MT. AIRY -- The Red Raiders put five touchdowns on the scoreboard Friday night. They wouldn’t need near that many.
Facing a Habersham Central offense that had scored a combined 73 points in its last two games, the Madison County defense rose to the challenge — and then some — picking off three passes and surrendering just 75 total yards in leading the Red Raiders (5-1) to a 35-6 win.
“We had a pretty good week of practice and came out and did our thing,” said MCHS linebacker Donavan Carey, who intercepted one of those passes. “It was a pretty good defensive game all-round — the defensive line, linebackers and secondary.”
It was the Red Raiders’ fifth win in a row and first in Mt. Airy since 1982. That ‘82 team ended up going to the postseason, and if this Madison County team continues to play defense like it did Friday, it could be making playoff arrangements, too.
Madison County, which led 14-0 at the half, limited Habersham Central (3-3) to just 33 yards of offense and one first down in the first half. The Mt. Airy Raiders didn’t move the chains until a first down pass with 27 seconds left before halftime.
“The kids did a heck of a job ... I’m very proud of them,” MCHS defensive coordinator Mike Haynes said.
The Red Raider defense also hemmed up Habersham Central standout running back David Griffin.
Griffin romped for 282 yards and five touchdowns last week against Loganville, but Madison County held him in check all evening. Habersham Central managed just 23 yards on the ground.
“We worked all week on wrapping-up and getting everyone to the ball,” Carey explained.
It was a defensive play that got the Red Raiders going in their first win over Habersham Central since 2005.
Matt Dean’s second quarter interception and return to the Habersham Central nine set up Madison County’s first score, a one-yard touchdown run from Jacob Owens that put MCHS up 7-0. The Red Raiders built a comfortable 21-0 lead by the third quarter, before Habersham Central scored its only points of the night with a touchdown with 5:54 left in that period, leaving the shutout as about the only thing the Red Raider defense didn’t accomplish Friday. The six points allowed were the least Madison County has surrendered since a 34-0 win over Monroe Area last year.
When asked how Friday’s Red Raider defensive performance rated during his time as a player, Carey said it ranked right up there.
“Top three — definitely,” said Carey, who’s a senior.
Offensively, Madison County continued to put the big play to use. Jacob Owens, who was 8-of-13 for 110 yards, threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Cooper in the second quarter to put the Red Raiders up 14-0, and Kendrick Butler opened the second half for Madison County with a 68-yard touchdown to increase the advantage to 21-0.
Madison County answered Habersham Central’s lone score with a pair of late touchdowns to earn its second-most lopsided win of the year. Dean scored from one yard out with 3:31 left to put MCHS up 28-6, and Butler raced in from 26 yards out with just 1:15 remaining to give the Red Raiders a 29-point lead.
Butler finished with 94 yards rushing and has 197 on the ground in his last two games.
Not only did the Red Raiders prevail in their game, Clarke Central lost to Rockdale County, putting Madison County in sole possession of second place in Region 8-AAAA.
The Red Raiders move on to face Loganville (3-2) at home Friday at 7:30 p.m. as they remain in serious contention for both the state playoffs and region title.
Rushing -- Butler 8-94-2 TD, Owens 21-55-1 TD, Maxwell 9-30, Dean 2-3- 1TD, McCrary 1- -4, Cooper 5- -8