MADISON — For the second straight week, Madison gave itself opportunities to win.
But, like in last week’s 17-14 last-second defeat to Geneva, coach Mike Gilligan’s young team couldn’t come up with the big play when it needed it most to defeat Kenston at Dick Hamblin Field Friday night.
Kenston freshman Sean Patrick hauled in two big interceptions, helping secure a 21-14 victory over the Blue Streaks, which spoiled an otherwise big night from junior quarterback Michael O’Brien and senior wideout Noah Tweedy.
“We have to find a way to win as a young group of kids with not a lot of experience,” Gilligan said.
O’Brien, making just his second varsity start, completed 15 of 34 passes for 243 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Tweedy.
However, it was the two big interceptions by Patrick that proved to be too much to overcome.
With the game knotted at 7 midway through the third quarter, Madison drove all the way to the Kenston 5.
O’Brien hit a pair of key passes to Tweedy (36 and 14 yards) and junior tight end Landon Albert (9 yards) on the drive.
But on second down, O’Brien rolled left and fired the ball toward the end zone.
Patrick picked off the pass and raced 98 yards for the go-ahead score, 14-7, giving the Bombers the momentum with 5:12 remaining.
Kenston then increased the lead to 21-7 when senior tailback Stanley Sell scored his second touchdown of the night with a 5-yard run at the end of the third quarter.
Madison countered with a 38-yard touchdown strike from O’Brien to Tweed to open the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 21-14, but could not capitalize on some opportunities down the stretch.
Blue Streaks senior co-captain Jake Laurie recovered a muffed kick, giving the hosts the ball back with 6:55 remaining.
Madison, however, stalled on downs at the Kenston 11.
Then, after getting the ball back and driving to the Kenston 26 with just under two minutes left, Patrick picked off O’Brien’s pass to Tweedy in the end zone, securing the win for Kenston.
“Watching him practice all year, we knew he [Patrick] would be special,” Kenston coach Jeff Grubich said. “We didn’t know he would be this special this quick.”
Gilligan praised the home debut by his young signal caller, despite the couple of miscues.
“Michael O’Brien is learning, he is doing some good things,” Gilligan said. “This was only his second start and he is only going to get better as the year progresses because he is that type of kid.”
Tweedy was O’Brien’s main target, hauling in nine passes for 209 yards.
Kenston played its first game of the season. The opener against Mayfield was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Sell paced the Bombers ground game with 163 yards on 26 carries.
Madison senior tailback Austin McCourt had 107 yards on 23 carries, but running the ball is an area Gilligan knows his team must improve on moving forward.
“It starts with being able to run the ball more consistently,” Gilligan said.. “One any level of football, if you can’t run the football, you put a lot of pressure on your quarterback, especially one in his second start. We need to be more physical up front.”
Madison plays at North on Friday.