It had to happen sooner or later, and it happened this past Monday night. The Madison Warhawks went to Ashburn to play Stone Bridge and came away with a 28-14 football win in the Bulldogs’ homecoming game.
The Liberty District game was originally scheduled to be played last Friday night, but rainy weather forced a postponement.
It was the first-ever Liberty District loss for the Bulldogs, after 31 consecutive wins dating back to 2005. It was also the Bulldogs’ first loss in any district game since October of 2002, when Stone Bridge fell to Park View as a member of the Dulles District.
The win was huge for a Madison team (4-3), under coach Gordon Leib, which had lost its own homecoming the week before to South Lakes, 21-14. For Stone Bridge (6-1), the defending Div. 5 Northern Region champions, the loss was the first of the season.
Monday’s game was a battle of field position, and the Warhawks came out way ahead in that department. Madison’s first three scores came on relatively short touchdown drives – a 20-yard march in the first quarter following a blocked punt, a 16-yard drive in the second quarter following a Stone Bridge punt from out of its own end zone, and a 26-yard drive following a long punt return by Chris Sommese.
One minute into the fourth quarter, Madison had amassed just 104 yards of total offense, but led 21-7. Following a Stone Bridge score on a 57-yard pass from Kyle Gouveia to Stan Johnson, the Bulldogs trailed 21-14 with 11:04 left in the game.
But just when the Warhawks most needed a long, time-consuming drive, they got one – a 10-play, 71 yard drive that consumed eight minutes and six seconds off the clock and ended with the second, one-yard scoring run of the evening by running back Tavin Thomas, who ran for 86 yards on 23 carries for the game. The Warhawks were aided on the touchdown march by a pass interference call against the Bulldogs on a third down play.
They also benefitted from an outstanding catch off a tipped pass by Joe Corrigan on a fourth-and-16 play that gained 29 yards down to the Stone Bridge five; setting up the Thomas run that clinched the game.
<b>MADISON</b> was able to earn the victory because the Warhawks took advantage of excellent field position and stuck to their strategy for winning the game – controlling the pace of the game and gaining a 27:31-to-19:29 advantage in time of possession.
For Stone Bridge, it was an evening of frustration in all aspects of the game. On offense, the Bulldogs’ running attack sputtered, gaining just 58 yards on 27 carries, by far the lowest output of the year to date. Marcus Harris gained only 36 yards on 12 carries. An effective Madison pass rush kept Gouveia on the run for much of the evening, though he managed to throw for 148 yards and two long touchdowns. The first touchdown came just before halftime on a 37-yard pass to Taylor Lambke, in his first appearance since sustaining a concussion in a game against West Springfield on Sept. 17.
The score pulled the Bulldogs to within seven points with Stone Bridge slated to receive the second half kickoff.
There was optimism by the Bulldogs that they would indeed climb back into the game. However, two possessions in the third quarter netted Stone Bridge a turnover-on-downs and a punt. There were three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but two of them belonged to Madison and, after six straight losses to the Bulldogs over the past four years, the Warhawks had prevailed.
Madison scored all four of its touchdowns on short runs, two coming from Thomas and one each from Mike McCool and Evan Jacquez. Madison place kicker James Devens converted all four extra point kicks.
The Stone Bridge defense held Madison to 175 yards in total offense, but was victimized by poor field position and an inability to stop Thomas on key third down plays. On special teams, Stone Bridge gave up the blocked punt and allowed two excellent Madison punt returns that set up scores. The Bulldogs were also plagued by penalties, including a delay of game call and four procedure penalties.
The loss left Stone Bridge with a 6-1 record overall and a 3-1 record in the Liberty District. Madison improved to 4-3 overall, and 3-2 in the district. With South Lakes losing to Fairfax, 27-22, the Bulldogs are still in contention for the district crown.
But the road ahead will be a challenging one as the Bulldogs must travel to Langley (3-4 overall, 2-2 in the district) and McLean (5-2 overall, 3-1 district) before ending the regular season at home against a resurgent South Lakes team (5-2 overall, 4-1 district).
Madison faces non-district foe Robinson this Friday night at home, then finishes the season with games at Jefferson on Oct. 30 and against visiting Marshall on Nov. 6.