By DAVID NEGIN
For the Star Beacon
MADISON TOWNSHIP —
Madison quarterback Austin Burkholder experienced some tough moments early in the game Friday night against Chardon.
“As a quarterback you have to have a short memory,” the first-year starter said.
On a night where the Blue Streaks honored their 1973 undefeated team, Burkholder proved he has a short memory as he responded with a career best performance in leading the Blue Streaks to an important 43-26 Premier Athletic Conference win over the Hilltoppers.
Burkholder had thrown two early interceptions, including a pick-six (48 yards) by Chardon’s Anthony Cantranzriti in the final minute of the opening quarter, giving the visitors a 14-7 advantage.
The senior responded by throwing for a career-high 243 yards and five touchdowns as Madison improved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the PAC.
“He’s a senior now,” Madison coach Tim Willis said. “He has a lot of poise. We needed him at that point in time. We were down in the game. The way Chardon plays defense, I call it Russian roulette. They are going to play man-to-man coverage with our guys. We have some skilled kids who can play out there this year and they made a couple big plays.”
With Chardon playing to stop Madison’s running game, led by senior Brandon Davis, the Blue Streaks proved they are far from a one-dimensional team.
Junior Aaron Petrucelli made the most of the three passes he caught in the first half (96 yards), beating the Chardon secondary deep for a 52-yard touchdown and a pair of 22-yard scores.
Senior Braden Jerome caught six passes (88 yards, 1 touchdown), many of which kept drives alive. He also made a diving catch on a 2-point conversion after Petrucelli’s touchdown gave Madison a 15-14 lead. It was a play that Willis thought gave his team some momentum.
Junior Nick Law added a pair of catches (48 yards).
“We set up the pass game so good with our running game,” Jerome said. “We are always known for our running game. But, we have the vertical threats with our receivers to push it deep.”
Then there is Davis. The senior racked up 126 yards (24 carries) and a pair of touchdowns, including a 11-yard catch after a pass over the middle bounced off of Law (who was interfered with) and into his hands near the goal line. Fifty-five of those yards came in the second half, as Madison held off a late Chardon surge.
“We know Madison has a full playbook,” Chardon coach Mitch Hewitt explained. “They have an arsenal of different things. But, that No. 5 (Davis), he is an impressive player. Everything we thought they’d be, they were. We just thought we could defend the pass a little bit better than that.”
Both teams were able to move the football. The Blue Streaks totaled 397 yards of offense, to 354 for Chardon (2-3, 1-1). Chardon quarterback Patrick Sullivan had 163 yards passing, but was intercepted four times, including three by senior safety Jared Yoe and one by Davis.
Madison built a 36-14 lead after Davis’ touchdown grab at the end of the third quarter. Chardon responded with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, then followed by recovering an onside kick and finding paydirt again just four plays later, cutting the lead to 36-26 with 6:27 remaining.
In the end, Madison proved to have too many weapons.
“We have some skilled kids,” Willis said. “We have Nick Law, we have Aaron Petrucelli, we have Braden Jerome and we have (Thomas) Purkey out there too, a fourth guy who can make plays. We have some skilled athletes that if they want to crowd the box, we can throw the football. We can beat some guys one-on-one.
“There was a lot on the line. This was like a playoff game for us. I knew it’d be a playoff atmosphere. The place was packed. They’re a good football team; We’re a good football team. When we play Chardon, it is always a tough, physical game.”
Negin is a freelance writer from Madison.