MADISON — On Friday night, the Madison Area Memorial High School football team picked up its biggest win since the 1994 Class C state championship game. The Bulldogs beat two-time defending state champion Winslow 28-21, snapping the Black Raiders’ 25-game win streak. Throughout the weekend, senior running back Nick Morales and his teammates heard about it repeatedly from fans who have waited a generation for such excitement surrounding the Bulldogs.

“People were congratulating us. After that win, they gave us some bold predictions for the rest of the year,” Morales said. “You have to say, ‘I agree with you. Hopefully,’ and just realize that we have a game Saturday against Waterville and they’re not going to be a pushover. We have to focus for the rest of the year. We still have some tough games left. If we want to get to where we want to be, we have to execute like coach (Scott Franzose) always says. There’s a lot of season left.”

Madison fans have reason to be excited. The victory Friday improved the Bulldogs to 4-0 and set them alone in first place in the Big Ten Conference. The team continues to show the progression that began in 2014, when it made the playoffs for the first time in years, and continued last season, when it hosted a playoff game for the first time since 1995. For the Bulldogs, however, too much excitement would be going off script. There’s too much work to be done.

“All week we heard from people, ‘Oh, you’ve got Winslow. It’s a big game. It’s homecoming.’ We know what we have to do. We have to practice hard all week,” senior center/linebacker Aaron Morgan said.

Morgan said the team used last season’s game against Winslow as a reminder of what not to do. Like this season, both teams went into the game sitting atop the Big Ten Conference. The Bulldogs let the magnitude of the game get the better of them. Winslow jumped all over the Bulldogs early and rolled to a 57-7 win.

“We didn’t get hyped up like in years past. Like last year, it’s supposed to be a super-hyped-up game, and we come out and get blown out because we were too worried about it. This week, we were like, let’s play hard against these guys,” Morgan said.

Through the first four games of the season, Madison averaged almost 38 points per game, showing it has become adept at running Franzose’s pistol offense.

“I feel like the offense is really where I want it now,” Franzose, now in his fifth season as Madison’s head coach, said.

The Bulldogs have shown depth not often seen at the Class C level. On Friday, four players scored a touchdown. Last season, Morales ran for more than 1,000 yards and many expected him to be the Bulldogs’ main back this season. Instead, he’s been joined by running back Sean Whalen and quarterback Evan Bess. Both Whalen and Bess missed last season with injuries and each has been a big contributor so far this season. With that trio running and receivers Mitch Jarvais, Steven Ouellette and Jacob Meader keying the passing game, Madison has a lot of weapons opposing defenses must consider. The plan is to force opponents to play assignment football. Inevitably, somebody will get open, Franzose said.

“Anybody can touch the ball on any given play,” Franzose said. “When we can spread the field and make them account for all of them, we’re going to get the ball to who ever (is) there.”

On Friday, that was Meader, who caught two passes for 36 yards, his first two catches of the season. Each went for a Madison first down. A sophomore, Meader joined the lineup when Zach Belanger went down with an injury early in the season. Franzose moved Jarvais back to the slot and inserted Meader on the outside.

“Jacob is a sophomore but doing a spectacular job. Stalk blocking, he works hard every play,” Franzose said. “Steven Ouellette is a big-play threat, I feel he’s one of the best in the conference. He just got his first catches last week (against Belfast). Evan does a good job finding whoever is there.”

Added Morales: “We spread it really well and we don’t care. Whoever does good, does good. One of us is going to get stopped but you’ve got to stop another five people. We love it. It’s good for us… I think we’re all each other’s biggest fans. When it comes to games, we do something nice, we congratulate each other and go on to the next play.”

That selflessness is a big part of the Bulldogs success, Franzose said.

“They play as a group. Everybody just wants to do their job and be on assignment. No heroes. That stuff goes a long ways.”

The big number for the Madison offense so far this season is zero, as in zero turnovers.

“I hate to say it out loud, I feel like I should knock on something, but zero turnovers,” Franzose said. “We’re efficient. I think a lot of people believe when you no huddle, you’re tempo, it’s about big plays. Really, we’re about a two-back system and moving the chains. We have big-play potential but we want to move the chains.”

Madison’s skill players run behind a rebuilt offensive line that starts with Morgan at center, a converted running back.

“Coach (Mike) Whalen and I, we looked at a lot of film (Sunday) night. He’s my offensive line guy. He’s really the guy who keeps me balanced and we talk about it every week, fundamentals. There’s nothing fancy that we’re doing… We don’t preach big things around here; we preach little things. Doing your job every play, the details,” Franzose said.

While fans look ahead at Madison’s schedule, particularly to an Oct. 7 game at Mt. Desert Island, Franzose and the Bulldogs look just to Saturday’s game at Waterville.

“We’ve got to take it one game at a time, and just focus on who we’re playing next,” Ouellette said.

“We kind of control our own destiny. We’re focused on Waterville. We know we’ve got some big ones down the road, but we’ve got to get back to work,” Franzose said. “Enjoy what we just did, but it’s really about getting ready for the next step.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @billstewartMTM


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