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FairfaxMadison set to play in state football title game

Madison set to play in state football title game

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There is one game remaining and it’s the biggest of all for the Madison Warhawks.

On Saturday, Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Madison (11-3) will play the undefeated and high-scoring Freedom-Woodbridge Eagles (14-0) in the championship game of the Virginia High School League’s Class 6 state football tournament.

Madison also played in last season’s state final, losing to undefeated Oscar Smith.

Freedom will be the second straight playoff opponent with a perfect record and scores a lot that Madison will face, and the Warhawks are again considered the underdogs in such a showdown. That was the case in the state semifinals, as well, when Madison topped the previously-undefeated Fairfax Lions, 31-21, a team that averaged 46 points entering the clash.

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Freedom averages 66 points per outing. In single contests this fall, the Eagles have scored 112, 77, 74 and 69 points. The 904 points Freedom-Woodbridge has scored this season is a state record.

The Eagles’ offense is led by junior quarterback Tristan Evans. He has thrown a state-record 59 touchdown passes this season. He led an offense that amassed 709 total yards in a 69-14 state-semifinal victory over Western Branch.

In addition to a productive offense, Freedom also has been strong on defense with six shutouts.

“They will be the fastest team we have played and they are big up front,” Madison coach Justin Counts said. “They like to spread the ball out on offense, and make big plays, and they have a dual-threat quarterback. We have our hands full.”

The Warhawks’ game plan against Freedom will be the same as it was against Fairfax. Madison wants to frustrate and confuse the opponent by playing physical, swarming and aggressive gang-tackling defense and limiting or shutting down big plays. Then on offense, the Warhawks want to shorten the game and limit Freedom’s possessions by controlling the ball and sustaining long drives with its hard-nosed inside running game and accurately-thrown play-action passes.

“We need to put first downs together and keep the ball for long drives,” Counts said. “If we can’t do that, it could be a long day.”

Both approaches worked well against Fairfax, which fell behind 17-0 and turned the ball over three times.

Since losing its first three games, Madison has given up seven points or fewer in eight of its 11 straight victories entering the state final. The Warhawks’ defense also controlled productive Yorktown and Centreville offenses in winning region-tournament playoff games.

Madison’s offense is led by runningback Angelo Jreige; quarterback Mac Lewis; and receivers Nolan Wilbricht, Dominic Knicely,  Darren Knicely, Cord Yates and Sonny Endicott. Jreige has run for nearly 1,500 yards this season and Lewis has thrown for just more then 2,000 yards, as he mixes pass to all of those receivers and more. He completed passes to eight different receivers against Fairfax.

Jreige has gained 441 yards on the ground and scored five touchdowns in four playoff games. He has rushed for more than 100 yards in the last three contests, as well.

The accuracy of place-kicker Agri Hartman and the often booming punting with significant hang time of Orion Luera also have been reasons for Madison’s playoff success

NOTES: Neither Madison nor Freedom-Woodbridge, each with 4-0 playoff records this seasons, has ever won a state football championship, with each finishing second once – Madison last season and the Eagles in 2018 . . . This will be the Warhawks’ second appearance in a state football final. They have played in the state tournament five times . . . The one common opponent Madison and Freedom-Woodbridge faced this season was defending Class 5 state champion Stone Bridge. The Warhawks lost that game, 17-16, and Freedown defeated Stone Bridge, 38-13.

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