The Winthrop/Monmouth and Madison football teams are confident heading into their matchup tonight at Madison’s Rudman Field.

But for different reasons.

For Madison, it’s the confidence that comes with a dominant start. The Bulldogs are one of five teams in the state that have scored 100 points through two games (49 against Foxcroft, 51 against Dirigo), and have been having their way on both sides of the ball.

“We play, I think, really exceptional team defense,” Madison coach Scott Franzose said. “The defense is allowing us to get early three-and-outs, to win first down, to put teams at a disadvantage in down and distance. And No. 2, we’ve run the ball very well.”

For the Ramblers, it’s the confidence that comes with rallying for a ship-steadying win over Old Orchard Beach after a rocky season opener.

“We’ve made some nice progressions, and we can certainly see that when we sit down and watch the film,” said Winthrop/Monmouth coach Dave St. Hilaire, whose team beat OOB 27-18 after it dropped a 46-0 decision to Wells in the opener. “To get the win last week, and not only win but come back from being down 10-0 and behind in the third quarter as well … that was a good team win, and it was something that we needed.”

Now both teams will look to gain the upper hand on the other, and salvage a victory that could pay big Class D dividends at season’s end.

“This is a big one. … This will be another test of how balanced our conference is this year,” Franzose said. “Obviously, we want to keep moving forward, go to 3-0, not look down the road and take care of business.”

It won’t be easy.

St. Hilaire knows what Madison brings with an attack led by quarterback Evan Bess and dynamic running back Sean Whalen.

“(Old Orchard Beach) was one-dimensional compared to what they were the previous week. This team isn’t,” St. Hilaire said. “Madison’s very skilled, and they tax you from the beginning of the week to the end of the week, having to prepare for them.”

Here’s a look at the matchup:

Where: Rudman Field, Madison

When: 7 tonight

Madison’s Franzose on Winthrop/Monmouth: “They’re still dangerous. A lot of weapons in there, and with their offense they like to spread the field, they can also run big.”

Winthrop/Monmouth’s St. Hilaire on Madison: “They’re an incredibly fast team. I don’t know if we’ve seen that speed of (Sean) Whalen in the last few years. And they’ve got a really good quarterback, so it’s pretty much a 1-2 punch. We’ve got to make sure we’re playing as fast as possible.”

Three keys for Madison:

• Take it outside.

The strength of Winthrop/Monmouth’s front seven is with the interior linemen and linebackers. By going outside with Whalen and Eric Wescott on sweeps, pitches and off-tackle runs, the Bulldogs would put pressure on the Ramblers to find the speed to keep up.

• Start fast.

Madison should look to take a page from Wells’ book. The Warriors raced out to a quick lead in the season opener, mounting a 20-0 lead by halftime. Wells didn’t let the Ramblers hang around and neither should Madison, or else it’ll let the Ramblers feel the inspiration that comes with knowing the upset is within reach.

• Use the whole playbook.

Madison’s proven its running game to be among the most formidable in Class D, but it should try to incorporate the pass, whether to beat W/M or add another weapon to the arsenal for more big games down the road.

“We need to show that we can be that balanced offense,” Franzose said. “We need to come out and show that we can throw the ball on any down, we can be unpredictable.”

Three keys for Winthrop/Monmouth:

• Find Greg Fay.

When a team scores as often as Madison does, it’s important to find the favorable mismatches when you have the ball in order to keep up. The Ramblers have one in Fay, a wide receiver who, at 6-foot-2, is often taller than the defenders covering him. He should be a go-to target on key conversions.

• Set the edge.

Madison has a lot of speed on offense, so the Ramblers will need to focus on getting to the sideline and preventing the Bulldog backs from ripping off long runs around the end. If they can force Madison to resort to runs up the middle, that’s a win.

• Share the wealth.

The Ramblers don’t have that bell cow running back or receiver to look for on every passing play. Instead, W/M relies on a cast of quality offensive players that know when to produce when their number is called. That was on display last week, when the Ramblers found seven different receivers on the first seven passes. They’ll be in good shape if they can have a bevy of trusted options to go to as the game goes on.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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