COTTONWOOD FALLS – Madison stayed perfect with a 66-50 win over Chase County Friday night in a matchup of 5-0 programs determined to remain undefeated and gain the upper hand in the upcoming playoffs.
The equation of a 500-plus noise factor coupled with a warm fall evening equaled a venue buzz that felt like post-season.
Madison was coming off an undefeated regular season in 2020 that nearly included a state championship. Its opponent Chase County made the playoffs last year, posting an 8-3 record.
Both programs started a slew of new players this season yet were undefeated going into Friday’s game.
“I love the strides that our team’s made … Lebo was a big game for us early on,” said Chase County head coach Brody VanDegrift. “It was trial-by-fire then, and as the season progresses, you get into another big game like this. It’s nice to see some guys settle in a little bit and not have the wide eyes.”
The fireworks began midway into the first quarter when Chase County quarterback Mitch Budke took it to the house on a 16-yard scamper. Madison answered with a TD run by the speedy Bryson Turner. However, a block in the back penalty nullified Madison’s score.
It was just getting started though, as this battle quickly became a score exchange.
Both teams made crucial plays during the first two quarters, VanDegrift said.
“It was back and forth there in the first half,” he said, although Chase County led for most of the half.
“We were down 16, and I was super proud about how we didn’t panic,” said Madison head coach Alex McMillian. “We had the next-play mentality.
Turnovers and penalties affected the end result, but Madison’s running game was overwhelming. Its ground attack ramped up during the first quarter and became a critical factor in the contest’s outcome.
“Our run game, it was hard to beat,” McMillian said. “We kind of put their defense in some spots and we kind of dictated the tempo of the game in terms of where we were running the football, inside, outside … and we kind of took advantage of how they lined defensively.”
The turning points of the game occurred between the end of the first half and the 8:37 mark in the third quarter.
With 42 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Budke scored on a 3-yard run to tie the game at 36-36. Madison got the ball back and stuck to what was working: putting the ball into Turner’s hands.
“We had 40-some seconds to score before halftime, and I called a run play because I just trusted our front and understood our O-line knew what the heck they were doing,” McMillian said. “We punched it in, right before half.
Turner shocked and awed the crowd as only quicksand could have stopped the defending 1A 100-meter state champion. He ran for 365 yards and found the end zone eight times.
Madison opened the second half on offense, and quarterback Casey Helm scored on a run play, increased his team’s lead to 16.
“They gouged us in the middle of the field where it hurts the most,” VanDegrift said. “Then you have a two-possession lead like that, and you have the ability to run the ball. You control the clock at that point.”
The Madison defense basically did the rest.
It hadn’t allowed any points through its first five games and was surprised to find itself in a shootout with Chase County after giving up 36 points in the first half.
“We were kinda shell-shocked a little bit, but … our defense stiffened up … and we probably stopped them on downs three or four times in the second half,” McMillian said. “And that was ultimately kinda what decided the game.”
In the end, the Madison Bulldogs managed to outscore the Chase County Bulldogs 66-50.
“It was a heck of a football game,” McMillian said. “We knew going in that’s exactly what we were going to get … It was an outstanding football game, and it’s probably something I’m never going to forget.”
Chase County (5-1) plays at Udall next week in a district matchup, and Madison (6-0) is at home in a district game against Flinthills.
MADISON 66, CHASE COUNTY 50
Chase County – 16; 20; 6; 8; – 50
Madison – 8; 36; 8; 14; – 66
RUSHING – Madison: Turner 29-365, Stutesman 9-88, Helm 10-89. Chase County: Budke 29-197, Kohlmeier 13-66.
PASSING – Madison: C.Helm 4-6. Chase County: Budke 6-11.
RECEIVING – Chase County: Griffin 4-47.