- Rick Cassano Staff Writer
Madison High School’s first-ever trip to the football playoffs just keeps going.
The Mohawks wiped out a 13-7 halftime deficit with 28 straight points Friday night and advanced to the Division V, Region 20 championship game with a 35-27 victory over Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy at Lakota East.
“Just like I said last week, it’s still not real yet,” said junior fullback Cameron Svarda, who ran 19 times for 159 yards and three touchdowns. “I’ve got to let it sink in a little.”
“It’s just a crazy feeling,” added senior halfback Tyler Baumgartner, who collected 91 yards and a TD on 13 carries. “Being a senior and it could be your last game every week, it gets to you. There’s a lot of emotions going on.”
Quarterback Mason Whiteman made a major contribution to the Wing-T running game as well, totaling 108 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
In typical Madison fashion, the winners had 399 rushing yards and zero yards through the air (Whiteman was 0 of 5 with an interception).
“I don’t win a game any other way,” Mohawks coach Steve Poff said. “I’m sure we did some things early that they weren’t quite ready for, and we really weren’t either. We just got to halftime and said, ‘We’re going to come out and run our stuff and do what we always do,’ and our kids responded to that.
“CHCA is a great program. They’ve been here a lot more times than we have. We’re really proud of where we’re at right now. We’ll just load up and try to do it again next week.”
Said Svarda, “I think we wore on ’em a little bit. The Wing-T got to ’em.”
Eagles coach Mark Mueller credited Madison for essentially doing what it does.
“If you can do that and we can’t stop you, hats off to you,” Mueller said. “I’ve run that offense before. That’s what you do to grind it.”
The Mohawks (10-2) will take their nine-game winning streak into the regional title game against West Jefferson (12-0) next Friday night at Beavercreek.
Madison advanced by capitalizing on some CHCA mistakes in the third quarter, then fought off the Eagles (8-3) down the stretch.
CHCA had the ball first in the second half, but Evan Crim recovered a fumble on the second play, and Svarda ran for a 3-yard touchdown about two minutes later. Graham Reich’s extra point pushed the Mohawks ahead 14-13.
It only took the Eagles three plays to fumble the ball away on their next possession, with Levi McMonigle recovering. Whiteman took off for a 33-yard TD on the next play.
Madison extended the margin to 28-13 on its next possession as Svarda’s 47-yard score capped a three-play, 63-yard drive. Baumgartner’s 20-yard touchdown made it 35-13 with 9:14 left.
“I know we turned the ball over too much,” Mueller said. “They’re hot right now. They’re playing great football. They did exactly what they needed to do to win this game, and we did exactly what we needed to do to lose this game.”
The Eagles didn’t surrender and tallied a pair of late touchdowns. Quarterback Danny Vanatsky hit Cole Fisher with a lateral and Fisher threw a 59-yard TD pass to Julian Herman with 7:20 remaining, and Vanatsky connected with Mason Bernhardt for a 27-yard score with 4:00 left.
But CHCA didn’t see the ball again. The Mohawks collected three first downs — on runs by Svarda, Baumgartner and Crim — to run out the clock.
“We expected a tough fight. We knew they were good,” Baumgartner said. “We knew they had a couple mismatches passing the ball that we had to deal with, but I think we dealt with it pretty well. And our offense … whatever gets it done. We’re going to run where they ain’t.”
Svarda admitted the fourth period was nerve-wracking.
“A little bit, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “But we did all right. The clock was on our side, especially with us a running team. We brought the big guys in and just ran right behind them rotating the three backs.”
Vanatsky was 16 of 26 for 207 yards and two TDs (both to Bernhardt), Fisher added 59 passing yards on his touchdown bomb, and Bernhardt caught four balls for 124 yards. Vanatsky had a 1-yard scoring run, but the Eagles managed just 25 rushing yards.
“We hustle, we hit, never quit,” McMonigle, a junior end, said of Madison’s defensive performance. “They had to go pass as soon as we stopped them at the line. They were just hauling it to their big guys in the air.”
Whiteman’s legs were a major pain for the Eagles. He hasn’t had much success running the ball in recent weeks.
“I’ve been saving him all year just being worried about injuries,” Poff said. “At this time of the year, the plan is to get Mason more carries because he’s so dynamic. We were stuck in the mud last week, but I think he proved tonight that he can make some giant plays for us.”
The Madison coach was heartened by the large contingent of Mohawk fans that made the trip to East and said his players are deserving of this success.
“I’m real happy with their attitude and effort and the way they treat each other and the selflessness on the team,” Poff said. “Nobody cares who gets the credit or the glory. They just want to play together. And I’m real proud of our community. With the cowbells ringing and noise making … all the support has been amazing.”
CHCA has made eight straight postseason appearances and will lose 17 seniors to graduation.
“This senior class had probably one of the winningest records in school history, which is pretty strong,” Mueller said. “For me, it’s about helping those kids get to where they want to go, then rewind and get the other kids ready to rock and roll next year. We’ve got a legacy to keep up.”
C: Danny Vanatsky 1 run (Blake Sheffer kick)
M: Cameron Svarda 5 run (Graham Reich kick)
C: Mason Bernhardt 41 pass from Vanatsky (Kick failed)
M: Svarda 3 run (Reich kick)
M: Mason Whiteman 33 run (Reich kick)
M: Svarda 47 run (Reich kick)
M: Tyler Baumgartner 20 run (Reich kick)
C: Julian Herman 59 pass from Cole Fisher (Sheffer kick)
C: Bernhardt 27 pass from Vanatsky (Sheffer kick)