London runs over Plains

Happy days are here again.

As they entered Friday’s cross-county matchup — each riding the momentum of week one victories — both Madison-Plains and host London looked at the traditional Rivalry Game as a chance to boost their own season-long hopes, while demolishing those of their opponent.

In the classic sitcom ‘Happy Days,” the most impressive demolishing was done by Pinky Tuscadero — the feisty, Derby Car-driving girlfriend of The Fonz — a woman always clad in the rosy hue her name suggested.

Pink was the color of the night as Madison Health honored those who were a representative sample of the brave women who are determined to ‘demolish’ breast cancer. The players, bands, cheerleaders, students, and fans of both schools showed their support for the battle being waged which is much bigger than the one that took place on the gridiron.

Of special significance on the night was to remember the recent passing of longtime London Elementary School Principal Carol Daniels, who succumbed to cancer just a few months ago.

The London football team came out and scored early and often to defeat the visiting Golden Eagles 36-0, building upon a 23-0 lead the home squad accumulated before the first quarter had ended.

“Carol was one of the first people who reached out to me when I started at London — she was a big part of this program,” said London coach Kyle Cutler of Daniels. “She always told me to take care of my babies.”

Red Raider running back KJ Price picked up right where he left off from last week’s elite running performance against Urbana as he ran for 125 yards in the first quarter alone against Madison-Plains.

Price gathered most of the yards on his team’s opening drive, culminating in a nine-yard touchdown by the running back. The junior speedster would show his break-away ability later in the quarter as he would reach the endzone on a 49-yard scamper.

Not to be outdone, Red Raider teammate Dallas Kimbler got into the running act as well, tallying a 68-yard scoring scamper of his own in the opening stanza.

“When the line of scrimmage is constantly moved backwards, it doesn’t matter what play you run,” said Madison-Plains coach Jason Hunt. “We felt like we had angles, but they just constantly beat us up front, on both sides of the ball.”

The first quarter also saw the Red Raiders defense flex its collective muscles as well. It was best symbolized as they caught Golden Eagles quarterback Jarrett Vallery in a modern-day Malachi Crunch with London’s Colton Cleaver registering a sack for a two-point safety.

In the second quarter, both teams stepped it up on the defensive end as Golden Eagles Dustin Burgoon and Connor Jones, as well as London’s Jimmy Dulin and Jacob Jones all showed strong senior leadership.

After a scoreless second quarter, it did not take London long to get back on the board following the intermission. After an important fourth down tackle by Red Raider Justin Portman, Price did his magic again, squirting through all levels of the Madison-Plains defense and running virtually untouched for a 40-yard touchdown.

The rest of the third quarter, the two rivals played the field position game and they hoped to find a crease during the blustery Friday evening.

Madison-Plains’ offense came to life with 11 minutes left in the game. Led by the running of Ryan Bevington, the Golden Eagles marched down the field, seemingly headed for a score. But London’s defense had other ideas, holding on a fourth down.

It did not take long again for the fortunes to reverse as the Red Raiders took just two plays to cash in. First, Price ran for 35-plus yards, and then Portman ran right up the gut for the final 21 yards of real estate.

The Red Raiders preserved the shutout as they stopped the Golden Eagles a yard short of the goal line on a fourth down stand with less than a minute remaining.

“What really helped us of course was the fast start,” Cutler said. “But what also has helped is these guys have also bought into this program and want a winning culture.”

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Madison-Plains’ Mason Cordell takes a hit from a London defender while Juane Gardner (12) looks on.’ Mason Cordell takes a hit from a London defender while Juane Gardner (12) looks on. Chris Whitacre | For The Madison Press

London’s K.J. Price makes his way through the Madison-Plains defense during the Red Raiders shutout victory Friday.’s K.J. Price makes his way through the Madison-Plains defense during the Red Raiders shutout victory Friday. Chris Whitacre | For The Madison Press

By Jeff Gates

For The Madison Press

Jeff Gates is a contributing writer for The Madison Press.