The gutsy performance by Madison County High School against Fort Lauderdale University School at the Citrus Bowl on Saturday will not be the last time many of the Cowboys’ seniors step on a football field.
Not offensive lineman Ira Denson, who has committed to Florida State, for sure. And definitely not safety/receiver Tre Arnold.
“I want to go to the next level,” Arnold said following the Cowboys’ 24-17 loss to the Suns in the FHSAA Class 3A state championship game. “I don’t want this to be my last game. I was raised up on football and I’ve got to be back on the football field somewhere.”
Arnold has offers from FAMU, Middle Tennessee State and Tennessee State, but might opt for a junior college to hone his skills for two more years before considering a bigger program, Arnold said. Others, like Denson, have already made up their minds.
Cowboys coach Mike Coe said he expects at least 10 of his seniors to sign scholarships to play college football. Each of them is prepared for the challenge at the next level, he said.
“As freshmen, we begin to teach them how to be good quality people first,” he said. “At the end, if they work hard enough, we will do everything we can to get them off to college.”
Denson, an agile 6-foot-4, 295 pounder, said committing early gave him an opportunity to concentrate on graduating from high school and focus on conditioning himself to become a Seminole.
The outcome against the Suns wasn’t what he would have liked, but Denson said he wasn’t totally disappointed.
“It’s not how we wanted it to (end), but we had a great time,” Denson said. “I wouldn’t trade my teammates. We played hard all year, but it just didn’t go our way.”
Early on, it seemed like the Cowboys might pull off what would have been the biggest upset in state high school football this season against the heavily favored Suns.
Madison County took an early 17-0 lead and went into halftime with a 17-10 advantage before the momentum shifted in the Suns’ favor.
Arnold, who made four tackles in the secondary, also had a big hand in the Cowboys’ early offensive attack. He made two of his three catches during the Cowboys’ initial scoring drive. His second catch put Madison in range for Zach Money to hit a 27-yard field goal.
In the second quarter, he made a huge defensive stop on Suns receiver Jordan Cunningham after Cunningham made a 20-yard catch and was about to break for what looked like a certain touchdown. The Suns had to settle for a 25-yard field goal from Ilan Krus.
The Cowboys caused some last-minute drama when they were driving for what would have been a game-winning touchdown. But they were stopped, when on fourth-and-17, receiver Neal Brown could only get 16 yards out of a pass from quarterback D.J. McKnight.
Even the Suns’ coach, Roger Harriot, was impressed by the effort: “I can’t say enough about Coach Coe and his Cowboys.”