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Madison Heights

October 24, 2012

Madison football set to enter postseason tournament

By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
Madison running back Napoleon Harris raises his arms following the Eagles’ victory against Lamphere Oct. 12. Madison has earned a postseason bid for the fifth consecutive season.

For the fifth consecutive season, Madison High’s football team is headed to the state playoffs.

The selection of opening-round opponents took place after press time. See our website at www.candgnews.com for a rundown of all our local teams’ first-round games.

At press time, the Eagles were 7-1 overall, 4-1 Macomb Area Conference Silver Division.

After losing to Warren Fitzgerald in the second week of the season, the Eagles went on to win six consecutive games, which earned them their trip to the playoffs, as well as a MAC Silver title. Madison was set to play New Haven in its regular-season finale on Oct. 19, after press time.

Coach Drake Wilkins has led Madison to the playoffs each year since 2008, which was his first at the helm.

Now that Madison has earned its way into postseason play, Wilkins is hoping that the Eagles can make the most of their opportunity.

“We want to go as far as we can go, just that simple, ” he said. “Our approach every game for the rest of the season (is) every game is a championship game. That’s the way to look at it. Once you get in state, it’s do-or-die anyway. You win, you keep playing. You lose, you go home. We’ve already adapted to that atmosphere and that attitude. We want to win any way possible.”

Entering this season, Wilkins believed the key to Madison’s success would hinge on the play of the underclassmen. The Eagles only returned four starters from last year’s team, and prior to the season, Wilkins commented that he was “relying on a lot of guys that have never played a down of varsity football.”

One of the four starters back was running back Juan Johnson. But in the fourth game of the year, Wilkins said Johnson sustained an injury that will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the season.

Wilkins is impressed with how his young squad has responded after losing a player of Johnson’s magnitude.

“We lost one of the best running backs in the state,” he said. “To have your 1,200-yard rusher on the sideline for the remainder of the season and still find a way to win, you have to tip your hat to the kids. That was a significant part to our offense last year. Going (into) the season this year, that was our go-to guy. To lose that and still find a way to come back and be in the position we’re in, like I tell the kids, that’s about heart and determination.”

Now that Wilkins has had an opportunity to see his young players respond, he thinks his team could be dangerous in the postseason tournament.

“The sky’s the limit,” he said. “I think we’ve already proven that throughout the season. We’re a team to be reckoned with. We’re going to scrap as long as there’s time on the clock. We’re fighters. That’s not just something we do in certain games, that’s something we do every day out of the week in practice, and on Friday nights. That’s just what we do — that’s what we’re made of.”

Regardless of what happens in the postseason, Wilkins believes the season the Eagles have had will pay dividends going forward.

“The future’s bright,” he said. “This is an extremely young team. We’re going to try to build on this, take it as far as we can take it this year and turn it into something even bigger and better next year. To be in the position we’re in now, I’m tickled. It’s only going to make us a better team in the future, because we’re going to build on this.”

In other local football action:
Bishop Foley and Hazel Park both had records of 4-4 heading into their final games and could receive at-large bids for the playoffs, depending on how they finish and on many teams automatically qualify.

The Ventures were set to play Detroit Edison Public School, while Hazel Park was scheduled to take on Bloomfiled Hills Lahser. Both games were played after press time.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mark Vest at mvest@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1112. Twitter Follow Mark on Twitter.