Ken Cherry ran for 127 yards and was on the receiving end of passes for an additional 122 yards, but his and the rest of the Mustangs’ efforts were not enough as Madison Academy fell in the Class 3A State Championship Game to Mobile Christian 55-28. Photo- AHSAA/Will Carter- Pure Game

Madison Academy Leads Local Teams In Year-End Football Review

MADISON- The 2023 high school football season is now a recent memory. The season came to a close when Madison Academy lost in its bid to win the Class 3A State Championship falling to No. 1 ranked Mobile Christian 55-28 in the title game held at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

Both teams headed into the game undefeated with the Mustangs twice making rallies to make the game close and within reach, but the Leopards (15-0) scored three touchdowns in the final 10 minutes to pull away to win their first state championship. Senior running back Ken Cherry had 127 yards rushing and an additional 122 yards receiving while having three touchdowns to lead Madison Academy (14-1). Quarterback Jake Poldiak finished 20-of-29 passing for 342 yards and two touchdowns, but he also had three interceptions, which Mobile Christian turned into 21 points. Both teams combined for 982 yards of offense.

“These guys answered the call and as a coach you have a vision on what you want that program to look like and these guys brought it to life and made it the standard,” said Bob Godsey head coach of Madison Academy. “When they had to step up they did. That’s what I’ll remember from this team. These guys responded.”

“We came up short in this game, but throughout the season we just had a whole bunch of good moments, loving moments, no matter what life brought we were there for each other,” said Cherry.

“I made some bad reads early in the game, but the guys brought us back in it,” added Poldiak. “We just couldn’t finish it.”

For the senior Cherry, an All-State performer and uncommitted on his choice of college, had another spectacular season as he finished with 2,836 yards rushing on 206 carries with 44 touchdowns. He also had 20 pass receptions for 379 yards and four scores. Poldiak, also a senior Mustang, had 2,694 yards and 24 TDs in passing from his 157 completions on 211 attempts. Top receiver was Jackson Reece, a senior, who hauled in 87 passes for 1,383 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Mustangs’ offense was one of the top in the state scoring 47.9 points a game.

On defense, which gave up an average of just 16.4 points per outing, was led by junior linebacker A.J. Rice with 133 tackles and Brandon Tanner with 80 tackles. Godsey had 14 seniors on his team roster.

The Mustangs had a marvelous run through the regular season, as well as, the playoffs where they defeated Hokes Bluff (57-20), Mars Hill (21-14), Sylvania (35-28) and Geraldine (48-43).

“The competitive spirit is really big on this team. The next play matters, the little things matter,” added Rice.

Godsey added, with emotions, “It’s been a heck of a ride. The journey has been incredible, but once again, it’s been all these fellas. They’ve been the ones to establish Madison Academy.”

The remainder of the three local schools completed their 23 campaigns earlier than the Mustangs, Let’s take a look at each.

Bob Jones

The Patriots lost their first three games of the 2023 schedule, including a 40-13 loss to crosstown rival James Clemens, but head coach Kelvis White had to right the ship, which he did as his squad won five of its next seven games and advanced to the Class 7A playoffs. Bob Jones (5-6) fell to Hewitt-Trussville in round one of extra play 56-14.

James Clemens

Chad McGehee watched as his team finished 7-4 on the season including a first-round 42-16 home loss to Hoover in the Class 7A playoffs. In his third season as head coach, McGehee’s efforts did secure the Jets as Region 4 Champions with a 6-1 region record losing to region foe Austin. The big fact of the 2023 campaign for the Jets was they scored 313 points on the year, but also allowed 257 to their opponents including 42 to both Muscle Shoals and Hoover, both games which they lost. James Clemens was also just 3-3 at home games.

Sparkman

What is easily a bizarre season for the Senators of Sparkman came to a close at the end of the regular season as the team did not advance to the state playoffs. Sparkman had a new head coach in Ronnie Watson and all looked good through the first half of the regular season as his squad won the first five games on its schedule including four shutouts and allowed just 18 points to region foe Austin. At that point, the wheels fell off the fast moving winning machine as Sparkman lost its next five games scoring just 95 points while allowing 149 points to their opponents. For the season, the Senators tallied 321 points and gave up 199. The 5-5 final record included 3-4 in Region 4 games.

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