For the third year in a row, the high-school football season began the same way for two neighborhood rivals – the Madison Warhawks defeated the Marshall Statesmen.
This year Madison won, 15-13, at Marshall on Aug. 30 in a game much closer than the past two seasons when the Warhawks won by 28 points each time.
In this year's Rotary Cup game, Madison struggled offensively in the first half, then relied on its offensive line and went strictly to the power running game after halftime, led by runningback Alex Jreige.
The sophomore ran for 145 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown in the second half. He had 179 yards rushing on 32 carries for the game.
Madison quarterback Ry Yates attempted just two second-half passes with no completions.
Jreige's four-yard scoring run, followed by Cole Remy's conversion pass to Dylan Wilkinson with 6:35 left in the game, were the winning points. The touchdown capped a 17-play, 81-yard drive, all running plays. The score came after a Madsion strip sack that ended a Statesmen's drive with a lost fumble.
Marshall came back and cut the lead to 15-13 on a 33-yard pass from Patrick Margiotta to Thomas Burke with 3:36 left, then the two-point conversion run was stopped. Madison recovered the onsides kick (recovered by Fletcher Davis) and ran out the clock.
"Our offensive game was not working in the first half, so we knew we had to run the ball in the second half, and the offensive line helped me so much," Jreige said. "They opened holes and it got easier on every play. I got tired at times, but I had to push through."
Madison's offensive line consisted of Jakob Willett, Joey Johnstone, Jack Barrett, Nick Adelberg and Rusty Forbes. Tight end Ethan Lanier (one catch, 14 yards), receiver Colin Tuft and fullback Riley Zahurancik also provided blocking.
"The offensive line begged for us to run the ball in the second half," Madison coach Justin Counts said. "So we made the commitment to put the game in the offensive line's hands. Alex ran it well and got up in the line and holes quick in the second half."
Madison won despite a turnover and 11 penalties for 95 yards, 70 coming in the first half, which stopped Warhawk drives.
"Those penalties really hurt us," Count said.
Yates was 4 of 12 passing for 36 yards and scored on the first quarter on a one-yard sneak with Brendan Wyka booting the extra point. Wyka, Davis and Evan Walker had catches. Madison had 232 total yards and Marshall 207.
For Marshall, runningback Matt Shutello ran for 54 yards and a three-yard second-quarter touchdown with Ethan Chang converting. Margiotta was 12 of 23 passing for 145 yards. Ryan Dieudonne had six catches for 62 yards, Luke Plawin had three for 49 and Burke two for 38.
Andrew Margiotta, one of Marshall's best players on each side of the ball, had a leg injury and did not play.
"He is such a good player and weapon. I know that was a big loss for them," Counts said.
On defense for Madison, Sammy Sarantis, Nero Schrader and Kyle Porter had sacks and Remy had a diving fumble recovery. For Marshall, Chang had a sack.
NOTES: Of Madison's 38 second-half offensive plays, 24 were runs by Jreige . . . The victory was Madison’s 12th in a row over Marshall.