Expectations are soaring for Madison High School’s football team this season.
The Mohawks made their first Division V playoff appearance a memorable one in 2017, advancing all the way to the state semifinals before falling to eventual champion Wheelersburg.
Madison won the Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division championship along the way, and the SWBL coaches have voted the Mohawks unanimous favorites to repeat this year.
“There’s been many times in past years where we would’ve been thrilled to be in that No. 1 position or just to be considered for it,” Madison coach Steve Poff said. “I’m not saying we’re not happy about it now. It’s just a situation where we need to worry about ourselves and get ourselves better and play the game in front of us.”
PRESEASON PREP FOOTBALL POLLS
Milton-Union, with Bret Pearce returning to the helm, was voted second in the preseason poll. Carlisle was third, Waynesville fourth, Preble Shawnee fifth, Northridge sixth and Dixie seventh.
“I don’t care too much about preseason polls, but being my fourth year here and the fourth time we’ve done this, if there’s ever been a deserving No. 1, it’s Madison,” Carlisle coach Mike Brown said. “Boy, they were good last year. And they’re returning a lot.”
The Mohawks will have to replace three starters on the offensive line and a 1,200-yard runner (Tyler Baumgartner), but most of the starting crew is indeed back this year.
Senior quarterback Mason Whiteman returns at the controls of the Wing-T offense. Senior fullback Cameron Svarda is back after rushing for 1,940 yards and 26 touchdowns last season.
Seniors ends Levi McMonigle and Cole Pelgen, senior tackles Max Evans and Tanner Limon, safety Svarda and cornerback Whiteman are returning to key a physical defensive unit.
“There’s a lot of high hopes, but there’s a lot of work that has to get done, a lot of dues that have to get paid before any of that’s going to happen,” Poff said. “We’re in the process of doing that. The target’s on our back, and we’re going to get everybody’s best game.
“We have a lot of returning starters and I’m excited to see them play again, but we’ve got some new guys stepping in, and I’m excited to see how they’ll do too. This is a different team. We’ve got to find our way as another unique group.”
Will the Mohawks try to throw the ball a little more this season to keep defenses honest? Poff said his concern isn’t throwing more. He simply wants to improve Madison’s efficiency in the passing game.
League-wise, Poff said keep an eye on Northridge. He believes the Polar Bears will make some noise in 2018.
Carlisle is dealing with small numbers (44 players in grades 9-12) and considerable inexperience. But Brown said the Indians can still be a quality team.
“We show up with a lot of energy every day,” he said. “There’s a lot of unknowns. Over the past few years, we’ve been fortunate to have a lot of guys who played a lot of football, and it just so happens that’s not the case this year. But we think we have some guys who have been waiting their turn and are ready to step in.”
Seniors Dane Flatter and Ryan Neal are expected to carry the load in the backfield while also playing linebacker and safety, respectively.
Senior Zach Jewell, a former end on both sides of the ball, is the new quarterback. Senior Chandler Workman will anchor the offensive and defensive lines.
“Zach’s probably one of the more natural throwers we’ve had in a while,” Brown said. “He definitely gives us the option to do a little bit more in the passing game.”
SWBL Buckeye: The Vote
Here’s how the coaches voted in the preseason Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division football poll, with point totals and first-place votes (in parentheses):
1. Madison (7) 49
2. Milton-Union 37
3. Carlisle 33
4. Waynesville 24
5. Preble Shawnee 20
6. Northridge 18
7. Dixie 15