MADISON TOWNSHIP — The Madison Rams used Air Vail to get where they wanted to go Friday night.
With rain falling for most of the first half, conventional thinking would be to wrap up the ball and stick to the ground, minimizing the risk of turnovers. The Rams were having nothing to do with that logic on Homecoming.
Despite less than ideal conditions, junior quarterback Tresten Vail never had a better grip on things, throwing three touchdown passes before the break in leading the Rams to a 59-10 victory over previously unbeaten Lexington.
The entire second half was played with a running clock as the Rams (3-3, 2-1 in the Ohio Cardinal Conference) jumped out to a 17-0 lead after one period and tacked on four more touchdowns in the second period for a 45-3 lead.
“Our line was giving us a great look,” said Vail, who was 6 of 9 passing for 199 yards. “They were bringing up their linebackers and their defensive backs were playing off the ball. We’ve got great athletes who can go up and get the ball, Most of the week of practice we knew what they were going to do. Our coaches had us well prepared.”
Vail and senior receiver Billy Buckley hooked up for two touchdowns in the first half and came within a few yards and fingertips of having the kind of game — all in the first 24 minutes — they have in their wildest dreams.
The tone was set when Vail and Buckley connected for 50 yards on Madison’s first play from scrimmage, with Buckley getting tackled just six yards shy of the end zone. Marquee player Tyrell Ajian scored from there, taking the direct snap across the goal line for the first of his three first-half TDs.
On Madison’s next series, Buckley got loose behind the secondary on a potential 28-yard scoring play but Vail’s pass was just out of his reach as the Rams settled for a 36-yard field goal from Curtis French.
Keeping Buckley out of the end zone only lasted so long. In the second quarter he caught a 15-yard TD pass over the outstretched hand of a Lex defender and then caught a 46-yard scoring pass from Vail as the Rams could do little wrong — offensively or defensively.
Ajian made things easy for Vail by taking a screen pass 80 yards for a score in the first quarter and then put an exclamation point on an astonishing first half by racing down the right sidelines for an 85-yard touchdown. He finished with 199 yards of total offense, including 111 on five carries.
“We’re really diverse on offense,” said Buckley, who racked up 111 yards on his four catches. “We can’t let the defense or weather dictate if we’re going to run or throw the ball. We practiced hard. The receivers tried to be on the same page with the quarterbacks in practice. The scout team gave us a good look.”
The crowning moment for Homecoming king Kanyon Tackett wasn’t when he ripped off a 39-yard run to set up Buckley’s first TD reception. It came seven seconds after that score when he intercepted a Joey Vore pass from his linebacker spot and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown.
The Rams also got an interception from Judiah Fields and two from defensive back Blake Dinsmore — the first at midfield to set up Buckley’s second TD grab and then a coast-to-coast pick-six in the third quarter, covering 97 yards.
The Minutemen (5-1, 2-1) couldn’t get anything going against a Madison defense that was every bit as tough as its offense. Lex didn’t make a first down until the 4:30 mark of the opening quarter, already down 10-0. A personal foul on the Rams after a catch by A.J. Nickoli gave Lex a first down at the 17, but the Minutemen stalled and Vore couldn’t convert the 40-yard field goal attempt.
Moments later, Ajian took a screen pass the distance. It was that kind of night for the Minutemen, who finally found the end zone with 3:39 left on a three-yard run by backup QB Logan Pfizenmayer. And that kind of night for Rams, who only had the ball once in the third quarter but still scored twice.
“Sunday night we made the decision we had to throw the ball,” Madison coach Jamie Masi said. “They were doing things (defensively) in the run game, so why should we force the run when we have so many skilled players?. It was a very light rain … and the guys executed.
“I trust Tresten, I trust our offensive line and I more than trust our receivers. And we played so well out of the gate defensively that the emotion was off the charts. That sparked the guys on the offensive side.”