The West Jefferson football team faced a season-defining moment a week ago in its 35-28 Division V regional semifinal win over Reading.
Trailing 21-0 five minutes into its contest, the Roughriders (12-0) rose to the occasion and fought their way back to victory, earning a trip to a regional championship game Friday at 7:30 p.m. against Middletown Madison Senior (10-2) at Beavercreek’s Frank Zink Field at Miami Valley Hospital Stadium, 2660 Dayton-Xenia Road, Beavercreek.
The way West Jefferson was able to regroup and win last week wasn’t a one-night fluke thing, coach Shawn Buescher insists it was the culture that surrounds his program and the idea that you have to be prepared to face adversity.
“I firmly believe you can’t just talk about adversity, you have to promote it every day,” he said. “We handle adversity each and every day and put our kids in adverse situations. Ee have a plan in place in case things don’t go well. Last week nobody panicked when things weren’t going well, our kids stayed the course.”
Staying the course is probably the best way to describe this week’s regional final opponent. The Mohawks are a strong team with a hard-nosed mentality. They’re not flashy but have been quite effective doing their own thing. They opened the season with a 1-2 record but haven’t lost since. They’ve physically overwhelmed opponents all season long.
“They have an identity, they’re very physical on both sides of the ball,” Buescher said. “This will probably be the best team we’ve played all season long.”
Offensively the Mohawks are led by a punishing ground game that features running back Tyler Baumgartner, who’s rushed for 1,085 yards and 16 touchdowns through 12 games this season.
Defensively Madison has been down right stingy. It surrendered just 25 yards in a 35-27 win over Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. Junior linebackers Cole Pelgen (15 sacks) and Tanner Limon (8.5 sacks) and junior cornerback Kyle Melton lead the charge.
West Jefferson has been able to move the ball through the air and on the ground this season. That diversity figures to be handy going up against a top-notch defense.
“From an offensive perspective we pride ourselves on being balanced,” Buescher said. “We have a good collection of running backs but also kids on the outside that can make plays. We have an accurate quarterback who has done a good job of running our offense.”
Although the stakes continue to get higher with each week, West Jefferson is trying its best to approach each game with the same focus.
“Things around the game change and there are more distractions, but the football part is still the same,” he said. “It’s a 48 minute game and we have to make sure we’re doing what we’ve been doing. We can’t lose focus, we need to worry about ourselves.”
The winner of the West Jefferson-Madison tilt will advance to a Division V state semifinal and will meet the winner of the game between Wheelersburg (12-0) and Johnstown-Monroe (10-2) Nov. 24 at site to be determined.
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.