Déjà vu all over again

Football to play Madison for 4th time in 4 years


Davis Kuhn

Brayden Bafidis outruns the Warren defense en route to the end zone. Bafidis led the Rangers’ dynamic kick return unit, which could play a big role in this week’s showdown with Madison.

Jackson Posey, Sports Director

After a resounding victory at Warren on Aug. 28, football will head home for the first time this season to battle annual opponent Madison (1-0), who will bus up to Ranger Stadium on extra rest after beating Clemens on Aug. 26.

If the opponent looks familiar, it’s because they are. The teams have played 16 times in since 2002, including in each of the past three seasons. And yet, the yearly Smithson Valley vs. Madison football game – must-see football in the early 2000s – has lost a bit of its luster in recent years, as games became less and less competitive.

But this week’s showdown offers the Mavericks a chance for redemption. After nearly missing the playoffs last season, they’re on a quest to win their third district title in four years. They’ll lean heavily on the experience of their 16 returning starters, including star receiver Nevon Cooper, to try to take back the crown from Reagan. This game will serve as a final measuring stick for the realism of that goal, before 28-6A schools jump into district play next week.

It won’t be easy, though, for the Mavericks to build momentum this week. The Rangers have won 12 of the teams’ 16 all-time matchups by an average of 12.8 points per game. In the past decade, they’ve won six of seven games by an average margin of 22.3 points, the lone blip a 17-14 loss in 2018.

Even as both teams sit at 1-0 on the year, their seasons’ stories are already divergent. Despite several miscues, the Mavericks kicked off their season with a win at Clemens, 14-5, in a slugfest. They sealed that game late by intercepting Clemens quarterback Ben Pruski in Maverick territory, and by ultimately making fewer mistakes (and capitalizing more often) than the Buffaloes did.

Meanwhile, the Rangers kicked off their season with a commanding victory at Warren, a less-formidable opponent than a 27-6A stalwart like Clemens. But the 32-13 victory showed off a ground attack in midseason form, and a return unit with a whole lot of juice.

“By and large, we played well defensively,” head football coach Larry Hill said. “(I) thought we settled in really on both sides in the second half and kind of calmed the waters a little bit, kept their explosive plays from happening.

“They chinked the ball down the field a little bit, but we kept them from exploding again. And then eventually (we) got a couple of picks, because they finally forced the ball up the field (but) then they lost their patience. So, we did okay defensively, but we got some things we’ve got to clean up.”

The Rangers will have to implement those adjustments quickly against a Madison team that features a balanced offensive attack and significant trench depth.

“(Madison gave) a really solid effort stopping Clemens’ run and then establishing their own run,” Hill said. “They took care of the ball, they didn’t turn it over. They ran the ball against a team that historically has been hard to run against. They created a turnover or two defensively and just played a solid game and made enough plays to win.

“I mean, that game could have went either way, but they made the plays and prevented the mistakes that … maybe could have cost them the game. … Their talent, particularly their size up front on both sides, (makes) them very formidable.”

Dave Campbell’s Texas Football set the point line for this game at Smithson Valley -14, making the Rangers the clear favorites to win their second game of the season. But that doesn’t make the game’s outcome a foregone conclusion, as shown by district foe Wagner’s 69-point victory on Thursday against a line which was “too close to call.”

“They’re going to be good,” Hill said. “They always have been good, always been a challenge (and) it still will be a challenge. And, you know, (it’s our) home opener, and both of us (are) coming off wins. So, it’s pretty even going in.”

The Senior Night showdown will kick off at 7:00 p.m. on Friday at Ranger Stadium.