Madison Co.’s hopes of winning season, playoffs dashed by Clarke Central
ATHENS — Madison County needed to win and have Loganville lose Friday to parlay its a turnaround season into a state playoff season.
Neither part of that equation worked out.
As Loganville was beating Winder-Barrow 57-18 Friday, Clarke Central dashed Madison County’s hopes of a winning season and playoff berth with a 31-13 thumping in Athens at “Death Valley.”
The Gladiators’ Jeremy Hughes started the third quarter with a 65-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, opening the floodgates for a 28-point second half from Clarke Central as the Gladiators raced past Madison County for their third-straight victory in the series.
Red Raider coach Randell Owens said Clarke Central (8-2) adjusted well at the half and took advantage of Madison County’s overaggressive defensive tactics, which included bringing eight-and-nine-man blitzes at times.
“As soon as they got in a position where they could talk about it and say, “here’s what we need to do,” that wasn’t really effective in the second half,” Owens said.
For the second straight week, the Red Raiders (5-5) — who scored very early in their previous game against Apalachee with a 51-yard touchdown on a fake punt — jumped out to a quick lead with an unconventional score and then didn’t find the end zone again until the game was out of hand.
This time, the big play came from Marquis Thomas, who scooped a fumble midway through the first quarter and returned it 65 yards to give Madison County a 7-0 lead over the Gladiators. But the Red Raiders — who led 7-3 at halftime — came unhinged in the second half as Clarke Central adjusted to Madison County’s defensive scheme.
The Gladiators followed Hughes’ long special teams score with a 15-yard touchdown from Dimitri Holmes and a 16-yard touchdown pass from Martay Mattox to Hughes to go up 24-7.
“They’ve got awfully good receivers and the quarterback throws the ball really well,” Owens said.
A deflating 52-yard touchdown run from Quenshaun Watson turned the game into a rout.
Madison County scored very late as Jacob Owens hit receiver Patrick McCrary for a 37-yard touchdown on the final pass of his high school career.
Clarke Central held nearly a 2-1 edge in total yardage over Madison County, rushing for 227 yards and passing for 122, as it won for the 17th time in its last 20 regular season games.
The Red Raiders again struggled on the ground, rushing for just 54 yards on 38 carries.
“Bottom line, we hoped to be able to drive the football better than we did and change field position and create field position better than did, but we weren’t able to,” Owens said.
Madison County, which had sole possession of second place in Region 8-AAAA one month ago, finished in sixth in the final standings.
But Owens said he’ll have fond memories of this group — with or without the playoffs.
“The thing that I’ll take away from it and think about is a team that really came together and how hard they worked in the preseason and how well they played together,” he said.