MADISON, NJ - There wasn't much to analyze as far as tactics and game plans go after Madison had its eight-game winning streak ended with a 36-6 loss to Lincoln of Jersey City on Saturday in the semifinal round of the NJSIAA Section 2, Group 2 football playoffs at Twombly Field.
"They're bigger, stronger and faster," Madison coach Chris Kubik said. "They were just the better team than us physically today. They can run the ball, they can throw it. They're a dangerous team. We tried to have an answer for everything, but sometimes you just can't do it."
After Madison (8-2) punted on its first possession, Lincoln drove 58 yards in five plays, keyed by quarterback Zymire Gordon's 47-yard pass to Jason Harrison. Two plays later, Gordon threw a four-yard scoring pass to Frank Darby for a 6-0 Lion lead.
With 3:57 left in the first period, Madison quarterback A.J. Schmitz, the offensive leader of the Dodgers, had to be helped off the field with a right foot injury. But, soon after, Zach Shupe's fumble recovery gave Madison possession on the Lincoln 11. Dom Luppino carried for three yards and David Luttinger barreled seven yards to the one. Luppino then carried in for the touchdown and a 6-6 tie with 1:01 left in the first.
But it was all Lincoln from that point on. Devell Jones broke a 33-yard run on the first play following the kickoff. Three plays later, Gordon raced 23 yards for a touchdown. Harrison's conversion throw to Jarrell Payne made it 14-6 for the Lions early in the second quarter.
Mike Dalena's interception for Madison in the second quarter helped thwart a Lincoln drive, but the Madison offense was stalled by the Lions' defense, even after Schmitz returned with 7:25 left in the second quarter.
"It hurts pretty good right now, I sprained the top of my right foot," Schmitz said. "They're big, strong. They're a good team. I wish them the best of luck the rest of the way in the playoffs."
A 60-yard march by Lincoln, capped by a two-yard touchdown burst by Jones pushed the lead to 22-6 with 1:22 left before the break.
Lincoln, which defeated Madison, 28-26, in last year's first round of the sectional playoffs, dominated the statistics as well as the score over the first two quarters. The Lions piled up 253 yards as a team compared to the Dodgers, who finished with 23 yards in the fist half. The 6-0, 215-pound Jones carried 16 times for 142 yards in the first half.
It marked the second straight year in which Lincoln had knocked Madison from the playoffs.
Madison, however, has one more game to play on Thursday when it plays host to Millburn in its annual Thanksgiving Day matchup. Millburn won the game last fall.
"We'll be up for it because it's a football game," Kubik said. "Last year, it didn't go very well for us. The bottom line is this is a great group of kids and we're not going out laying down. We're going to go after people on Thursday.
"A playoff loss hurts, but I want to walk on the field one more time with the seniors. I love my senior class. That's the positive, where you get one more chance to walk out there with this group."