MADISON — The past couple weeks have been rough for the Madison football team.
With his team giving up 38 and 41 points in losses the past two weeks against Riverside and Mayfield, Blue Streaks coach Tim Willis and his staff had an answer for visiting North Thursday night at Dick Hamblin Field.
Give the ball to tailback Austin McCourt early and often.
McCourt led the charge as the Madison offense scored all six times it touched the football in a 50-20 homecoming victory over the Rangers in a Western Reserve Conference matchup.
McCourt had a career-high 197 yards on 28 carries and four touchdowns, as the junior heard his nickname “Bama” being cheered throughout the night from the Blue Streaks faithful as he raced through the North defense.
“It pumps me and really gets me going,” McCourt said of the cheers. “I can’t really do it without my linemen, though. They made holes I could put a semi-truck through.”
Willis made sure the Rangers knew right from the start that they would have to stop the 5-foot-5 move in from Alabama.
After forcing North to punt on the opening drive of the game, Madison followed that stop, marching 69 yards on nine rushing plays — all to McCourt. He capped off the drive with a 3-yard run.
“He’s a tough kid — a solid, hard-nosed kid,” Willis said.
The opening stop was the only defensive stop made by either team until Madison’s Alex Dragas intercepted North quarterback Chris Molica at the end of the third quarter.
McCourt would score on another 3-yard run at the beginning of the second quarter to give Madison a 14-6 lead.
Then, after North answered with a 11-yard run by Molica to cut the lead to 14-3, the Blue Streaks were able to answer by scoring right before half.
Sparked by a 45-yard kickoff return from senior Will Weema to midfield with four minutes remaining, Madison gave the ball to McCourt the first five times of the drive. Dragas then ran a short gain before rolling right and finding a streaking Brad McKeon down the left sideline for a perfectly thrown 28-yard touchdown with just under a minute to go before intermission.
The drive was key as Madison would also receive the ball to open the second half, with McCourt bursting through the line for a 34-yard score on the seventh play of the half. Molica, who ended up with 130 yards rushing, answered with a 41-yard touchdown run, cutting the lead to 28-20.
Madison then used McCourt on the next drive, but in a different way. The Blue Streaks called for a flea clicker as Dragas handed it to his back before getting it back and finding a wide open Cole Tanner down the field for a 27-yard touchdown giving the hosts a 35-20 advantage.
Madison would then make two big defensive plays to seal the game, beginning with Dragas’ interception and then senior Alex Blackie batting down a lateral from Molica in the left flat, picking the ball up at the 5 and finding paydirt with just under nine minutes remaining.
“We’ve been having struggles on defense, so our offense clicked tonight and it helped,” Willlis said. “I knew as soon as we got a stop or two we would be fine because they were having trouble stopping us.”
Madison finished with 360 total yards of offense. Along with McCourt’s big night, Dragas finished with 60 yards rushing and completed all four passes for 79 yards.
With the win, Madison improved to 3-4 on the season, 2-2 in the WRC. The Blue Streaks will travel to play undefeated Kenston next Friday.
“We had to win this game,” Willis said. “We will go see [next week] what happens. Kenston’s got a great football team. Our kids will fight, but right now, the kids just need to enjoy this win because the last couple weeks have been tough.”
North (2-5 overall, 0-4 in the WRC) will host Brush the same night.