TEA — The field’s artificial turf made it a physical impossibility, but Friday night’s Tea Area-Madison battle had the feel of a game where both teams would hobble off the field with every inch of their bodies caked in mud.
A game with a combined eight fumbles, 13 penalties, two interceptions, countless injury delays and a great number of catastrophic defensive breakdowns ended in a 32-29 Madison victory, keeping the Bulldogs unbeaten at 8-0.
Madison dashed out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but their missteps would make the game a close one before halftime. With a little less than four minutes left in the half, Madison quarterback Mitch Hansen dropped back to the end zone and lost the ball when a defender got hands on him. He could only fall on it for a safety.
The Titans’ first touchdown drive began when Brady Balogh had a catch over the middle but coughed the ball up and gave it to Tea Area at the Bulldogs’ 32 yard line. From there, Conrad did it all on his own. He ran for 17 yards to the 20 on a deceptive read option and found Adam Heien with a 20 yard strike to give the Titans a touchdown.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Hansen got wrapped up by Logan Hoon when he dropped back, and instead of taking the sack he dumped an easy interception off to Cole Barthel. Tea Area started that drive at the 15, and the Titans needed just two plays to score and take a 16-14 lead.
The first half ended on a predictably zany note, with Hansen finding Brady Balogh for a 50-yard touchdown pass on a Hail Mary as time expired. The Bulldogs converted the two-point try to make it 22-16.
Titans quarterback Payton Conrad had hobbled off the field with a sore ankle in early in the first half, but he reentered shortly thereafter and seemed to play better after getting hurt. In the second half, he began to find a rhythm with his receivers, throwing for 110 yards and a touchdown in the final two quarters and running a 68 yard keeper in to give Tea (5-3) a 29-22 lead.
“(Payton is) a very tough kid,” Tea Area head coach Craig Clayberg said. “He just says ‘It’ll hurt tomorrow.’”
The fourth quarter was less kind to the Titans, however. Bulldogs running back Brodie Frederiksen ran a touchdown in from eight yards out about three minutes into the quarter, and Brayden Gilbert’s field goal with 6:08 remaining gave the Bulldogs the decisive lead.
Tea drove down to the Madison 21 on its final drive of the game, and when the Bulldogs forced a fourth and 14, Clayberg consulted with his players and opted to go for it.
“They want to win,” Clayberg said. “That’s why you play. Yeah, we could have went into overtime, but we had a shot to win it, so they decided we wanted to go for it.