Madison County’s Isiah Smith came off the field with just under seven minutes to play with an apparent lower leg injury. With the game in hand for Stuarts Draft and the clock running out, it would’ve been easy and understandable for Smith to take his final bow as a Mountaineer from the sidelines.
But that’s not his style.
“I knew I had to finish the game, that was my last game,” Smith said. “I just wanted to finish.”
Smith ambled back out for the final series on defense as Draft’s 59-13 victory in the Region 2A East quarterfinals put an end to his high school football career.
“You’ve got to drag him out,” said Madison coach Stuart Dean. “He’s probably upset with me because I didn’t give him the ball enough towards the end of the game, that’s the type of player he is. Him along with all those other seniors, they made this a really good year and they’ve got something to be proud of even though they’re not happy tonight.”
Madison won its first playoff game in 15 years last week against Nandua and finished the year 6-6.
Friday though, they ran into a veritable buzzsaw against the Cougars, and in a game where likely everything had to break right for the Mountaineers to win, nearly nothing went right in the first half for the Mountaineers. The Cougars picked off three passes in that opening half, including a pick six by Areian Sanders with 8:03 left in the first quarter that staked the Stuarts Draft to a 14-0 lead. It was an impressive performance by the Cougars’ secondary that doesn’t run into passing-oriented offenses on their schedule very often.
“We just told them to try and contain them, make them work the length of the field and eliminate the big plays and hopefully we’ll create turnovers,” said Stuarts Draft coach Nathan Floyd. “I think for the most part we made them work and we put them in a position they weren’t comfortable with.”
Madison managed to answer that fast start by the Cougars with a quick drive highlighted by a long pass from Chris Smith to Elijah Lewis that helped set up a 42-yard catch and run for a touchdown on a screen pass to Isiah Smith. The toss to Lewis came on third and 30 from Madison’s own 10.
But what followed that brief flash of success for Madison was an onslaught of 45 unanswered points by the Cougars that included another pick six, this time by Antonio Ruiz-Haynes late in the second quarter. At the break it was 45-7 Cougars, and things got worse once the second half started with a quick Xzavier Gunn touchdown to start the quarter and a Madison fumble on a kickoff that went for a Stuarts Draft touchdown on the recovery.
“In a game like that, every opportunity early is so important and we missed a couple of those opportunities,” Dean said. “We knew that we were going to have to get every single one of those for us to be successful.”
The Mountaineers’ defense couldn’t find any answers for Draft’s attack, surrendering touchdowns on the ground and through the air. Cougars quarterback Garrett Campbell accounted for three touchdowns, two through the air and another on the ground while Robert Peck had a touchdown catch and an interception.
Chris Smith finished with 152 yards through the air for Madison. Eric Cashman scored Madison’s only touchdown of the second half, pounding in from 14 yards out after setting the score up with a pair of 11-yard runs.
Stuarts Draft advances to play East Rockingham in the Region 2A East playoffs. Clarke and Goochland will lock up on the other side of the bracket.