Madison West (1-3) at #8 Madison Memorial (4-0) - 6:45pm Friday on 1070 AM and iHeartRadio
Last Year: Jaden Stephens had three touchdowns and ran for 186 yards as the Madison West Regents pulled away in the second half for a 21-7 win over Madison Memorial. For the Spartans, it was the beginning of the transition to Jason Ceniti at quarterback, as he threw for 55 yards in the contest and ran for 22 more. Defensively, Sammy Smith racked up double digits in tackles and Stephens added two interceptions in the contest to help the Regents get a big early-season win in 2017.
Last Week: Madison Memorial had an instantly viral ending to their game against Middleton, rallying from down 10 in the final minutes to win on a walk-off Hail Mary from 27 yards out. The Spartans allowed 231 yards rushing to the Cardinals and needed two touchdown passes, including the Hail Mary, to Dryden Schaefer to come back and get the win to improve to 4-0, 30-27 Madison Memorial over Middleton. Madison West got blanked by Verona 35-0, their second shutout in as many weeks, 35-0. The Regents are working through the difficult part of their schedule after starting the year with a narrow loss to Madison La Follette and a big win over Madison East to open the year.
Season To Date: Madison Memorial has been one of the big surprises in the state, the lone 4-0 team in the Big 8 with wins over Sun Prairie and Middleton. Four other Big 8 teams are tied at 3-1 and Middleton is 2-2, but the Spartans still have plenty of work to do with games remaining against Verona and Janesville Craig after this week. After a thrilling win over Sun Prairie in the opener and the Hail Mary finish to beat Middleton, Memorial is in prime position to contend for a conference championship. Madison West has struggled with numbers for a few years now, and last year stayed relatively healthy despite only having about three dozen players available for varsity. This year, the injury bug has already bitten them, and as a result, the Regents have been out-scored 75-0 the past two weeks against two of the better teams in the Big 8.
Coaches' Corner: Mike Harris has had an outstanding start in his first year at Madison Memorial, going 4-0 so far. One of the most noticeable shifts in philosophy has been the deliberate approach on offense, running more pro-style and two-back sets to attack defenses physically, as well as experience on the defensive side of the ball paying off in terms of forcing big plays and turnovers. Momentum is on the side of the Spartans right now, with some thrilling victories already this season. Brad Murphy has faced some adversity in his third year with the program, off to a 1-3 start now after back-to-back shutouts against Middleton and Verona, but the Regents have plenty of talent and despite the last two results, won't be a pushover. West finds creative ways to run the football and set up big plays through the air, although they've found some tough sledding against the better defenses in the Big 8 the past couple of weeks. Defensively, the front lines try to stop plays before they get going, led by Sammy Smith, in his second year as a starter and only a sophomore.
Three Keys: 1. Both teams are going to look to establish the run, so it'll be up to the lines up front to clear some space. Both teams have also faced some of the best fronts they'll see this year, so they're at least tested going into this one. 2. Madison West will need to move the ball against Madison Memorial's opportunistic defense, which will require some gambles. We've seen the Regents scheme their way to yards and points against tough defenses in the past few years under Brad Murphy, and they'll need all of that creativity against the Spartans. 3. Madison Memorial has shown that they can play from behind and take advantage of mistakes by their opponents, and the latter of those two abilities will be important for their success this week.
Five Players To Watch: It's hard to not be impressed by how comfortable Jason Ceniti looks at quarterback for Madison Memorial. After taking over the starter's role in the early part of 2017, the junior has thrown 10 touchdowns this season already on only 71 attempts. The former edge rusher also has run for four scores on 25 carries, and has spread the ball around, throwing touchdowns to five different receivers... Kelvin Opoku-Appoh is one of the big keys to Madison West's offense, as evidenced by his breakout game against Madison East in Week 2. The Marshall transfer is also a key linebacker for the Regents, leading the team in tackles and interceptions... Chauncey Cannon had a huge interception and a sack in the Spartans' win over Sun Prairie, and he's added an interception since. Memorial has a playmaking corner, which helps steer plays across the middle, where the outstanding linebackers can be free to make plays... Sammy Smith is only a sophomore, but is already an all-conference lineman (honorable mention last year) and racks up tackles from the defensive line. He's currently tops on the team (with Carson Meyer) in sacks and leads the Regents in tackles for a loss... Sam Jessup, Kaden Reetz, Kyle Murphy, and Jeremiah Jordan make up a strong position group at linebacker for Madison Memorial, but it's Jordan who is the most recognizable player of the group. An Illinois State recruit, Jordan hasn't notched a sack yet this year, but is third on the team in tackles (behind Jessup and Reetz) as the linebackers are the four leading tacklers on the Spartans.
Listen to the game this Friday night at 7pm on 1070 AM and thebig1070.com!