that. They love what they’re doing.”
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Svarda, a 5-8, 180-pound fullback, has set a single-season school rushing record this year. He broke tailback Scott Smith’s record of 1,420 yards (set in 1990) on the first play of the second half against Northridge, then went to the sideline with the rest of the starters.
Poff, a 1992 Madison graduate, was a junior fullback during Smith’s record-setting season.
“I’m telling you right now … Scott Smith was a good football player,” Poff said. “I lined up in front of him. I don’t know if I ever blocked anybody or not, but I got to be on the same team.”
Poff said as strong as Svarda’s numbers are, they could be much, much better. He’s generally been a spectator in the fourth quarter because of blowouts.
“He’s really humble about the whole thing,” Watts said. “Right after (breaking the record), he’s like, ‘Hey, that’s your record too.’ ”
Watts isn’t planning to play college football and doesn’t play other sports, so this is his last official athletic go-round. He’d like to extend this run as long as he can.
“It doesn’t feel real that the season went this fast,” Watts said. “I definitely want to get as many games in as possible. I’ve got to make it count.”
What: Division V, Region 20 quarterfinal, Anna (7-3) at Madison (8-2), 7:30 p.m.
Where: Brandenburg Field, 5797 W. Alexandria Road, Madison Township
Anna playoff history: 2-9 in nine appearances (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010)
Madison playoff history: First appearance