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Madison faces a tough task in state football semifinal

Opponent Freedom averages 59.7 points per game
Madison quarterback Cael Yates, left, and runningback Dominic Knicely, right, will lead the offense in the state semifinal.

The order is as tall as it gets for the Madison Warhawks in their Class 6 state-tournament semifinal football game the afternoon of Dec. 2.

Madison (12-1) will face the host, defending state champion and undefeated Freedom Eagles (12-0) of Woodbridge in a 2 p.m. kickoff.

Freedom is ranked No. 1 in Virginia by the Max Preps Website. Madison is ranked 11th.

The high-scoring Eagles average 59.7 points per game and have five shutouts. They blew out the previously undefeated and 12th-ranked Battlefield Bobcats, 50-7, in the Region B tournament-championship game, and before that downed a 10-2 and 23rd-ranked Colonial Forge team, 52-16, in the region semifinals.

The fewest points Freedom has scored in a game this season was in a 35-27 victory over the Varina Blue Devils of Henrico.

The most points Freedom has scored in any game this season were 75. The Eagles scored 73 in another and in the 60s six times.

“They are a special team and we appreciate how talented they are,” Madison head coach Justin Counts said about Freedom.

The Warhawks are familiar with Freedom because they lost to the Eagles, 48-14, in last season’s Virginia High School League Class 6 state-championship game, capping the team’s undefeated 15-0 campaign.

Being familiar with Freedom could be an edge for Madison in addition to being motivated from last season’s loss.

In order to be successful, Counts says the Warhawks have to know their assignments and perform those well,  play mistake-free football, control the ball and clock on offense and grind out tough first downs, tackle well on defense and get some turnovers.

Madison is making its fourth straight appearance in the state tourney, having yet to win the title.

The defensive unity yielded little in the   Warhawks’ three 6D North Region tournament victories, allowing just six, seven and seven points in the three games.

On offense, junior quarterback Cael Yates (1,795 yards passing, 15 touchdowns) and junior runningback (1,323 yards rushing, 23 TDs) and kick returner Dominic Knicely lead Madison. Senior wide receiver Cord Yates has 48 catches for 721 yards and seven scores and senior Darren Knicely has 23 catches for 421 yards and five touchdowns.

Freedom quarterback Tristan Evans-Trujillo has thrown for 3,278 yards and 49 touchdowns and has run for 515 yards and four scores. Runningback Jeffrey Overton has run for 1,531 yards and 24 TDs in nine games. Carleton Preston has 40 catches for 893 yards and nine touchdowns in eight games.

Overton ran for 212 yards and three TDs in last season’s state final against Madison. Evans-Trujillo threw for 155 yards and two scores with an interception.

The Warhawks had success running against Freedom in last year’s state final, gaining 135 yards on the ground.

Madison takes a five-game winning streak into the state semifinal. Freedom has won 27 straight games over two seasons.

NOTE: If Madison wins the state semifinal, the 13 victories will tie for the most in the team’s single-season history.