Mustangs open state playoffs at home against Winston County

Class 3A, Region 8 Madison Academy enters the state football playoffs on an incredible roll.

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Mustangs coach Eric Cohu hopes the success does not impair his team’s focus as it prepares for Friday’s first-round home game against fourth-place Region 7 opponent Winston County (5-5).

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The Yellow Jackson began the season 5-1 overall and 4-0 in Region 7. However, each of the region wins came against the teams that finished in the bottom four of the region. Winston County lost its last four regular season games including losses to region champ Hamilton, Hanceville and Vinemont, Region7’s top three playoff qualifiers.

Cohu hopes the Mustangs will not take Winston County lightly.

“We have to stay focused and keep doing our job to continue that solid level of play,” Cohu said.

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Madison Academy (8-2) finished the regular season with five straight wins. Perhaps the most impressive win came last week. The Mustangs crushed undefeated Central-Clay County, the top-ranked team in Class 4A, 33-7.

“We really rose to the occasion,” Cohu said.

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The Mustangs’ defense turned in another dominating performance. For the fifth straight game and the seventh time in the last eight weeks the unit held an opponent to seven points or less. As a result, Madison Academy built a 14-0 lead by halftime.

“Our defense did a good job of forcing them to punt so many times in the first half,” Cohu said. “That set the tone.”

Cohu said the Mustangs’ defense will face a Winston County offense that will present a healthy balance of passing and running.

“They are a very balanced offense,” Cohu said. “They are quick and very efficient.”

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The good news for Madison Academy’s defense is that all of its starters will be available after several players missed action due to injuries late in the regular season.

“We’ve got every varsity player back,” Cohu said. “We have all of the starters in the mix.”

While the defense has been the most consistent unit for the Mustangs, the offense has shown a substantial improvement since the opening week of the season. After producing only three offensive touchdowns and 31 total points as a team the first two games, Madison Academy averaged more than 43 points per contest in the last eight games.

Kerryon Johnson made a living reaching the end zone on offense, defense and special teams. He ended the regular season with 20 touchdowns. The only game in which he did not score was in a Week 8 home win over West Morgan.

Sophomore quarterback Blake Coward’s steady growth has taken the offense to a higher level. His consistency since taking over as the starter in Week 2 has given the offense a balance that could propel the Mustangs back into the state title game.

Coward completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Nick Haas in last week’s shocking blowout of Central-Clay County. He passed for 12 touchdowns and rushed for two more scores during the regular season.

“Blake Coward had a great game (against Central-Clay County)” Cohu said.

By R. Sirvell Carter
Madison Weekly News