Raider defense

Madison County defenders tackle an Oconee County receiver in the open field.

WATKINSVILLE - Madison County fell short of its upset bid of region champs Oconee County Friday night. But with last week’s win over Stephens County, and a little help from St. Pius X, the Red Raiders accomplished their goal of reaching the Class AAAA state playoffs.

Madison County lost its regular season finale to the Warriors 42-14. Elsewhere, in Toccoa, St. Pius X defeated Stephens County 42-21 to prevent a three-way tie in the bottom of Region 8-AAAA standings. The Red Raiders enter the state playoffs as a No. 4 seed and will travel to Ridgeland next Friday to play the region 6-AAAA champions. This is the program’s sixth postseason berth and its first trip since 2017.

Madison County (4-6, 1-3 Region 8-AAAA) can place much of the blame of Friday’s loss on turnovers. The Raiders coughed up possession four times with three fumbles and one interception. The Oconee County (9-1, 4-0 region) ran the interception into the end zone while the offense capitalized to score touchdowns following two fumbles.

The Warriors took an early 7-0 lead on a short run up the gut just over four minutes into the game. LSU commit Max Johnson preceded the plunge with a 42-yard pass. Madison County began its ensuing possession at its own 16-yard-line before moving backwards on a holding penalty and fumbling at the 5-yard-line. The Warriors scored on the ground the very next play to take a 14-0 lead with six minutes remaining in the first quarter.

Martavian Cooper gave the Madison County its only highlight of the first half with a 90-plus-yard kickoff return for a score, cutting the score to 14-7.

The game returned to normal with another long-but-quick drive by the Warriors ending with a 16-yard touchdown pass by Johnson. Oconee County led 21-7 with three minutes left in the first quarter.

Another solid kickoff return by Cooper gave Madison County possession its 32-yard-line, and a late hit penalty on the Warriors a few plays later moved the Red Raiders into Warrior territory, but the trip was short lived as quarterback Colby Smith fumbled a snap and gave Oconee County the ball at its 46-yard-line. Johnson finished the drive by hitting a receiver wide open in the back corner of the end zone on an 18-yard scoring strike. Oconee County led 28-7 just 40 seconds into the second quarter.

Madison County’s defense finally got a stop late in the second quarter, though it was a fourth-down stop at its own 8-yard-line. The Raider offense did not capitalize on the stop, instead, Smith threw an interception and the defender ran 14 yards for a touchdown, extending the Warrior lead to 35-7, and that was the score at halftime.

Oconee County added another touchdown in the third quarter, while the Red Raider offense finally strung first downs together for a fourth-quarter scoring drive. Cooper capped off the 65-yard-drive with a 14-yard run off-tackle. He also caught first down passes of 27 and 11 yards on the drive.

Oconee County out-gained Madison County 323-134. Smith carried the ball seven times for 33 yards, and he completed five passes for 58 yards. Dayton Gresham gained 26 yards on 10 carries.

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