By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
A pair of impressive, lopsided wins against solid competition the past two weeks has given the Indians momentum and confidence.
And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Still, Madison Central coach Bert Browne was quick to deliver a reality check to his team following last week’s win on the road over Henry Clay.
With district play set to start this week, those big victories really don’t matter much at all.
“That’s what we talked about with the kids,” Browne said of the start of district play. “We had to remind them that we are the defending district champs and everyone will be gunning for us. Tates Creek, us and everyone — we are 0-0 right now. It’s a fresh start.”
The Indians (4-2) did not lose a district game last season, posting a 3-0 record that gave them the top seed and homefield advantage in the opening round of the Class 6A Playoffs. They will look to take the first step toward defending that title today at home against Tates Creek (3-4).
Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.
The Indians will be wearing special pink jerseys and a portion of the tickets sales will be donated to cancer charities.
“They are going to come in here looking for some revenge,” Browne said of Tates Creek. “We are going to have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
Madison Central had not won a district game since 2008 (six-straight losses) before going to Lexington last year and hammering Tates Creek 39-14. The Indians went on to pick up wins over Lafayette and Clark County to claim their first district title since 2005.
The road to a repeat starts with another showdown with the Commodores.
Tates Creek snapped a three-game losing streak with a 34-16 win last week over Dunbar on the road. The Commodores took advantage of five Bulldogs and rolled despite not having standout running back/linebacker Dennis Oxendine in the lineup.
Oxendine had more than 1,200 yards rushing last year, but did not play last week because of a bruised knee. He will likely be back against the Indians.
In last year’s game, Central limited Oxendine to 25 yards on seven carries, but he did have an 81-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
“We’ve got to stop Oxendine. He’s a great player,” Browne said.
Even though the Commodores’ offense has become more pass-oriented, Oxendine has still been a major factor. He’s rushed for 415 yards and seven touchdowns this season and has 15 receptions for 198 yards and a touchdown.
Tates Creek had only 591 yards passing last season, but led by Gordon Graham the Commodores have already thrown for more than 1,700 yards and 11 touchdowns. Tavon Dunn has five receiving touchdowns and R.J. Taylor has a team-best 407 receiving yards.
“They’ve got a pretty good little sophomore quarterback who can run,” Browne said. “We are going to have to put the clamps on him early. They are a better team then they were last year.”
Graham has completed 99-of-174 pass attempts this season for 1,570 yards, 10 touchdowns and has nine interceptions.
The Indians have been impressive offensively the past two weeks, scoring 44 points against both Dunbar and Henry Clay.
In the win over the Blue Devils, Central jumped out to a 30-0 second-quarter lead and was never challenged. Senior Ken-Jah Bosley had three TD catches and finished with 195 yards on seven receptions. Senior running back Dominique Hawkins had two rushing TDs and finished with 103 yards on the ground.
Central’s offense has scored 40 or more points three times this season (all wins) and last week had a season-high 406 yards of total yardage.
“Getting (offensive lineman) Chris Walters back helped us tremendously because of his strength and size inside,” Browne said. “That allowed us to do some thing we hadn’t been able to do. I thought we played pretty well.”
The Indians had been getting healthier recently with the return of Bosley, Walters and offensive lineman Tyler McKinley to the lineup.
But, Central lost linebacker Christian Altamirano to a knee injury against Henry Clay and the senior could be out for the season.
The Indians did not commit a turnover against Henry Clay, the second time this season they have not given away a possession. Central is a +7 in turnover margin and has won the turnover battle in four of its seven games this season.
“When you do that, usually you control the line of scrimmage and you are probably going to win,” Browne said of winning the turnover battle.
Last year, the Indians did not have a turnover against the Commodores while forcing two fumbles.