Rick Patrick: Greene Publishing, Inc.
For the fifth year in a row, the Madison County High School (MCHS) Cowboys are the top football team in the region. The Cowboys earned this year's Class 1A Region Three championship by defeating the Indians of Chiefland High School by a score of 49-14, on Friday, Nov. 23, at Boot Hill Stadium.
The game began with the Indians going on offense after the Cowboys won the opening coin toss and deferred to the second half. The Cowboys defensive unit was not in a generous mood to give up yardage or points and held the Indians to a three-and-out. The Cowboys started their first offensive drive at the 37-yard line and proceeded to quickly move down the field. The drive was topped off when Vinsonta Allen ran the ball into the end-zone from two yards out. Thomas Miller's point-after-touchdown (PAT) kick was good and the Cowboys held an early 7-0 lead with 8:27 remaining in the first quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, the Indians' dangerous quarterback and kick returner, Ty Corbin, broke through the Cowboys' defense and raced toward the Cowboys' end-zone. A touchdown-saving tackle by Miller stopped Corbin at the Cowboys' 40-yard line. The Indians were able to move the ball closer before the Cowboys' defense stiffened and forced a field goal attempt. A roughing the kicker penalty on the failed kick kept the Indians' drive alive. The Cowboys were able to keep the Indians at bay and forced another field goal attempt, which again failed to split the uprights. Following that, both teams had unproductive offensive drives and the first quarter ended with the Cowboys on the move and a 7-0 lead.
In the early moments of the second quarter, Travis Jay ran into the end-zone from 15 yards out for the second touchdown of the evening. Miller's PAT was good and the Cowboys now had a 14-0 advantage with 10:44 remaining in the second quarter. The next Indians drive started at their own 15-yard line. After a three-and-out, the Indians were forced to punt. That's when Patrick Hampton and Terray Jones converged on the Chiefland punter. Hampton raised his arm and hit the ball as it left the punter's foot and the ball fell to the turf. "I hit the ball and then saw it on the ground," recalled Hampton on the sideline. "Then I just yelled [to Jones], 'get the ball!'" Jones picked up the blocked punt and lumbered into the end-zone for the Cowboys' third touchdown of the evening. The score was 21-0, with 9:42 remaining until halftime. The Indians' next drive went three-and-out, followed by a Cowboys drive that resulted in a turn-over on downs. The Indians took over near mid-field. Then Corbin threw a long pass to the end-zone that seemed to be intercepted, but the Indian receiver snatched the ball away from the Cowboy defender and carried the ball into the end-zone for the Indians' first score of the contest. The score was 21-7 with 2:44 remaining in the second period. The Cowboys took over at the 45-yard line and put together a late scoring drive that was capped off with a 35-yard strike from Jay to Derrion Staten. The score at the end of the first half was 28-7, with the Cowboys in the lead.
The second half began with the Indians showing some life with a successful onside kick that put the potent Indian offense on the field at the 45-yard line. The Indians were unable to take advantage of this good field position and went three-and-out. The Cowboys took over at their 25-yard line. A big, 53-yard run by Allen gave the Cowboys a first-and-goal at the seven-yard line. Robert Hiers punched the ball over the goal line for another Cowboy touchdown. Miller's PAT split the uprights and the score was 35-7 with 9:09 remaining in the third period. On the next Chiefland drive, a fumbled ball found its way into the waiting hand of Jay, who marched 25 yards into the end-zone for another Cowboy touchdown. Miller's PAT was successful and the score was 42-7 with 8:51 remaining in the third period. The third period ended with a continuously running game clock and the Cowboys and Indians both jockeying for field position. Midway through the final period, the Indians were deep in their own end of the field and were forced to punt. Melvin Brown returned the kick to the Indians' two-yard line. Hiers punched the ball over the goal line for the final Cowboy touchdown of the evening. The score was 49-7 with 5:50 still to go in the contest. The Indians continued to play hard and on their next drive, the Indians' running back raced down the field and into the end-zone on a long run. The Indians' PAT was good and the score was 49-14 with 3:00 remaining on the game clock. The final minutes quickly ticked by and the Cowboys secured another region championship, moving one game closer to a goal of playing in Orlando for a chance at back-to-back state titles.
Allen led the Cowboys rushing attack with 133 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown. Hiers ran the ball for 28 yards on seven carries and two touchdowns. Jay went five-for-eight through the air for 82 yards passing with one touchdown pass. Jay added 105 yards on the ground on nine carries and one rushing touchdown. Defensively, the Cowboys proved to be very stingy with a total of 14 tackles-for-loss (TFL). Hampton had five tackles, four TFLs, with one sack and one blocked punt. Brown had nine tackles with three TFLs. Jones had four tackles and one blocked punt return for a touchdown. Miller was seven-for-seven in PATs.
"Our [defense] was determined not to let Chiefland run the ball on us and they didn't, hardly at all," said MCHS Head Coach Mike Coe after the game. "All that starts with lining up right and being unselfish. Our offense wanted to play fast to try and wear Chiefland down and they did just that. Then, wow, what can I say about special teams? Blocked punt, big punt return, great kickoff coverage other than one miscue, perfect on extra points. It is not easy to play at such a high level, over and over, week after week, and I hope [Madison County] fans enjoy and appreciate what they have in these young men. They are an absolute joy to coach and be around. All the negativity in the world today surrounding our young people and we have just the opposite here. Great [Friday] night Cowboys and your coach just wants to personally say, 'thank you' and I appreciate you and your willingness to chase greatness. Go Cowboys and fill up Boot Hill next week!"
The Cowboys will now face the undefeated Hornets of Hawthorne High School in the Class 1A semi-final game. The Hornets come into Boot Hill on the heels of a 25-6 victory over the Blue Devils of Pahokee High School. The semi-final game will take place at Boot Hill Stadium on the MCHS campus, on Friday, Nov. 30. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. The winner will go on to play in the Class 1A state championship game on Thursday, Dec. 6, at Camping World Stadium, in Orlando.