Many prep football programs remain unbeaten as the season officially heads into fall. One of those teams is the Madison Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs are coming off a successful 2020 campaign that fell one game short of a state championship.
They lost to Little River in a post-season matchup but went undefeated in regular-season play. Madison hasn’t lost a regular-season contest since 2017.
The Bulldogs are off to a fast start in 2021 and again on a state title chase. Madison pitched a shutout against Southern Coffey County last week, tallying a surplus of points. Their 68-0 victory moved them to 3-0.
Madison head coach Alex McMillan is cautious but hopeful. He has some concerns about the number of penalties committed and inconsistent blocking by the offensive line and tight ends.
“Our goals are obviously to keep doing what we’re doing,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of really good things. There is also a lot of things we haven’t done well, and those things need to be cleaned up.”
The title chase will be challenging this year. The team lost nine seniors and will have to rely on less experienced players.
“We’ve got a lot of new faces on the team this year,” McMillan said. “So there’s still a lot of us getting used to each other, being on the field together…and get to clicking. Those are a few things we’ve gotten better with, but we still got a lot of work to do.”
But some key returning players have helped set the Bulldogs on another undefeated path:
Senior quarterback Casey Helm returns after a monster 2020 season in which he put up impressive stats: 74 of 104 passes for 1286 yards and 23 touchdowns. McMillan said Helm is adept at setting the offense and likes what he sees this season.
“He’s throwing the ball well and doing a lot of good things for us and makes my job easy as a coach just because he understands the game of football really well,” he said.
Helm is also starting at defensive end.
Senior Drew Stutesman is a three-year starter at linebacker and plays H-back/fullback on the other side of the ball.
Junior skill player Bryson Turner missed several games in 2020 due to a shoulder injury but had a stellar spring winning the 1A state track and field 100-meter title — à la John Riggins (100-yard dash back then) — in 11.20.
“He’s been a big part of our offense this year,” McMillian said.
And then there’s senior Kevin Heineken, who sees action on both lines.
District play begins Friday night as Madison faces Udall. For McMillian, this is when the postseason begins.
“I call it playoff football because how we play during the next few weeks determines our playoff seeding,” he said. “…I kind of really stress to the guys, ‘Hey, this is playoffs now’ … it’s not win or lose like real playoffs are, but it makes a big difference where we get seeded.”
He also feels that not playing the usual suspects makes a difference to the players.
“Our district is kind of the south district, and so we see a lot of teams that we don’t normally play — in the Udalls and Central Burdens, Flinthills, Oxfords — so that’s kind of nice for our guys,” he said. “…Our guys prepare a little bit differently because we don’t know too much about these teams. I think that’s exciting to them.”
Full results for Friday’s game weren’t available at press time. Check www.emporiagazette.com for updates.