“We overcame some things early on, but anytime you come out against a quality team like Franklin and come out and compete and have some things go your way, that’s not a bad way to start the season,” Madison coach Steve Poff said. “They are a great team, a great staff, nothing but respect for them, but we’re glad to get the win and we’ll move on to Week 2.”
Madison’s defense proved to be as strong as advertised coming off the program’s first trip to the Division V playoffs and a run to the state semifinals last year.
Levi McMonigle’s fumble recovery on a strip sack of Franklin quarterback Braden Woods ended a strong opening possession for the Wildcats, and the Mohawks responded with a time-consuming 79-yard scoring drive.
Cole Pelgen punched it in on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line after Franklin made three goal-line stands, and Madison took an 8-0 lead with 2:40 left in the second quarter.
“They drove the field, and that (fumble recovery) gave us a ton of momentum because we came out and scored that next possession,” Poff said. “Our entire defense played great but it all hinges off that front four, and it’s no secret.”
The Mohawks held Franklin to a three-and-out the next drive, and that was the last time the Wildcats would hold the ball before heading into the locker room.
Franklin once again moved deep into Madison territory on the first drive of the second, but turned it over on downs with Woods taking a sack. From there, the Wildcats struggled to get into a rhythm on offense and wore down on defense.
“We knew they were going to use the clock, but our defense just couldn’t get off the field on third down,” Franklin coach Brad Childers said. “We had a couple second- and third-and-long situations that we were unsuccessful in, but that’s a nice ballclub over there and they are going to win a lot of football games.”
The Mohawks quickly moved down the field on back-to-back scoring drives and extended their lead to 22-0 with 1:53 left in the third quarter with a 33-yard touchdown run by Jake Phelps and 39-yard touchdown pass from Quincy Brown to Noah Lehman on fourth-and-9.
Brown, who has been working at tight end, was taking his first snaps at quarterback since playing junior varsity football last year. Madison finished with just 52 yards passing between Brown and Whiteman, but racked up 242 yards on the ground with Phelps and Pelgen stepping up in Svarda’s absence.
“We had a bunch of 2s that had to go in the game, and I thought they performed well against a very good team,” Poff said. “Those guys competed at a high level for not having reps all week, so I’m really proud of those guys.”
Franklin got a turnover and kept Madison out of the end zone in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t avoid the shutout.
Although Woods finished with 158 yards passing, the Wildcats managed just 40 yards rushing on nine carries.
“They did a great job defending us,” Childers said. “They are a really good football team as everyone knows, very good up front. We got the ball inside the 30 three times, and we were unable to capture points. They made some plays. We would make plays and shoot ourselves in the foot, and you can’t do that against a good team like that.
“I’m proud of our kids’ effort. They played hard and never gave up. We feel like we were right there. We just were four or five plays away from potentially changing the outcome. We’re going to look at the film and learn from it, regroup and be a lot better.”
Madison hosts Reading in Week 2, while Franklin — which made playoff appearances the past two seasons — looks to bounce back at Edgewood.
M: Cole Pelgen 1 run (Mason Whiteman run)
M: Jake Phelps 33 run (Levi McMonigle pass from Quincy Brown)
M: Noah Lehman 39 pass from Brown (Pass failed)