WELLS — The best team in Class D South all season, the Wells High School football team put on a dominant display to earn the hardware that proved it.

Nolan Potter ran for four touchdowns to lead a powerful Wells rushing attack, the Warriors’ defense was it its suffocating best and Wells romped to victory in the D South championship game, defeating Madison, 34-12, at Wells High School on a chilly Saturday afternoon.

The victory allowed Wells to remain undefeated at 11-0, and moved the Warriors one win away from a Class D title many saw coming after they moved down following a Class C championship last fall. Coach Tim Roche didn’t see it that way, however, as the Warriors lost 19 players from that state title team a season ago.

Getting back to a state championship game after losing that many players isn’t easy. Wells just made it look that way.

“These kids believed. You lose 19 players, are you kidding me? Who loses 19 kids at a school of 420?” Roche said. “The credit’s to that group standing right there.”

It was Madison’s first year in Class D as well, and like the Warriors, the Bulldogs rolled through the regular season riding the region’s highest-scoring offense, a group led by Evan Bess, Sean Whalen and Eric Wescott.

“We had a blast,” coach Scott Franzose said. “A new conference, we’re creating new rivalries, I love the rivalry we’re creating with these guys. It’s the toughest moment, it’s the moment you never want to face as a coach, when it’s over.”

It was over thanks to a Wells offense and defense that thoroughly controlled the game when they were on the field. It was difficult to tell which unit was more impressive: a ground game that, led by Potter’s 24 carries for 138 yards, churned for 293 yards on 48 carries, or a defense that held Madison’s potent rushing attack to only 38 yards on 31 attempts.

“Bottom line, we’ve got to call it what it is. We didn’t get it done,” said Franzose, whose team lost to Wells 25-21 in September. “They played faster, they played more physical.”

Madison had perhaps its best shot at taking control of the game on its first three possessions, reaching the Wells 40-yard line, 31-yard line and Madison 44-yard line, respectively, before coming up empty each time.

Spared an early deficit, Wells went to work, going 68 yards on its third series and finding the end zone on Potter’s 23-yard run, making it 7-0 with 9:53 to go in the half. A 21-yard pass from Bess to Sean Whalen (three catches, 105 yards) helped bring Madison to the Wells 29 on the ensuing series, but a turnover on downs made it another fruitless march, and Potter capped off another 68-yard drive with a 3-yard run to up the lead to 14-0 with 3:18 to go.

Madison wasn’t finished, however, and jumped right back into the game when Wells fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half and Bess hit Whalen on a hitch that the senior was able to take 47 yards for a touchdown after making a defender miss, cutting the gap to 14-6 with 11:02 left in the third.

“That was a big play,” Franzose said. “It was things that we preached this week in the pass game. Let’s not think home run, let’s think underneath. Let’s take the high-percentage stuff. … At that point we’re thinking ‘All right, momentum swing. We’re back in this thing.’ ”

Madison just needed a stop, but the Bulldogs couldn’t get it. Wells went 69 yards for a score, capped off by an 8-yard run from Tyler Bridge (17 carries 91 yards) with 6:11 left in the third. Wells went 49 yards two drives later after an interception by Michael Wrigley, making it 28-6 with 11:01 to play when Potter rumbled in from 16 yards out as Wrigley, at quarterback and sensing victory, raised his fist.

“At Wells, we (take) pride in our run game,” said Potter, who added a game-icing 6-yard touchdown run with 1:41 to play. “Even if you do just get those 6- or 7-yard carries every time, it’s really demoralizing. When you hear the other team yelling out the play you’re about to run and you’re still able to get those yards, it shows how physical we can be.”

Madison couldn’t gain enough rhythm on offense to counter the Wells surge. The Warriors, with linebackers Potter and Sean McCormack-Kuhman lead the swarm, jumped on everything the Bulldogs tried, swallowing up everything from keepers for Bess (15 carries, 28 yards) to sweeps and counters to Whalen (11 carries, 5 yards) and Wescott (five carries, 5 yards).

“They’re a great football team,” Bess said. “They’ve got some awesome players over there on that defensive side of the ball. … They made it tough for us.”

“When we tried to run outside, they blew it up. When we tried to run inside, they blew it up,” Franzose said. “They put is in really bad (to) manage down and distance.”

Madison had success through the air, with Bess completing 14 of 29 passes for 211 yards and using his arm to guide the Bulldogs to their second score, which came on a halfback pass from Whalen to Wescott with 5:50 to go.

It wasn’t enough to steal a victory on Saturday, however. Wells made sure of it.

“When you’ve run for 27, 28 hundred yards, obviously that’s a big part of what we do,” Franzose said. “It’s tough to win a ballgame when you can’t run the ball, and you become one-dimensional. That was a big part of it. We wanted to try to stay balanced, and we just weren’t.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM