By Robert Clark
Madison Southern hasn’t played host to a first-round playoff game since 2002.
The Eagles haven’t even made the playoffs since 2009.
But the Eagles (5-3, 3-1 district) have put themselves in position to end both of those droughts.
“This team is the complete opposite of last season,” Southern coach Jon Clark said. “Last season we were giving up 42 points per game and averaging only 18. This year those numbers have flipped.”
Southern is set to wrap up district play today at South Laurel. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.
With last week’s over North Laurel, Southern locked up a playoff spot and secured a second-place finish in the district and the opportunity to be at home for the first round of the Class 5A Playoffs.
With the No. 2 seed, the Eagles would likely face Letcher County Central, Whitley County or Perry County Central.
“Our district has improved.” “It's young yet very competitive. Teams are well coached and turnovers separate who wins and who looses,” Clark said.
Last week, the Eagles defeated North Laurel, 26-10, at home behind Damien Harris. The junior running back rushed for four touchdowns, giving him 34 TDs on the season.
Harris has 1,698 yards on the season and is currently first in the state in scoring per game and total yardage.
As big as his performance was last week the defense put together one of its most complete games of the year, holding the Jaguars scoreless for three quarters and also not allowing a first down until the 1:55 mark of the second quarter.
The defense was led by the intensity of Buddy Harrison, who had three interceptions and was second on the team with 11 tackles.
The Eagles out-gained the Jaguars 402-180, with the majority of the North Laurel’s offense coming in the fourth quarter.
The Southern defense forced four turnovers and only had one turnover — an onside kick recovery that would lead to the Jaguars only touchdown of the game.
Madison Southern has played consistent on both sides of the ball going back to the fourth quarter of the Pulaski County game (Oct. 5).
In that game, a late fumble led to a Maroons’ touchdown and eventually a 37-36 loss.
Against the Jaguars, the Eagles would forfeit 10 fourth-quarter points and a promising drive that was denied by an interception.
“We have got to get to a point where we can close out games and put teams away”, Clark said.
Last season, South Laurel defeated the Eagles at home, 37-17, The game was marred by a fight that extended into the stands. The Eagles took a lead into halftime only to let the Cardinals score 23 points in the second half.
South Laurel is a pass heavy offense and despite not winning a district game the Eagles know the Cardinals can be dangerous.
“(It’s a) big game,” Clark said. “We're not going to take them lightly. We are not going to focus on the nonsense of last season, just football.”