This season, there are no disappointing season-ending what-ifs about a close second-place finish in 2018 or a puzzling 2019 semifinal loss in region tournaments.
Instead, the Madison Warhawks celebrated the satisfaction and thrill of winning the high-school football program’s third region championship and first since 2003.
The top seed and undefeated Warhawks (8-0) won the 6D North Region Tournament’s 2020-21 title by building a 13-0 lead then hanging on to win the championship game, 19-14, April 16 on its home field over the third-seed Chantilly Chargers.
The contest wasn’t decided until the final 32 seconds, when Madison’s Kevin Chadwick recorded a blind-side sack of the Chantilly quarterback near midfield, forcing a fumble that teammate Donavin Hansberry recovered.
“We knew it was going to be a tough back-and-forth game like this, and we did what we had to do to win,” Madison senor Branden Wyka said. “This is so cool. When we finally got the chance to play this season, we wanted to beat Westfield, win our district, be undefeated, win the region – and now win the state.”
Next for Madison is the Class 6 state tournament, with an April 24 home semifinal game against the undefeated and defending champion South County Stallions (8-0).
Madison had topped Chantilly, 10-3, during the regular season. So both sides were expecting another close, physical game in the region final.
After a scoreless first quarter, Madison took a 13-0 lead, was ahead 13-7 at halftime, then 19-7 in the fourth before Chantilly cut the lead to 19-14 and had the ball one more time with the chance to take the lead.
Madison had two touchdown drives capped by scoring passes of 14 and 24 yards from Connor Barry to Braden Holt and Ben Eldridge, respectively. The Warhawks’ other TD was a 32-yard interception return by John Hurley. Connor Sevy kicked one extra point.
Those two long scoring drives (53 yards, 13 plays and 84 yards, 16 plays totaling nearly 14 minutes) included three short successful fourth-down conversion runs by workhorse runningback Alex Jreige (86 yards, 27 carries) to extend each march. Madison was four-for-four on such conversions during the game.
“We have the tough running of Alex in those situations and we have confidence in our offensive line,” Madison coach Justin Counts said. “We wanted to keep the ball, eat some clock and keep the momentum going each time.”
Said Jreige: “Our OL blocked great as it has all season. This team has worked together from the start.”
Counts saw that committed work ethic during off season workouts.
“This is one of the hardest working grounds we’ve had,” Counts said.
Madison had 205 total yards in the win and no turnovers, and Chantilly 219 yards and two turnovers.
Barry rushed for 45 yards and was 7 of 14 passing for 54 yards. John Klein had 14 yards rushing. Eldrige, Hurley and Holt all had two catches each and Jreige one for 10 yards.
On defense for Madison during the region final, Holt, Austin Wysocki, Kieran Leogue, Dylan Wilkinson, Ryan Salvosa, Kyle Porter and Nicholas Ceynowa were among other top contributors.
In South County, the Warhawks will face a high-scoring team that defeated the Robinson Rams, 34-27, in the 6C region final. The Stallions scored 47 in their region semifinal win over West Springfield.
The team scored 56 and 58 points in two regular-season contests and 48 in another.