MADISON – Coming into Saturday’s NJSIAA North 2 Group II playoff game against Mountain Lakes, Madison coach Chris Kubik instructed his players not to even think about its season-opening victory over its rival.
Kubik did not want his players coming into the game overconfident or expecting the Herd to play a certain way.
“That was Week One. That game is light years away,” Kubik said. “At this point, that game means nothing. That game is erased.”
Instead, fourth-seeded Madison focused on winning the battle at the line of scrimmage Saturday. Behind a dominating running game, the Dodgers defeated Mountain Lakes, 14-0.
The loss ended Mountain Lakes’ two-year run as the North 2 Group II champion. Madison is now one win away from returning to the final. The Dodgers won three straight sectional titles from 2010 through 2012.
Madison will face Lenape Valley Friday at 7 p.m., a rematch of the second game of the season, which the Patriots won, 23-15.
“We have a tough opponent coming up, but I think we are a pretty tough team ourselves,” Kubik said. “We’re going to get on a bus and we’re going to Lenape Valley. We are not done yet, and we have a lot of work to do, but we are now one win away from going to the big one.”
Mountain Lakes was playing without starting quarterback Griffin Baker, who missed the game with a fractured rib.
The Herd had only two completed passes for only 12 total yards. Mike Martirano and Michael Dalena had interceptions for the Dodgers. Madison was successful in stopping Mountain Lakes’ running game, holding the Herd to only 81 total yards rushing.
“We had a couple of chances in the second half, but we didn’t make the plays,” Mountain Lakes coach Darrell Fusco said. “Madison finished their drives. They are a good physical team.”
Behind an experienced offensive line led by center Shane Horn, Madison won the battle along the line of scrimmage. With Horn, tackles Jack Ducey and Griffin Meister, and guards Max Downing, and Santiago Arango opening holes, running backs Dom Lupino and P.J. Mulcahy rumbled for both of Madison’s touchdowns.
“We expected a war, and we made some big drives when we needed to,” Kubik said. “This is a playoff game, and we made the plays when we needed to, and that is what you have to do at this level.”
Madison scored its first touchdown in the first quarter on a seven-play drive, with Lupino rushing for 54 yards on five carries before Mulcahey followed the lead block of Meister, and broke through for an 11-yard run to give Madison.
In the fourth quarter, Lupino had the biggest play of the afternoon, taking a handoff, running behind the lead block of Arango, and galloping for 53 yards down the Madison sideline to the Mountain Lakes 4-yard line. On the next play, Luppino broke through the line untouched to increase Madison’s lead to 14-0 with 6:32 left in the game.
“Between a game of fourth and fifth seeds, we are two closely matched teams,” Luppino said. “We are trying to be a championship team, and you need championship drives today, and we got them. Everything it takes to be a champion, we are trying to do on the field. We erased week one from our minds. You can never go by the past. It’s all about how we play today. We got some breaks and got a hard earned win. We have not won anything yet. It is enjoy it while it lasts, Monday, we put in it on our back pocket and get back to work.”
MADISON 14, MOUNTAIN LAKES 0
Mountain Lakes 0-0-0-0-0
M-P.J. Mulcahy 11 run (Issac Zapata kick)
M-Dom Luppino 4 run (Issac Zapata kick)
Team records: Madison 7-2, Mountain Lakes 6-4