Madison Academy played a game for the memory banks with a come-from-behind playoff victory over Sylvania. Photo- Richie Carter Photography

Madison Academy advances to semi-finals versus Geraldine

MADISON- Geraldine, with its quiet, rural lifestyle atop Sand Mountain in Dekalb County, will become a frenzy of activity when its Geraldine High School Bulldogs host the No. 3 ranked and undefeated Madison Academy Mustangs in round four of the Class 3A football state playoffs this Friday, the night before the town of 1,000 residents’  annual Christmas Parade.

Geraldine (12-1) will host Madison Academy (13-0) at Coolidge-Isbell Field in a matchup of the two schools for only the third time in history with the Mustangs holding a 2-0 lead all-time against the Bulldogs.

Madison Academy advanced to this round with an incredible come-from-behind 35-28 victory over Sylvania while Geraldine posted an impressive 55-20 road victory over Lauderdale County. Bob Godsey, head coach of Madison Academy, knows both Sylvania and Geraldine are from the same Region 6 and can present another sizeable challenge similar to what his Mustangs experienced against Sylvania.

“Yes, they are from the same region on top of Sand Mountain and I know they are a very physical team and we will have to match that physical play,” said Godsey, in his fifth season as head coach of the Mustangs and his fifth consecutive year in the post-season.

Geraldine, wearing its traditional purple, have scored 39 points per outing and given up just 13 to each opponent. Its 508 points is a scoring team record. The only blemish on the season came in the fifth game of the 2023 schedule when the Bulldogs lost to its arch-rival Sylvania 37-16. Since that game, the Bulldogs have reeled off eight consecutive victories including playoff efforts over Susan Moore (56-14), Gordo (42-34) and Lauderdale County (55-20).

Madison Academy has been perfect all season outscoring its challengers 643-149. Those statistics equal out to scoring 49.4 points per game and allowing just 11.4 points to each opponent. All of the impressive play all season long was almost a forgotten effort in last week’s classic battle against the Sylvania Rams.

Down 28-21 into the fourth quarter, the Mustangs scored early in the final stanza, but missed the extra point try thus leaving the host Mustangs one point behind the visiting Rams. The Mustangs’ defense, led by junior A.J. Rice with 15 tackles, held true the remainder of the game and gave the ball to its offense with less than three minutes remaining with a chance to achieve a place among the history pages of the Mustangs’ program.

“We kept playing and knew the game was going to be tough and that every possession would count,” said Godsey. “We played with poise as we had to go 80-plus yards on the game’s final drive. It was something we practice every week and our kids kept their wits about them and stayed poised.”

The last drive wasn’t easy. The Mustangs faced its two fourth down situations of the game including a fourth and 16 at the Rams 30-yard line. Senior quarterback Jake Poldiak (13/15, 179 yards) hit fellow senior Jackson Reece (6 catches, 81 yards) with a pass on a crossing pattern for a 21-yard play, a first down and the chance to live another play. Then with 20-seconds remaining and facing a fourth and goal inside the Rams’ five-yard line, the Mustangs decided to give their final effort to its most experienced and top performing offensive weapon in All-State senior running back Ken Cherry. Cherry, who ran 182 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries for the game, took the handoff from Poldiak and began his run around right end and was met face-to-face with a would be Rams’ tackler, but the Mustangs’ fastest player who is ranked No. 1 in Alabama in game speed, used a swift move to avoid the defender and scampered into the end zone for the winning score.

“This may have topped last year’s playoff overtime game against Sylvania and we were able to make the much needed plays,” added Godsey. “This was an amazing win, a game for the memory banks and a game we all will remember for a long time.”

This Friday, the small town of Geraldine, which most famous citizen was the late singer-songwriter Pat Upton who wrote and performed one of the most enduring love songs of all time, “More Today Than Yesterday” back in the late 1960’s, will come to life unlike any time in recent history to see their team appear in the semi-finals for only the second time against the undefeated Mustangs.

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