By David Grindstaff
With the state playoffs beginning this Friday night, Mountain Heritage had its ticket punched to the postseason in spite of a loss to Madison in Burnsville this past week.
At 4-6 heading into the first round of the NCHSAA 2A tournament, the Cougars will square off against Madison again after the Patriots secured the No. 3 seed from the 2A side of the split Western Highlands Conference with a 35-7 win over Heritage. The Cougars, sitting at 3-4 in conference play, earned the 16th and final 2A slot into the playoff bracket.
In its season finale, Heritage, playing with a roster dotted with injured and banged up players, dropped a tough fought loss to Madison at E.L. Briggs Stadium.
Heritage had its opportunities, especially in the first half when the Cougar offense squandered several scoring opportunities after moving into Madison territory.
The Cougars took their first possession and drove to the Patriot 36 behind the running of Drew Hoilman and the passing of Trevor Robinson. A Robinson pass to Zack Brown gave Heritage a first down at the Madison 41 but the Cougars fumbled the football on the next play to stop the drive at the Patriot 36.
Defense dominated the first quarter as a sack by tackle Drew Hoilman stopped the Patriots first drive of the evening forcing a punt.
The Cougar offense again showed promise when Heritage moved from their 30 to the Madison 33 before a holding penalty halted their progress and forced another punt.
Both teams struggled in a scoreless first quarter as the Patriots fumbled away their second possession of the contest near midfield when Jake Webb jumped on a loose ball to give the Cougars another shot with possession at the MHS 44.
But another Cougar turnover gave the ball right back to the Patriots. A pass thrown by Heritage QB Trevor Robinson was intercepted at the Madison 20 yard line as the Cougars were moving into scoring position early in the second quarter.
But Madison found its groove late in the second quarter on Senior Night in Burnsville, scoring two touchdowns in a three minute time span just before halftime to pull away. The Patriots climaxed a 7 play 44 yard drive with a three yard Tyler Hoffman run to take a 7-0 lead and after recovering the ensuing mishandled kickoff at the Heritage 27, Madison enjoyed a 14-0 advantage at the break following a 21 yard TD pass from Deryck Hileman to Dillon Hileman.
Trevor Robinson, who completed 14 of 25 passes for 114 yards in the loss, scored the Cougars only touchdown of the game on a 6 yard run late in the 4th quarter.
Despite the loss, the Cougars now turn their focus to the postseason where they have a challenge ahead of them but control their own fate. The first test is Friday night at Marshall. Kickoff is at 7:30.