Matthew Lickona 7 a.m., April 24
Pictured: Sophomore quarterback Kareem Coles makes his varsity debut for Madison this season
Season Preview: Madison Warhawks
Last year: 10-1-1 (1st in Western, lost in D-IV semifinals) Top Players: RB Pierre Cormier (Sr., Arizona), WR Lee Walker (Sr., Arizona), LB/C Keoni Kanoa (Sr.), Jaime Gomez (Sr.) Newcomer to Watch: QB Kareem Coles (So.)
Madison keys on experienced talent to continue success
Madison has spent the last half-decade steadily building into a city power and creating high expectations in the process. After falling short of the section finals last season, the Warhawks are counting on a crop of talented seniors to get back on top in 2012.
“We’ve got athletes everywhere on the field,” said senior linebacker/center Keoni Kanoa. “We’re going to throw the ball around and run it – we’re a very balanced team. I think we’re really strong everywhere.”
Last season, Madison’s fifth straight appearance in the semifinals ended with a narrow loss to eventual champion Valley Center. That defeat stuck with the Warhawks during the offseason.
“It’s been motivating us to get back again and get back to it – going back to CIF and going where we should have been last year,” said senior defensive back/receiver Anthony Bryant.
The focal point of Madison’s offense this season is senior running back Pierre Cormier, a fast, powerful runner committed to Arizona. The 5-foot-10-inch, 175-pound Cormier ran for 1,471 yards and was a second-team All-CIF selection last season for the Warhawks.
“He’s a lot more powerful than people give him credit for – he’s an explosive kid, he’s very agile and very fast,” said Madison head coach Rick Jackson. “He’s a pretty phenomenal running back and we expect him to be a catalyst, but by no means the only guy on our offense.”
Cormier is joined on offense by senior receiver and fellow Arizona commit Lee Walker, junior running back Michael Garner and junior receiver Vincent Parrish. Those weapons will be at the disposal of sophomore quarterback Kareem Coles, who led Madison’s junior varsity team to an undefeated season in 2011 and is tabbed to replace three-year starter Chase Knox.
“He’s an extremely athletic, intelligent quarterback,” Jackson said. “We feel like we can bring him in at our speed and our tempo – we don’t have to throw the whole playbook at him from the beginning – and we can succeed that way.”
On defense, senior linebackers Kanoa and Jaime Gomez are the top returners from a unit that started slow in 2011 and peaked at the end of the season. Jackson said the strengths of the Warhawks’ senior-heavy defense are its experience and speed.
“Last year, our defense came together as a little family,” Gomez said. “We all know each other, we’re all really close friends and we’re going to show up like we did last year.”
Madison opens the season at home against Lincoln on Aug. 31 in a matchup of top city teams. Adding to the intrigue of the season opener is Hornets senior receiver Kevon Mitchell, who transferred from Madison to Lincoln over the summer.
“It’s going to be a fun game,” Kanoa said. “I think they match up really well with us – they have a lot of athletes too.”
Madison is playing a ramped-up preseason schedule that includes Valhalla, Mount Miguel, Mira Mesa, and defending Division V champion Christian. In the realigned Western League, the Warhawks face Mission Bay, Kearny, La Jolla and Point Loma.
“Put us up against the best team out there and we’re going to give it everything we got,” Kanoa said. “It’s really going to give us a measurement of where we’re really at.”
Where Madison is at headed into the 2012 season is on the verge of becoming a steady power within the section. The talent and experience are present this season for the Warhawks to continue their recent success.
“We want to be an elite program,” Jackson said. “We want to be a program people talk about, and when people play us we want them to know they are going to be in for a game.”