“That’s my defensive goal. I love putting that zero on the scoreboard,” said Mohawks senior Max Evans, a 6-foot-2, 260-pound defensive tackle. “Of course we’re going to be upset if people score on us, but that’s part of the game. As long as we come out with the W, that’s what really matters to us.”
Valley View will be waiting for Madison on Friday night at Barker Field in Germantown. It’s the unofficial Game of the Year in the Southwestern Buckeye League.
On paper, it might be the Mohawks’ biggest remaining challenge in the regular season. The next seven Madison opponents are a combined 4-10 through two weeks.
Of course, Mohawks coach Steve Poff doesn’t want to hear such talk. What he knows is that Madison hasn’t beaten Valley View since posting a 20-0 victory at Barker Field in 1990. He was a junior fullback on that MHS team.
“I don’t care what other people say,” Poff said. “I’d love to call it a rivalry, but when you never win, it’s not a rivalry. It’s just a game you want to play every year.”
The Mohawks are eager to make it a rivalry again after surging to the Division V state semifinals last year.
Most of their starters have returned and remember that one of their 2017 losses came at the hands of Valley View, which pulled away from a 6-0 halftime lead en route to a 32-7 triumph in Week 3.
“We really did well in the first half,” Evans recalled. “Towards the second half they started making adjustments — we started not adjusting to certain stuff. We were getting wore down. We had a couple guys going both ways.”
So why will this year be different?
“Our conditioning’s picked up. We’ve got less guys going both ways,” Evans said. “I think this year it’s a different ballgame, and I’m pretty excited for it.”
Bob Skidmore started coaching at Valley View back in 1987, so he recalls the last time Madison was victorious in this series. The Spartans have won the last 20 meetings (the two schools didn’t play from 2006-12) by an average score of 49-8.
Now in his third season as head coach, Skidmore would love to think his team has a mental edge in this matchup. But he’s not so sure that’s the reality of the situation, especially with Valley View coming off a 27-23 road loss to Fort Recovery.
“What happened years ago doesn’t matter,” Skidmore said. “I think we caught ’em last year before they really got rolling, which helped. But that’s not going to be the case this year. They’re already rolling.
“I think we’re going to be competitive, but just to be honest, I think they’re the favorite. They’re extremely physical, very talented and have got a lot of guys that have been playing for a long time, which is something we don’t have.
“I’m sure they’ve made this into a huge game for them and we’re kind of licking our wounds after a tough loss last week. So I hope we can rebound, but I also realize they’re the real deal.”
Junior quarterback Cade Cradlebaugh, previously a two-year starter at wide receiver, has been the primary weapon in the Spartans’ run-and-shoot offense. He’s 15-of-25 for 234 yards and three touchdowns through the air while running 42 times for 256 yards and four TDs.
Valley View opened the year with a 50-26 win over Wilmington. Skidmore said he’s liked the defensive play of junior linebacker Max Smith, senior cornerback Jonny Jones and junior safety Dylan Branham.
Skidmore said his team prefers to run the ball, and he’s aware that run defense is Madison’s strength. That doesn’t mean the Spartans will try to make this game an aerial circus.
“Their defensive line is just outstanding,” Skidmore said. “Of course we’ve always got a few wrinkles, but if you’re going to throw the ball, you’ve still got to block those four guys, and that’s been awful tough for teams to do from what we have seen.”
The Mohawks’ all-senior defensive front — Cole Pelgen and Levi McMonigle at end, Evans and Tanner Limon at tackle — is imposing. All four were starters last season.
“We’re a hard-hitting, hard-nosed team. We’re kind of blue collar … we take that as a compliment,” Evans said. “We don’t do much razzle-dazzle or much fancy stuff. We blitz occasionally. We might do a couple line stunts. But mostly we just read our keys and get after the ball.”
Said Poff, “I’m not going to take anything away from that defense. If you’re playing hard and blanking people, obviously you’re doing some things right. But I don’t think we’ve even seen close to what their full potential is. As much as everybody likes a storyline, we’re still a work in progress.”
Senior Cameron Svarda, who fell just short of 2,000 yards last year as Madison’s fullback, has only carried the ball nine times for 42 yards in 2018. He suffered a sprained ankle in Week 1 against Franklin and only played safety against Reading.
Poff said Svarda should return to being a full-go two-way player Friday night.
Senior outside linebacker Kyle Melton is also back from a shoulder injury this week, so the Mohawks are close to 100 percent. Poff said athletic trainer Cody Cummings deserves credit for the squad’s general healthiness.
What: Madison (2-0) at Valley View (1-1), 7 p.m.
Where: Barker Field, 64 Comstock St., Germantown
Last meeting: Valley View won 32-7 in 2017, its 20th straight victory in the series