MADISON, NJ - Using a steady defense and a solid running attack the Madison Dodgers defeated the Benards Mountaineers 46-21 Saturday afternoon to secure their spot in the state finals.
“We knew what we had to do and the kids stepped up,” head coach Chris Kubik said.
The running game was so efficient for the Dodgers that they did not throw a single pass all game. Senior Carson Lassiter led the way at quarterback, with 181 rushing yards, while senior Justin Goodwin collected 142 yards on the ground, including two scores. Senior Devin Koep also scored twice on the ground.
The defense held steady keeping Benards’ senior Devin Ray under 50 percent passing and the Mountaineers to under 100 yards rushing as a team. The lone bright spot from Benards’ offense was senior John Maddaluna, who had 144 receiving yards on 7 catches and another 13 rushing yards. He scored all three touchdowns for the Mountaineers.
“That’s what championship football is all about,” Kubik said. “You have to stop the run be able to run the ball and that is a good recipe for success.”
While a 24 point victory might seem like a blowout, the game was much closer than that would lead on. Madison held a 6-0 lead after the first quarter, thanks to a 45-yard fumble recovery by senior Matt McDonald, and only led 19-8 at the half.
Madison would start to pull away right at the start of the second half.
Receiving the ball, the Dodgers took the second half’s opening drive 45 yards in nine plays to take the 25-8 advantage with Koep scoring his second touchdown of the day on a one-yard run.
That advantage did not last long, as Benards came right back with a score of their own. Maddaluna made a catch in the back of the end zone to make it a 10 point game, halfway through the third quarter.
“We had to account for (Maddaluna), that kid is one hell of a football player,” Kubik said. “But we just wanted to slow him down a little bit, contain the rest of their guys and we just wanted to play great defense today.”
Immediately following that score, Madison started to pull away.
On the ensuing kickoff, senior Justin Goodwin faked a reverse and went 75 yards down the right sideline for the score. 13 seconds after Benards had made it a 10 point game their
deficit was back to 17.
“As soon as we gave up the touchdown I knew Justin was going to do something special, because he was kind of a part of that play,” Kubik said. “When he gets the ball he is usually going to answer.”
Goodwin looked to have returned another kick, this time a punt at the end of the third quarter, but the play was called back for a block in the back.
The penalty did not hurt the Dodgers as it only took them two plays to get in the end zone. Lassiter broke through the middle of the line for a 66-yard run setting up Goodwin for a seven yard touchdown run around the right side.
Bernards next drive would see them reach Madison’s five yard line but was stopped when their fourth down pass went over the outstretched hands of the receiver.
That was all the Dodgers needed to secure the victory as they started a 15 play drive which took 8:35 off the clock for their final score of the game to go up 46-15.
The win puts Madison in the North Jersey Section 2 Group 2 championship game next Saturday where they will face Mountain Lakes at Kean University. Kick-off is scheduled for 10 a.m.