On Saturday night, the Wheelersburg Pirates will travel to the western suburbs of the Ohio state capital in Hilliard to Hilliard Darby High School where they will face off against Middletown Madison Senior for the Division V Region 20 championship.
Last season’s matchup:
This will be the second time in the last 365 days that the Pirates will go up against the Mohawks of Madison. In the midst of their 2017 Division V state championship run, Wheelersburg defeated Madison 15-10 in the state semifinals, securing their spot in the Division V state championship game the following week.
The Mohawks held Wheelersburg scoreless for the first 34 minutes of the contest with a two possession lead at 10-0. The Pirates first score of the game came with 1:50 left in the third quarter when Jalen Miller split the uprights on a 22 yard field goal to cut the Wheelersburg deficit to 10-3.
With some momentum on their side, Wheelersburg stepped up their defensive efforts and forced a Madison turnover on downs. Taking over the ball at their own 21 yard line, the Pirates proceeded to march down the field on a drive that ended in a Trent Salyers 17 yard touchdown pass to Justin Salyers that brought the Madison lead to 10-9 after Miller missed the ensuing XP with just 10:08 left in the contest.
It was Xander Carmichael’s one yard touchdown rush from the wildcat position that pushed the Pirates over the top in the state semifinals contest at Chillicothe’s Herrnstein Field, 15-10, setting up their ultimate date with destiny at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium the next week.
Following the regional realignment that took place during the offseason, Wheelersburg was moved to Region 20 in Division V, which just so happened to be the same region as their state semifinals opponent from a season ago, Middletown Madison. Since both teams returned a number of key pieces from their state championship and state semifinals appearances a season ago respectively, it was always anticipated that these two juggernaut programs would once again meet, this time for the regional championship. Prior to the end of the season, in the final AP poll of the season that was released following the regular season, Madison was ranked second among those teams in the state of Ohio in Division V, while Wheelersburg was slotted one spot behind the Mohawks at number three in the state.
For the Pirates, we know the tale of the tape that has propelled the Pirates to their 11-1 record entering week thirteen. The Pirates offense has hit on big plays all year thanks to first team all-state quarterback Trent Salyers, co-offensive player of the year in Division V from a season ago Tanner Holden, and the outstanding playmaking ability of junior Makya Matthews who has really turned up his play throughout his junior campaign.
The incredibly staunch Wheelersburg defense has been one of the main story lines in Southern Ohio throughout the season. The Pirates had not allowed more than seven points in a game since week five against Jackson up until their regional semifinals match with Jamestown Greeneview in which the Rams were able to score thirteen, but still ultimately fell short 35-13.
Middletown Madison has put up equally as impressive numbers during their 2018 campaign.
Head Coach Joe Snively’s team is an undefeated 12-0 heading into their rematch with the Pirates this Saturday night. The Mohawks defeated Portsmouth 26-0 in the opening round of the 2018 postseason, and Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy by a resounding 50-6 in the regional semifinals a week ago. For the season, Madison is outscoring their opponents by an incredible margin of 526-51 heading into this week.
As most Wheelersburg fans likely know, the Mohawks use the daunting wing-t formation, and to great success. Against CHCA, Madison rushed for 411 yards and six rushing touchdowns in route to a 44-0 lead at the half.
For the Pirates to come out on top and win their second consecutive regional championship and advance to next Saturday’s state semifinals, the Pirates have to come out swinging with their big plays and find a way to limit Madison’s ability to run the ball, just as they did a season ago.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT