High school football Week 1: Expectations high for young Madison

First-year Madison coach Ricky Davis likely is the youngest head coach in the state.

His team might not be far behind in terms of experience.

Davis, who turns 26 on Sept. 12, takes over a Mohawks team that returns two starters on offense and two on defense. Gone are 19 seniors that guided the team to a 12-1 record and appearance in the regional title game for Division V, Region 20.

Friday night varsity experience is limited compared to past seasons, and especially last season’s playoff run. But while experience is low, expectations are not.







»Lakota West

“I love this group. I wouldn’t want to go into the 2019 season, and my first season being a head football coach, with anyone else,” Davis said. “This is probably the most doubted group in our league right now. A lot of people think we are down and out hiring a young coach and with our returning starters limited. This team has a great shot at getting right back to where they were. The anticipation is pretty high right now.”

Senior running back Jake Phelps returns after rushing for 688 yards and six touchdowns on 65 carries (10.6 yards per carry). Junior offensive lineman Noah Perry anchors the offensive line as the other returning starter. Senior cornerback Connor Blaylock and junior linebacker Devin Oligee are the returning starters on defense.

Last season’s 13-game season could benefit this year’s team with those three weeks of extra practice for the players. Among those ready to step into starting roles are senior quarterback Quincy Brown.

“Now it’s his year,” Davis said. “We had a quarterback battle and he won the job. He’s been a great leader for us.”

Brown was voted as team captain along with Phelps, Perry and Oligee.

The team should also get a boost from senior defensive end Luke Hughes. Hughes, who last played in pee wee, has stood out during practice and scrimmages.

“We turned a negative into a positive,” Davis said of the increased competition at practices. “All the younger guys eager to get going have stepped into those roles.”

Davis also has the advantage of knowing the Mohawks from last season. Davis, who played quarterback at Youngstown State University, graduated in December of 2017 and moved to Dallas for a medical sales job.

His love for football led him back to Ohio and the Mohawks. The former Moeller and Fenwick prep standout (younger brothers Randy and Reid both played at Madison) joined Steve Poff’s staff late in the season. By the end of the playoff run Davis was calling plays at the co-offensive coordinator.

When Poff stepped down he told Davis he should apply for the job. Poff remained on staff as an assistant coach.

“I think this is something I can definitely do. I’m more eager to go than anything,” Davis said.

His goal was to install the spread offense in place of Madison’s traditional Wing-T offense. Davis might implement aspects of the spread at times this season but plans to mostly stick with the Wing-T.

“I thought we needed to go back to the meat and potatoes of what we’re good at so we went back to the Wing-T,” Davis said, noting players have run the Wing-T since pee wee and rarely have needed to catch the ball. “(Poff) is a Wing-T guru and I’m a real big spread guy. I think us together is a good package.

“The offensive line is a tough group. We pride ourselves on running the football and they take that personal. It’s a real gritty group. I think we’ll have a lot of success with those guys in the next 10 weeks.”

Madison, which has won 17 straight regular-season games, opens Friday with Franklin at home, and also hosts Valley View, Preble Shawnee, Milton-Union and Northridge. The Mohawks travel to Reading, Dixie, Carlisle, Monroe and Waynesville.

The Mohawks have 50 players on the team for Davis in his first season.

“You really start to build such a bond with these kids. You spend every day with them and they start to become family,” Davis said. “Football is unlike anything else. Being a head coach for this group of guys is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.”

About the Author