Jeff Smith 4 p.m., Dec. 20
Division III State Bowl preview
Division III State Bowl
Escalon (13-1) vs Madison (12-1)
Saturday noon at Home Depot Center, Carson
Not really on the State Bowl radar when the section playoffs begin, Madison flew into the picture by closing out the postseason with convincing wins over Olympian and Valley Center. With the previously unbeaten Jaguars considered the frontrunners for the bowl bid, the Warhawks’ convincing 40-14 win over them in Qualcomm Stadium vaulted them to represent the South in the Division III State Bowl.
Madison faces Escalon, who won the Trans Valley League – the same division that last year’s Small School state champ Modesto Christian plays in – and the CIF Sac-Joaquin Division IV title. The Cougars won their section title in dramatic fashion, prevailing 22-20 on a field goal with 30 seconds left. Offensively, Escalon is averaging 41 points per game with a run-first attack led by backs Josh Miguel (1,747 yards, 25 TDs) and Adrian Cortes (1,017 yards, 12 TDs). The Cougars don’t pass often (six attempts per game) and when they do, quarterback Gino Franceschetti’s favorite target is split end Brandon Shaw (26 receptions, 770 yards, 14 TDs). On defense, Escalon has allowed 11 points per game and senior linebacker Victor Carrillo leads the team with 107 tackles (80 solo).
The Warhawks showed their explosiveness against Valley Center, capable of big plays in the air and on the ground. First team all-CIF junior quarterback Chase Knox (2,358 yards, 28 TDs) has a deft passing touch, spreading the ball around to tight end Akeem Woodson (42 catches) and receivers Jeremy Hutchison (35) and Kevon Mitchell (27). On the ground, San Diego State bound Desaan Hardwick (1,086 yards, 9 TDs) and Jamarie Sanders (903 yards, 11 TDs) are touchdown threats each time they touch the ball. Given all their weapons, it’s not a surprise that Madison has scored 38 points per game this season and 47 per game in its three playoff games. On defense, Madison is allowing 13 points per game with junior defensive lineman Keanu Johnson (89 total tackles, 11 sacks) anchoring an undersized but physical unit.
In this battle of contrasting styles, it will be interesting to see which offense will have more success. Madison should give Escalon’s defense trouble with its speed, and if the Warhawks can stop the Cougars’ rushing attack, they might not have a difficult time bringing state hardware back to San Diego.