The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 16, 2013

Hail, Madison!

BLue Streaks move on; Glenville next

For the Star Beacon

MENTOR — Those who did not believe in the quality of the Madison Blue Streaks may have pointed to the fact they didn’t clinch a Division II playoff spot until the final week of the football season, and came into the Division II, Region 3 playoffs seeded sixth.

Well, that’s all in the past. Everyone believes now, after the Blue Streaks defeated second-seeded Brecksville-Broadview Heights, 22-21, in a regional semifinal on Friday at Mentor High School, with Dave Albert’s 20-yard field goal with less than 51⁄2 minutes left providing the winning score.

So far for Madison (10-2), it has knocked off two of the top three seeds, South and Brecksville (10-2), to become one of the Elite Eight in its division for the first time in school history. The Blue Streaks will try to make it a clean sweep of the top three seeds when they play No. 1 seed Glenville next Friday in a venue to be announced, with the regional championship and a berth in the state semifinals on the line.

Not that Madison was intimidated by the seeds. It knew all along what kind of group it had.

“I talked to a couple coaches this week, and they said, ‘When you get in the playoffs, you’ve got to throw (the seeds) out the window,’ Madison coach Tim Willis said. “ Sometimes, there’s really good teams playing, but we’re a good football team. So we weren’t really concerned about the seeds; we were concerned about the team we were playing tonight. That’s a quality football team that Madison just beat. Our kids are on a roll and they believe in themselves, so anything can happen from here on out.”

Following Albert’s field goal, The Blue Streaks stopped the Bees twice, with the help of seven sacks of star quarterback Tim Tupa, to close out the win.

On offense, against a team that hadn’t allowed more than 15 points until last week, Madison was able to use its familiar ground game, with Brandon Davis leading the charge with 143 yards and a 2-yard touchdown on 30 carries. Davis, who left the field hobbling multiple times but returned on each occasion, also threw a 7-yard scoring pass to tight end Jack Holl out of the wildcat formation on fourth-and-3 at the seven yard line for the contest’s first score.

The Blue Streaks were pretty much able to contain Tupa, although he did rush for 98 yards and scores of 16, 2 and 6 yards. They sacked him 10 times, seven in the final two possessions, and limited him to 101 yards passing. Carlo Milano, who entered the contest just 35 yards short of 1,000, was limited to 19 yards on just five carries.

Following Albert’s kick, Brecksville moved to the Madison 39, but the Blue Streaks came up with three sacks and an incompletion to hold the Bees. Brecksville got the ball back following a punt, and drove to the Blue Streaks’ 39 again. Two more sacks and an incompletion made it fourth-and-20 at the 49, but Tyler Tupa came up with a clutch 21-yard grab of his brother’s pass.

However, two more sacks around a spike of the ball ended it.

“Our season was on the line in one drive,” Brecksville coach Jason Black said. “That fourth-and-20 we converted was an amazing play. We didn’t have enough of those in us tonight.”

“Obviously, they figured that they wanted to put (Tim Tupa) in charge at the end of the second half,” Willis said. “They went all empty (in the backfield) and if it wasn’t open, he’d just take off and run. And he’s such a great athlete.

“Our kids made plays when they had to. We got down a little bit; I told ’em, ‘we’ve just gotta keep composure. We can’t get all freaked out. We can’t get all goofy. Just keep our composure.’

“Man, it was great.”

In putting the heat on Tim Tupa, Willis thought his team succeeded in doing what no one else had done.

“No one really put pressure on him all year,” he said. I told Coach (Mike) Gilligan, our defensive coordinator, ‘Let’s just go for it. We’ve got nothing to lose; let’s just go after this guy.’ He limped off the field tonight.

“That’s what we had to do; we had to slow him down. I knew we couldn’t stop him, but at least slow him down. As far as their passing game, I thought we did a really good job.”

Following Davis’ pass to Holl, Albert missed the extra point. Connor Nikses finished off a drive with a 10-yard scoring run on Madison’s next possession, but its 2-point attempt was short, making the score 12-0.

The Bees turned the momentum 3:32 before the half on Nick Shirilla’s interception, which they turned into a 51-yard TD march. The extra-point attempt was blocked, but Shirilla recovered and threw to Jordan Frisco for two points to make it 12-8.

Madison couldn’t convert Aaron Petruccelli’s 74-yard kickoff return to the 17 yard line. Shirilla then opened the second half with a 63-yard kickoff return to the Madison 26 to set up a score that gave the Bees a 15-12 advantage. However, Madison answered with a 66-yard, 15-play drive that ate up more than 7 minutes. This time, Albert hit the extra point for a 19-15 lead.

Brecksville then moved 82 yards in five plays, but Tupa was rushed on the point-after try and missed it. The Blue Streaks again staged a 15-play march to the 3, with Austin Burkholder hitting Holl for a 12-yard gain to set up the winning score.

“You’ve got to believe in your kids,” Willis said about the decision to go for the field goal on fourth down from the 3. “You have to believe in ’em. At that point in time, I think we had to go for it. It was the best option at that point in time. In a clutch situation like that, a sophomore kicker, he put it through. I can’t be more proud of (Albert) because early on he missed an extra point, so God only know s what was going through his head.”

“Basically, what they did was they won first down,” Black said. “They put themselves in second-and-short, and that puts us behind the 8 ball.

“We didn’t win first downs. Give them a whole hell of a lot of credit; they just came in and they executed and did what they were supposed to do.

“That’s a very good football team.”

“It’s a great win for Madison (and ) the community of Madison,” Willis said.

Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.