MADISON HEIGHTS – The tears that streamed down Juan Johnson’s face Friday night were a result of Madison Heights Madison’s thrilling 29-22 overtime victory over Warren Woods-Tower in a battle for first place in the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division.
When Madison linebackers Emil Warda and Donovan Bell stuffed Titan’s quarterback Darius Jordan on 4th and inches on the final play of the game, the tears flowed easily and often.
Johnson rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown – all in the second half - and junior quarterback Matthew Crews scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime, as Madison (3-0 overall, 2-0 MAC Silver) withstood late game heroics by Warren Woods-Tower (2-1, 1-1) to win one of the most exciting games in school history.
“Matthew’s a heck of a quarterback – I’m so happy he decided to come here and play,” said Johnson, a 5-foot-7, 170-pound junior who fought through the tears to talk about the play of his junior quarterback who transferred to Madison this year from nearby Madison Heights Lamphere. “It was a great game.”
On Madison’s overtime possession from the 11-yard line with the score knotted 22-22 Crews looked for tight end Kyle Baldwin in the end zone. But Baldwin was covered and Crew rolled right and somersaulted into the end zone to give Madison a 29-22 lead after the extra point kick from Sam Esho.
On Titans overtime possession, 230-pound senior Joshua Scott ran for 5 yards on the first play, 3 yards on the second play and 1-yard on the third play. The Titans faced a 4th down and inches when Madison called a timeout.
“When my quarterback tells me during the timeout “I can do it,’ I trust him,” Warren Woods-Tower second-year coach Mike Mahar said Friday. “Darius – I love the kid.”
Jordan, a junior, needed only 2 inches, but Warda hit him high and Bell hit Jordan in the chest, and Madison stopped the Titans on the final play of the game.
“We filled the gap,” Bell said of the final play. “We were thinking, ‘win.’”
“Coach told us (during the timeout) not to blitz,” said Warda, a 5-foot-8 185-pound junior, who had a game-high 15 tackles on the night. “I hit (Jordan) right in the facemask.”
“You do what was necessary to win,” Madison coach Drake Wilkins said Friday. “We made mistakes, but you still fall back on a team concept. It was a whole team effort.”
In regulation, trailing 22-14 with 1:33 left, Warren Woods-Tower faced a 92-yard drive to tie the game. The Titans offense spread out and Jordan completed a couple big pass plays, and was further aided by a 15-yard personal foul penalty by Madison.
“We thought we could spread them out and when we went to a no-huddle we set up a pass to the fullback,” Mahar said.
A screen pass from Jordan to Scott resulted in a dramatic 44-yard touchdown with 50 seconds left to cut the lead to 22-20.
But Scott dove over the goal line resulting in a 15-yard penalty pushing the ball to the 18-yard line for the extra point attempt. On the play, Jordan dropped back to pass, then ran the ball up the middle to the end zone to tie the game, 22-22, and send it into overtime.
“It should have never got to that point if everyone showed up to play,” Wilkins said. “We have to learn so we don’t bring these bad habits into the game. Juan Johnson and Matthew Crews won this game – we need them to play like they did.
“It comes down to coaching – keeping it real,” Wilkins continued. “If I didn’t keep challenging them we don’t have a good second half. We have to live and learn.”
Johnson didn’t touch the ball in the first half for Madison as a hip injury slowed his playing time, but the explosive junior running back made up for lost touches with a second half to remember. Johnson ended up with 17 carries for 138 yards and a TD in the second half.
Trailing 14-8, Warda recovered a fumble at 5:08 of the third quarter as the Eagles discovered the momentum they did not have in the first half.
Four plays later and Johnson reeled off a brilliant 70-yard touchdown run to stake Madison to a 15-14 advantage – their first lead of the game.
“The third quarter was a bad quarter for us defensively,” Mahar said. “They got us on our heels and it gave them confidence. But they’re a good football team. We played great defense in the first half, but not the second.”
Johnson’s first two carries of the second half resulted in 36 yards and the Eagles were rolling. Johnson, who also played a tough game defensively from his safety position, did not have a carry in the first half as the Eagles coaching staff limited his touches.
Crews made it an 8-point game when he scored on a 28-yard keeper to stake the Eagles to a 22-14 lead with 6:46 remaining after the point after kick from Esho.
Madison trailed 14-0 when Crews faked a dive to Johnson right and the junior utilized a quarterback keeper left for a 5-yard touchdown run at 7:55 to cut the lead to 14-6.
On the Eagles’ point after kick, which was missed, the Titans were called for a personal foul. Madison then capitalized on the penalty when Crews found Baldwin for a 2-point conversion to cut into the deficit14-8.
Warren Woods-Tower led 14-0 after halftime when Jordan tossed a pair of touchdown passes to senior halfback Torence Collins.
The Titans never let the Eagles breathe in the second quarter on defense as they sustained a ground attack with a steady diet of Collins and Scott, who rushed the ball 12 times for 49 yards in the first half.
Madison only had 13 plays on offense in the first 24 minutes.
Jordan hit Collins on a beautiful 19-yard scoring pass to the corner of the end zone with 8:30 left before halftime to give the visiting Titans a 14-0 lead. Jordan scored on a 2-point conversion.
Woods-Tower recovered the ensuing onside kick to keep the Eagles reeling. But the Titans failed to convert a 4th and 14 and Madison took over on downs.
The Titans led 6-0 after the first quarter.
Following a timeout, Collins hauled in a 53-yard touchdown pass from Jordan at 3:36 of the first quarter to give Woods-Tower a 6-0 lead. The point after attempt failed.
The Titans controlled the ball on their first possession with a steady ground game running the ball seven times. They even faked a punt, but the Eagles alertly stopped the Titans at the 45.
On Madison’s first play from scrimmage, the Titans’ Jacob Berkley intercepted Crews.
“It was Madison’s night,” Mahar said. “But I think we earned respect.”
The Titans play East Detroit next week, while Madison takes on South Lake.
“We’re fighters,” Wilkins concluded. “Juan (Johnson) and Matthew (Crews) are fighters.”
And tears never meant so much.