State championship in sight for Mustangs
With only two games left, the elusive blue map (the trophy signifying a state football championship) is once again within grasp of the Madison Academy Mustangs. The pain of losing in the 3A championship game last year on a sunny morning in Bryant Denny Stadium has been replaced by anxious excitement.
The only team standing between Madison Academy and a return trip to the Super Six state championship game is a team the Mustangs have defeated twice in the last year.
Lauderdale County is the opponent in a home game at 7:00 p.m. Friday night at Bill Washington Stadium where the Mustangs are 8-0 this season.
Madison Academy defeated Lauderdale County 35-14 in last season’s playoffs and again during the regular season this year 24-10.
“It’s the biggest game of the year with the winner going to the championship game,” said Madison Academy head Coach Eric Cohu this week. “Lauderdale County is coming in with a 12-1 record and we barely squeaked by them last time. It’s going to be a tight game. We have to have the best defensive game of the year and not turn the ball over. On offense we have to finish drives.”
Cohu will turn to players that have produced all season such as running backs Kerryon Johnson and Malik Miller, leading receiver Nick Haas, and quarterback Blake Coward.
“Blake Coward will have to distribute the ball properly. On defense Taylor Ziak, Frank Williams are going to have to have huge games,” Cohu said.
The defense will have to contain Lauderdale County quarterback Samuel Grisham (#5) and running back CJ Jackson (#23). On defense, Tyler Smith (#55) dominated in Lauderdale County’s win over Deshler.
Kerryon Johnson has followed up a brilliant freshman season with a superb sophomore season. During blowout wins over six region opponents, Johnson got limited work carrying the ball but has still accumulated 1,583 yards rushing.
“He has always been a big game player,” Cohu said of Johnson. “He has played his best against our toughest opponents and we will need another big game from him Friday night.”
Johnson had 239 yards rushing on 20 carries with 3 touchdowns last week against Colbert County. He plays on defense at safety and has been one of the most physical hitters on Academy’s defense.
Now firmly on the radar screens of college football coaches, Johnson is using the extra exposure from playoff games to bolster his already high standing in recruiting circles.
“Everybody can do a lot in the regular season but when you’re in the playoffs you face a good team every week,” Johnson said. “When you showcase your talent there it really catches their attention.”
So far, Johnson is being recruited by Alabama, LSU, and Louisville just to name a few.
“It really drives me. You can’t come out here and have a bad week. You want to keep it going and not let it go away,” Johnson said of the attention from college coaches which is only going to get more intense during his next two years.
Johnson says he will do whatever it takes to win the state championship this season. He almost won it last year as Academy led Handley 14-6 going into the fourth quarter. But the Mustangs let the lead slip away and were turned away on a last second pass play, losing 20-14.
“Nobody on the team wants that feeling again,” Johnson said. “To come so close and lose a game like that to a really good team it hits you deep and makes you work hard in the offseason. I don’t ever want to feel that again.”
Handley does not stand in the way this season. In the southern half of the class 3A bracket, Straughn will play Fayette County. The 3A championship game will be Thursday, December 6 at 11 a.m. at Auburn’s Jordan Hare Stadium. It will be televised locally on WAMY Fox 54.
Another player coming on strong this season is Malik Miller. Only a freshman, Miller had his best playoff game against Plainview as he rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Miller also plays outside linebacker.