Quarterback Jason Gastrock figured his Madison football team would be in a position like this. His top wide receiver, Jordan Ebersole , was sure of it. And Warhawks Coach Lenny Schultz might have been the most confident, considering he decided to make team shirts this season with the words “expect to win” emblazoned on the front.
So when Madison’s players marched onto their home field Friday night as the final whistle sounded on a convincing 38-6 victory over South Lakes, their hollers and raised helmets expressed feelings of triumph and appreciation and eagerness. But not surprise.
Even against the Seahawks, who also entered the contest as one of the three undefeated teams in Conference 6 play, the longtime middle-of-the-pack Warhawks (6-1, 4-0) believed they could control the tempo and overmatch opponents. They did just that in a wire-to-wire victory that kept them tied for first place in the conference with Hayfield (5-2, 4-0) and has them angled toward a postseason run.
“Last year we went 5-5, and we had a lot of pieces coming back, especially offensively,” Gastrock said. “Then on defense we have a ton of athletes, and we thought we could be really good and do things like we did tonight.”
What Madison did Friday was convert a handful of big plays in the first that buried South Lakes. On the first drive of the game, Gastrock launched a 47-yard pass to Ebersole that got the Warhawks into the red zone, set up a short touchdown run and established a pattern.
Madison had plays of at least 30 yards on three of the next five drives — two came on Gastrock passes and one on a quarterback keeper — to help the team mount a 31-6 lead over the Seahawks (5-2, 3-1) entering halftime.
“We can make those plays because we have a great offensive line, and then Jason has a big arm,” Ebersole said. “For us, we just go get it.”
Gastrock finished 14 for 19 through the air for 217 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came on long connections to Ebersole.
“If it were up to [Gastrock], we would throw it deep every time,” Schultz said.
The Warhawks’ defense, meanwhile, made sure South Lakes didn’t land a significant return blow. Seahawks quarterback Devin Miles was on target all game, connecting on 19 of 28 passes, but most of the team’s gains came in small chunks, and he never completed a pass for more than 17 yards.
That gave Madison’s defense chances to thwart South Lakes’ drives, which they often did in the form of a timely sack or one of cornerback Kullen Kritsky’s pass breakups. And the stingy effort allowed the Warhawks to roll to a convincing win while staying true to their mantra.
“We’ve been saying ‘expect to win’ all season,” Ebersole said. “We’ve got three games left, so if we all do our job, there’s no reason we won’t keep winning.”