Almost all of the players on the Madison Central roster have never appeared in a game against Madison Southern.
At least not at the varsity level.
After the graduation of 26 seniors, though, a new group of Indians will be thrown into one of the most passionate rivalries in the state.
“Everything right now is a learning experience for us,” Madison Central coach Mark Scenters said.
The Indians (0-2) and Eagles (0-2) are set to meet today in Richmond.
Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.
Central leads the all-time series with Southern 7-2, including four-straight victories.
The Indians rolled to a 47-15 win last year in Berea, but almost none of the key players from that team are back.
“It’s a big game in the community,” Scenters said. “Both of us not only want to win badly, both of us need a win badly.”
Both teams are winless on the season and suffered gut-wrenching losses last week.
The Indians mounted a late comeback, but fell at Anderson County, 23-21.
The Eagles had a 14-point halftime lead before Southwestern stormed back for a 35-34 overtime victory.
“Both of us are hungry,” Scenters said. “It certainly adds another storyline to a rivalry game.”
The Indians fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter after a couple of big plays by the Bearcats.
Freshman Patrick Moren connected on two long field goals (34 and 40 yards), but Central trailed 23-6 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Indians put together two outstanding drives — 11 plays, 75 yards and four plays, 63 yards — and got back into the game on a John Landsaw touchdown catch and a TD run by Joe Burton.
“Things started to click a little bit,” Scenters said of the offense. “We found our stride. We found our rhythm.”
The Central offense got the ball back one more time, but couldn’t get into field goal range.
The loss was difficult, especially for a young team, but the coaching staff liked the way the team battled back after being down early on the road against a quality opponent.
“We did a lot of growing up last Friday night,” Scenters said. “There were a couple of things that went against us and I was really proud that our guys rallied and played hard all night long. It was a coming together moment.”
Central limited Anderson County to just 206 yards of total offense (172 rushing) and 12 first downs. The Indians also had two sacks (one each by Edgren Sweet and Taishon Chenault), eight tackles for loss and forced one turnover.
“Our defense played with so much passion,” Scenters said. “They were flying around and hitting people.”
Central’s offense out-gained Anderson County (208-206).
The Indians, however, continued to struggle on third downs. They were 3-of-14 in those situations against the Bearcats.
So far this season, Central is 7-of-27 on third-down attempts and 1-of-5 on fourth downs.
The Indians are also a -4 in turnovers margin (five turnovers lost, one gained).
“If it takes losing a tough one like that for our kids to realize that we are going to be just fine, then we will take it and move on,” Scenters said. “We’ve got to learn our lessons and continue to get better.”
Burton leads the Central rushing attack (115 yards on 37 carries with two TDs), while Zach Holbrook (eight catches, 114 yards) is the team’s top receiver.
Junior quarterback Canon Scenters has completed 20-of-45 passes for 265 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions.
While many of the Indians are new to the cross-county showdown, including the starting quarterback, Southern has some players back with experience in the rivalry.
Tobias Storm accounted for 141 yards in last year’s game (81 passing, 60 rushing).
The senior has completed 18-of-28 passes for 315 yard and three touchdowns with no interceptions this season. Sophomore Walt Smith (1-for-1 passing, seven receptions for 130 yards and one touchdown, three carries for 14 yards) has also stepped under center at times for Southern.
“We’ve prepared for both. It wouldn’t shock us to see Walt back there,” Scenters said of the Southern quarterbacks. “Tobias, being a senior who has played quarterback for a year, brings a calming presence to the offense.”
Southern’s offense has plenty of underclassmen who have emerged big-time play makers.
Sophomore Adrian Jones has a team-best 113 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Junior Cameron Holbrook has 107 yards rushing and one touchdown.
Sophomore Jayshaun Ethridge is Southern’s top receiver. He has six catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns.
“Ethridge gives them a big play ability and that’s an added thing you have to be aware of,” Scenters said. “You can’t put all your focus on trying to stop Tobias. There’s a lot of other guys who are able to make plays.”
Southern’s last win in the rivalry was in 2014.