Either I or Journal editor Zach Mitcham has covered every Madison County High School football game since 1998.
That’s 112 nights of football. And in that span, we’ve seen it all from the Raiders.
In a November 2007 column I recounted some of Madison County’s top wins. Now — with football season at our doorstep — I thought I’d recall those heart-wrenching losses since they’re very much a part of football, too.
Here they are. Enjoy — well actually, don’t.
10. Habersham Central 7, Madison Co. 0 (1999): Madison County drove inside the Habersham Central 10 in the closing seconds in Mt. Airy, but the Raiders from Danielsville were thwarted by an interception near the goal line. This time Habersham picked it clean, with no controversy (see no. 2 on the list), to dash Madison County’s hopes.
9. Commerce 22, Madison Co. 16 (1999): Madison County scored late and recovered an onside kick to position it for the upset. But the Tigers (ranked no. 1 in Class A), turned back the driving Raiders with a fourth-down conversion stop for yet another win in the series.
8. Franklin Co. 7, Madison Co. 6 (2002): The Raiders turned the ball over five times that night, including an interception on their last drive, in an excruciating one-point loss.
7. Salem 28, Madison Co. 24 (2005): Madison County recovered a fumble on its own two-yard line with 3:11 left and valiantly drove for a potential game-winning score. But a Jarrod Owens to pass the end zone with 3.8 seconds left was batted away, denying a miraculous win.
6. Loganville 13, Madison Co. 10 (2008): This game could infamously be dubbed, “The Drive.” Madison County led 10-6 with just 1:59 left, but Loganville executed a perfect 85-yard drive to crush Madison County’s upset hopes. To their credit, the Raiders rushed down the field in the waning seconds, but missed a 38-yard field goal as time expired.
5. Heritage 28, Madison Co. 22 (2005): Madison County led 22-20 before Heritage’s Bo Harris scored from a yard out with just 15 seconds left. The loss, marred by six Raider turnovers, denied Madison County a 4-0 start in 2005.
4. Commerce 31, Madison Co. 22 (1998): Following a winless campaign in 1997, the Raiders nearly upended a Monté Williams-led Commerce team in the 1998 opener. Madison County led 22-18 with less than seven minutes remaining, but Williams (the state’s all-time leading rusher) broke loose for a 77-yard kickoff return that turned the tide.
3. Commerce 29, Madison Co. 28 (2002): Plenty of drama in this one. The Raiders led 28-21 very late, but Commerce produced a 65-yard drive in the last 2:47 to stun the Raiders.
2. Habersham 14, Madison Co. 8 (1998): The “simultaneous catch” game on Homecoming night. Looking to snap the school’s 14-game losing streak, Madison County drove to the five-yard line in the closing moments. Quarterback Steve Sanders threw to the end zone where his pass was caught by both a Madison County receiver and Habersham Central defensive back. A simultaneous catch is supposed to be awarded to the offensive player, but the play was ruled an interception and Madison County’s woes continued.
1. Rome 31, Madison Co. 28 (2005): Rome was burning for most of the night in Madison County’s first playoff appearance in 22 years as the underdog Raiders held leads of 14-0 and 21-10 over the no. 1 seed Wolves. Madison County even led 28-24 late before falling to Rome.
So Madison County’s finest hour in the last two decades was also its most gut-wrenching.
Ben Munro is a reporter for The Madison County Journal.