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Matthew Lickona 5 p.m., Dec. 9
Rain washes out Madison’s speed, state title hopes
CARSON – After a section title run fueled by speed and big plays, rain and a physical opponent washed out Madison in the Division III State Bowl. The Warhawks lost 30-14 to the Escalon Cougars on a wet Saturday afternoon at the Home Depot Center.
“The conditions made it tough for us to play our style of football,” said Madison head coach Rick Jackson.
Swamp-like field conditions and a physical, run-first Escalon team proved to be the perfect storm against Madison (12-2). Playing in rain for the first time all season, the Warhawks’ high-octane attack screeched to a halt.
“Obviously the rain took us out of what we wanted to do. That affected the way we played the game,” Jackson said. “It limited our stretching the field – we couldn’t get the ball out there.”
Towards the end of a sloppy first quarter, Madison’s defense came up with the first big play of the game, stopping Escalon (14-1) on a fourth-and-goal from the two-yard line. The Cougars scored on the very next play, however, when Warhawks back Jeremy Hutchison mishandled a shotgun snap and was forced to fall on it in the end zone for a safety.
“Madison wasn’t used to rain and this kind of weather,” said Escalon running back/linebacker Josh Miguel. “They play in San Diego with nice weather and we have been playing in cold, wet weather all year.”
After Escalon extended its lead to with a Miguel six-yard touchdown run, Madison finally broke through with a big play. Quarterback Chase Knox hit receiver Kevon Mitchell on a middle screen and Mitchell took it 40 yards for a touchdown, outrunning the Escalon defense.
“We couldn’t run good routes and we couldn’t use our athleticism in certain situations,” Jackson said. “We still tried, but it didn’t work out.”
In the face of pouring rain as the first half came to a close, Madison wilted with fumbles on consecutive drives that led to a pair of Escalon touchdowns. The second touchdown – a 60-yard pass from Gino Franceschetti to receiver Brandon Shaw – came right after a Hutchison fumble and put Madison in a 23-7 hole at the half.
“The game kind of played into their hands and they capitalized when they had to,” Jackson said. “They scored two touchdowns in the last two minutes and that was a backbreaker.”
Late in the third quarter and still trailing by 16, Madison used a fake punt to move into Escalon territory. But on fourth-and-10 from the Cougars’ 11-yard line, Knox lost his third fumble of the game to end any chance of a Warhawks comeback.
“When we came out, it was coming down hard. I felt the ball and it was a lot different and a lot more slippery, but that was something I had to adjust to,” Knox said.
With time winding down in the fourth quarter, Escalon punctuated its win with a Franceschetti six-yard touchdown run. Madison added a score in the final minute – a 13-yard pass from Knox to tight end Akeem Woodson – that offered little consolation in its 30-14 loss.
“It was wet all over the field but there’s no excuse,” Knox said. “We came out and we didn’t play our best football.”
Coming in averaging 38 points per game, Madison was held to their lowest point total of the season. The Warhawks finished the game with 218 yards and five turnovers in failing to bring home the section’s first Division III state title.
“If everything was equal, I feel like we would be a lot more competitive,” Jackson said.
While Madison sputtered in the inclement weather, Escalon thrived. The Cougars rushed for 216 yards and had the ball for twice as long as the Warhawks.
“We definitely played with a chip on our shoulders,” Miguel said. “We heard we were predicted to lose by three touchdowns and we had a statement to come out and prove tonight. We showed everybody what Escalon football is all about.”