By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP —
The Madison Blue Streaks have been able to ride the talented abilities of Mark Murray for a while now.
And when the senior tailback has been healthy, he’s carried the team a long way and he did about everything but drive the team bus Thursday night at Spire Stadium as the Blue Streaks improved their chances at a playoff spot with a 28-6 victory over the Geneva Eagles in Premier Athletic Conference action.
“After we got beat up by South,” Madison coach Tim Willis said, “I told the kids all we needed to do to have a chance for the playoffs was to finish 7-3. That meant we had to finish 3-0. This win puts us at 1-0, and we finish up with Lakeside at our place and then Riverside.”
Murray, the senior tailback, either took handoffs from Austin Burkholder or took direct snaps himself out of the Blue Streaks’ version of the wildcat. Although Geneva often had several players at the point of attack, Murray either broke tackles or pushed the pile in compiling 217 yards rushing on 37 carries. He also scored on runs of 6, 3 and 2 yards out.
Geneva had its chances. After the Eagles moved to a pair of first downs on the opening drive of the game, an errant pitchout toward Aaron Rossi went 24 yards in the wrong direction, finally ending up in the hands of about 7 Blue Streak players.
The Blue Streaks (5-3, 3-2 in the PAC), wasted no time, using less than two minutes to travel 37 yards, with Burkholder passing to Aaron Petrucelli for the touchdown from the 11 yard line. Mason Kensinger booted the first of his four extra points, and Geneva was stunned.
“I thought our defense tonight did a very good job,” Geneva coach Tony Hassett said. “That turnover right at the start of the game killed us, though.
“We’ve done that too often this year, but the kids regrouped and came right back. I was really proud of how hard they fought back after that.”
In falling to 2-6 overall and 1-4 in the PAC, the Eagles did battle back. Taking over on downs on their own 37 with just less than a minute left in the first period, Geneva used the driving force of Rossi to go 63 yards on 6 plays, with Rossi going in from the 6.
Geneva (2-6, 1-4) moved the ball well the rest of the first half, but a pair of interceptions thwarted drives, and the bigger Madison lines began to establish control of the line of the scrimmage.
“We made some adjustments at halftime,” Willis said. “Our offensive line was able to control things. We had to work hard on Rossi because he’s a good, tough runner. We did a much better job in the second half, and that’s what we needed to do to get ready for Lakeside at our place next week.”
“In the second half,” Hassett said, “they just beat us up. You aren’t going to win too often by running just 13 plays.
“I am encouraged, though, because we return almost 90 percent of these kids next year. We need to just get stronger and we’ll be able to respond to big challenges like this.”
Rossi ended his night with 122 yards on 21 carries, but three interceptions and that huge lost fumble early in the game, coupled with but a single pass completion for 6 yards, was too much to overcome for the Eagles.
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.
Click here to subscribe to The Star Beacon print edition.
Click here to subscribe to The Star Beacon replica edition.