Matthew Lickona 12:30 p.m., March 4
CLAIREMONT MESA – When a Division IV program loses 27 players to graduation it is expected to slow down the next season, but that hasn’t been the case at Madison. Led by a dynamic offense, the seventh-ranked Warhawks are off to a 6-0 start this season.
“It brings a lot of good hype to our team,” said Madison senior linebacker/receiver Bo Kaimuloa. “We didn’t think we were going to have a great season because we had a lot of young players, but it’s a good start and we’re trying to get back to CIF.”
Madison’s success starts with its high-powered spread offense averaging 38 points per game. The Warhawks’ offensive playmaking ability creates a tough matchup for opposing defenses.
“It’s all the weapons we have on offense,” said Madison junior running back Pierre Cormier. “We have great receivers, a great quarterback and our offensive line is young but very physical – they’re a big part in the success of our offense.”
Through the air, senior quarterback Chase Knox has thrown for 1,351 yards and 14 touchdowns to follow up an impressive all-CIF campaign last season. On the ground, Cormier has rushed for 822 yards and 15 touchdowns this year, after carrying the ball only 10 times as a sophomore.
“My teammates and coaches pushed me to be better and it definitely was a motivation for me to come out here and fill some big shoes of the big running backs that came from Madison in the past,” Cormier said. “I knew I had to work a lot harder in the offseason, come out here and be a leader.”
Cormier is the latest in a recent string of star tailbacks at Madison, including current Division I players Robbie Rouse (Fresno State) and De’Saan Hardwick (San Diego State). Warhawks head coach Rick Jackson said the 5’10” Cormier has all the attributes to be just as good as his predecessors.
“He’s fast, he’s physical and he’s able to make those hard jump cuts,” Jackson said. “He’s also a good pre-snap running back – he can kind of anticipate what is going to develop based upon the play that’s called rather than going into it and having to adjust.”
Madison’s offense takes the pressure off of a young defense that has allowed 26 points per game so far this season. Kaimuloa said the Warhawks have improved each week defensively as they gain more experience.
“At the beginning of the year our defense was suspect, just being young and making big penalties and mistakes,” Kaimuloa said. “In the second half of the season, we have stepped up and played all four quarters.”
That improvement showed against Mira Mesa on Oct. 7, when Madison relied on defense for its biggest win of the season. Trailing 21-7 at halftime, the Warhawks held Mira Mesa to one score in the second half as part of a 37-29 comeback win that Jackson said was the biggest regular season victory in his 12 years at Madison.
“They came out and played great. They had five straight three-and-outs, the coaches made some great adjustments at halftime and our kids responded,” Jackson said. “That was one of those growing stages for them.”
Madison has won at least 10 games in each of the past three seasons, though its 12-win 2010 season that included a Division IV CIF title and Division III State Bowl appearance was wiped away after CIF ruled Knox ineligible in January – a decision upheld in June after Madison appealed. The Warhawks have put that in the past as they aim for a third section championship appearance in four seasons.
“We don’t ever talk about it and it’s not for us to talk about,” Jackson said. “We just move forward and if people want to be negative we can’t control that – all we can do is control the way we act.”
Madison hosts Mission Bay (3-2-1, 1-0) on Friday night, and as the Warhawks’ focus shifts to the Western League they have their sights set on a return trip to Qualcomm Stadium. Madison wants to end the season with a Division IV championship.
“We have everything going for us,” Cormier said. “We feel like we have great players, a great coaching staff, and with our ability we can win the CIF championship.”
Pictured: Madison quarterback Chase Knox