Madison County opened its 2014 football season in fine fashion Friday night defeating Johnson of Gainesville 31-3 before a packed house at Red Raider Stadium.
The team entered the stadium from their new field house, passing by a brand new statue that was unveiled prior to the players Friday afternoon. In their new uniforms and playing in the shadow of their brand new school, the Red Raiders put on a show for the Madison County faithful.
“You’re playing for something out here with all this new stuff,” said Red Raider senior lineman Christian Shupe. “It really gets everybody pumped up — fans, cheerleaders, football players, coaches, everybody’s pumped up. And I can’t say anything more than pride in what we’re playing for.”
Ethan South got things started for Madison County with a 50-yard touchdown run on the Red Raiders’ second possession. Levi Larkins was good on the extra point and the Red Raiders led 7-0.
Later in the opening quarter, Dylan Gentry fell on a Johnson fumble at the Knights’ six-yard line, setting up a 25-yard field goal by Larkins several plays later. The Raiders moved into Johnson territory again on their next drive aided by a one handed catch by Malik Freeman on a 22 yard pass from Cade Hancock. The drive ended with a punt, but on the Knight’s had the ball bounced off the receiver’s leg near the 20 yard line. Dylan Gentry fell on the botched punt reception at the Knights’ six yard line setting up a 25 yard field goal by Larkin several plays later.
On Johnson’s ensuing drive, Sam Bartlett recovered a fumble at the Knights’ 33-yard line and nearly scored after racing to the one-yard line.
“I saw the ball come out of the quarterback’s arm and it fell right into my hands,” said Bartlett. “I almost got it into the end zone but got pulled down at the one yard line. I actually have a minor ankle sprain so I was kind of hobbling towards the end zone.”
Bartlett’s fumble recovery set up the Raiders’ second touchdown that came on a one-yard run by KJ Burton.
Quarterback Cade Hancock then supplied two more scores on touchdown passes to Malik Freeman on a 37-yard play in the second quarter and added another touchdown pass to Dylan Gentry from 14 yards out in the third quarter to give the Raiders a 31-0 lead. Johnson posted their only points of the night on a 36-yard field goal late in the final period.
“The first win feels great,” said Shupe. “Obviously, we came in with the mentality that we were expecting to win. This game is definitely one for the record books, but we’re looking toward next week now — and then the next win and the next win. We’re just going to take it one by one and step by step.”
Red Raider head coach Chris Smith was pleased with his team’s effort Friday.
“It was a good way for us to start the season and get some momentum,” said Smith. “But they know the competition gets better each week and we have to continue to improve.”
Smith said the team has improvements to make but was sharp overall on both sides of the ball.
“Overall we played pretty well in the run game,” said Smith. “We continued to do well in the passing game, but not as good up front picking up stuff as I want. Defensively we played great and held them in check for the most part.”
Smith said the special teams were very good. He noted that Eli Dixon had three punts and averaged 44 yards a punt.
“Nobody has done that for us in a long time,” said Smith. “It really changed the field position for us.”
Now, Madison County’s attention turns this week to Jackson County, who was off Friday. The Raiders will travel to Jefferson to face the Panthers at 7:30 p.m. Smith will try to outwit Jackson County coach Benjie Harris, a former teammate at Presbyterian College.
“They’re just like us offensively,” said Smith. “They spread you out and create space. They’re a talented team. Their quarterback (Jacob Lewis) does a good job running their offense. He gets out of trouble and knows where the ball has to be. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
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