11:25pm CDT, 04/18/14

Madison Advances to MSFL Championship

By Eric Rogers

MIDDLETON, Wis. — The Mustangs were scoreless in the second half, but a goal-line stand by the defense gave them a 21-14 victory over the Roscoe Rush Saturday night.

Madison came into the MSFL with a chip on its shoulder, as many teams felt a former Ironman Football League team would not be able to take down the better MSFL squads. The Mustangs, however, prove that their IFL dominance was not a fluke.

“We definitely didn’t [get the respect we deserved,]” Mustangs linebacker Jordan Braxton said. “They talked about us on the message boards like we weren’t defending champions umpteen times. And here we are…trying to win another ring.”

The first quarter was rough. Offensively, neither Madison not Roscoe could score. This, in part, was due to terrific defense. Madison stopped Roscoe on a fourth-down play, but the Rush were able to hold the Mustangs to a field goal attempt on the other end of the field, which was missed.

The Mustangs commanded a more deliberate pace in the second, highlighted by an 18 yard run by Justin Mashburn, which took Madison to the Roscoe six. At the 11:35 mark, Madison capped off an impressive 10-play, 70 yard drive with a touchdown pass to Reggie Davis.

 Roscoe went three-and-out on its next drive, and Madison’s LaRon Ragsdale set up the next drive with a 15 yard punt return to the 45. Quarterback Dave Pietrowiak started getting hot, tossing a beautiful pass to Mike Gilbertson for 22 yards. Next, he hit Reggie Davis with a 30 yard seam pass, taking the ball just outside the goal line. Running back Kyle Brodd finished it off with a direct-snap rush up the middle, giving Madison a 14-0 lead.

On Madison’s next possession, a rare fumble by Brodd gave Roscoe the ball near midfield with 5:26 to play in the first half.

The Rush finally came alive with a short field, producing a drive that set up a big play from the Madison 35. Quarterback Jason Hufford threw a laser on a slant pass to tight end Brandon Tobias, initially called a touchdown. An inadvertent blow of the whistle wiped out the touchdown, and instead gave Roscoe the ball at the seven. On four-and-goal, the Mustangs defense held on a fake field goal pass. Pressure was applied by linebacker Noah Williams.

With 2:52 until halftime, the Madison offense took over from its own six yard line and put together a nine play, 94 yard drive to lead 21-0 at the break. Pietrowiak used his arm the entire drive, until a quarterback sneak from the two got Madison the late score.

Madison was forced to punt coming out of the half, and Roscoe answered on the ground. Running back Will Brewer started the first semblance of offense, making the defense play honest. Brewer’s efforts set up a 15 yard touchdown pass to Justin Opengo, and it seemed the Rush were poised to make a comeback.

The next Madison possession was halted by an injury to lineman Jeremy Elliot, who had to be helped off the field. The shift in personnel led to a bad exchange between center and quarterback, and Madison ended up punting.

With 5:17 left in the third quarter, Roscoe looked to take advantage. It seemed the running game was working well, until two consecutive pre-snap penalties forced the Rush to give the ball right back.

Madison settled for a field goal attempt on its next drive and a poor snap to the holder led to another miss from Matt Slepica. It was a 21-7 Madison lead after three.

Hufford was hot-and-cold all night passing the football, and no bigger opportunity was missed than when he overthrew a wide-open Charles Chatman for what would have been a 45-yard score. Hufford recovered and finished an 11-play, 71 yard drive with another touchdown pass to Opengo; this time for 24 yards.

Madison changed its offensive formation, surrounding Petro with three running backs. The new formation caught Roscoe off-guard initially, but an incomplete pass to Davis on fourth down ended another drive. Pietrowiak was just 1-10 passing in the second half at that point.

“It was a tale of two halves,” Pietrowiak said. “We exploited some things offensively in the first half. The second half, they turned the screws; tightened up.”

For the Rush, a 46 yard pass-interference call on the ensuing drive set them up for the game-tying score. Brewer continued to churn out first downs, powering for a 16-yard gain and a first-and-goal. The Mustang defense would eventually hold and force an incompletion on fourth down.

With 2:01 left, Roscoe got another shot at it after a Madison punt. More running from Brewer set up another first-and-goal, this time from the seven. Hufford threw the ball to a receiver on a crossing route which went incomplete. A late flag flew in for pass interference on Noah Williams. That set up a first-and-goal from the Madison one yard line.

Poor clock management with 1:05 to play put the Rush in a third down situation. Hufford took his final timeout, forcing the team to throw with just 20 seconds remaining. Madison managed another goal-line stand on fourth down, and after a kneel-down by Petro, the Mustangs held on.

Mustangs Head Coach Adam Smith summed the game up with one simple statement: “Two goal-line stands in the fourth quarter is unheard of…We got to the top of the mountain. Now we just have one more game to plant that flag.”

Madison got a 21-14 win over the Rush, despite being shut out in the second half.

Due to a lightning storm in the Eastern Conference Final, the MSFL Championship game will be moved back to Saturday, Oct. 19.

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