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Madison Bunts its Way Past Sandusky

  

          Madison scored five of its first six runs via the bunt and they went on to take out Sandusky (10-1) in a sectional semi final game in division two at Madison on Wednesday.

          Sandusky scored in the first inning, but Madison scored four in the second, two runs scoring on each of back to back bunts by Trenton Mortimer and Jaycob Stone.

          Madison coach Doug Rickert says that has been what their offense has been about this season.  “That has worked out pretty well for us this year.  We play a different style of baseball than we have in the past.  We work on that a lot.  I told them (Wednesday) night that we swung the bats well, but we broke their backs with the squeeze bunts.  Instead of a 1-0 lead for them it was a 4-1 lead for us.  This is a group that takes a lot of pride in that.  When they get up to bat they don’t have a problem getting one down.  We moved runners.  We wanted to add one every inning and we were able to do that until we got a couple of hits that broke it open,” said Rickert.

          It became (5-1) in the third on a sacrifice fly by Chase Jessee and (6-1) on another squeeze bunt by Cameron Finley in the fourth.

          Meanwhile, Madison starter Logan Daniels was keeping the Blue Steaks off the scoreboard.  “Logan was Logan.  He has done this all year.  That is five wins for him.  He has beaten Clyde, he has beaten Vermilion.  He goes out there and he gives up that run in the first inning and it is nothing but goose eggs after that.  He is not going to strike out a lot of guys, but he is going to mix things up just enough that they are out on their front foot.  I think they had eight hits, but he scattered them.  Defensively we played much better than (Tuesday) night,” said Rickert.

          Madison (12-12) will play Bellevue (18-7), #4 in the Swanonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, at Bellevue on Friday in the sectional final.  The Redmen beat Tiffin Columbian (10-4) on Wednesday.

          Rickert says Daniels’ performance on Wednesday allows then to be able to use their staff the way they want to.  “The idea was to have him and Chris Morakis ready.  We have got (Thursday,) but we will save Chris and Jessee for Friday,” he said.

          Madison was errorless on Wednesday and Rickert says they have to play sound defense, something they didn’t do in an “OCC” loss to Ashland on Tuesday, but he says they were focused on the task at hand on Wednesday.  “Defensively we have been really solid all year.  (Tuesday) night we lost some focus with the so called senior night.  I told the kids before the game that we weren’t ready, we weren’t focused, and we went out there and kicked it around five times the first inning and gave them four runs and lose the game 8-7.  We have lost seven games now by a run.  We have won some games by a run.  Our record is .500, but we are right there if we continue to play good defense.  We are not going to strike a lot of guys out.  Guys are going to put the ball in play,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “I looked the other day when we did stats and Cal Rickert has 116 chances already at second base.  That’s unheard of, but we throw a lot of ground balls and (Wednesday) we got some good fly balls and our defense played well.  (Wednesday) right after infield practice I said you guys are focused again and this is going to be a good night.  So, they learned a lesson (Tuesday) night and we talked about that.  A loss is not always a bad thing if we learn from it and we did.”

          Shawn Roper and Cal Rickert had RBI hits in three run fifth for the Rams and Hunter Galbraith had a RBI double in the sixth.  Madison ended up with 12 hits on the night.  “We came out and swung bats really well.  That kid pitching had pitched really well the last three ball games.  He pitched well when we saw them against Tiffin and he pitched well against Norwalk, so we were really happy with the way we swung the bats,” said Rickert.

 

Published 5/11/17

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Madison Rounding into Shape for the Tournament

  

          Madison has been a pretty good softball team all year long and now they are getting better as the post season begins next week.

          The Lady Rams (16-6), #4 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, isoming off wins this week over Wooster (7-6) and (10-0) will play Ashland Monday and Tuesday in their final Ohio Cardinal Conference games this spring and then host Oregon Clay in a first round tournament game in division one on Wednesday.

          Coach Tim Niswander says they have really started to peak at the right time of the season and that is what you want.  “We have started five freshmen almost the whole year and they are really talented kids and we expected them to come in an compete and compete at a high level and challenge some returning starters and all of the that happened, but at the end of the day they are still freshmen and they make mistakes that freshmen make.  I think we are starting to get out of that a little bit.  Last Friday at home against West Holmes we had a big win and we played pretty solid.  Against Wooster we played well, we left the bases loaded twice early in the first game and finally got control of the game towards the end and gave up a couple of flares here and there and the next thing you know it is a 6-6 game, but the kids came in and we went bang, bang, bang without making an out and scored the game winning run.  We turn around on Wednesday and went up to Wooster and those times we left the bases loaded the night before we capitalized on them and punched some runs home and got in and out in five innings in a 45 minute game and it was fantastic.  Kenize Mullins threw a great game, threw strikes, pounded the zone, didn’t walk anybody, I don’t think she was three balls on a single batter the whole night, and then she hit a home run with it.  The older kids are starting to step up a little more and those freshmen are starting to eliminate the mistakes that they have been making,” said Niswander.

          Niswander adds that there are some things they must do to be a good team and it begins with pitching and defense.  “The biggest thing with us is the shortstop-pitcher combination.  Whichever pitcher we throw the other kid goes to short.  We have to throw strikes and we have to play good defense at that position behind them and we have been doing that.  I think that shows.  We are 16-6 and we have lost a couple of games that we shouldn’t have lost, that we gave away, but those were earlier in the year.  I think that we have gotten to the point know with the win over Clear Fork, the win against West Holmes, and the two with Wooster in the last week, the sweep of Shelby a week a half ago.  I think our kids are finally starting to understand what varsity softball is all about.  It is a little bit different that travel, it is a little bit different that they expected.  We are finally starting to do things right all of the way around and we just have to continue to do that,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We have seven kids in our line up hitting over .350 and three kids hitting over .400.  That’s part of that seven, the other two aren’t that high.  We are putting the ball in play.  We have only struck out 51 times in 22 games and to me that is a really big deal in softball.  You put the ball in play and put pressure on teams I think we are pretty fast and pretty athletic, so every time the ball goes into play we have a chance to get a base hit on it.  I think our kids are finally understanding what we are trying to do and playing to their strengths.”

          When it comes to Oregon Clay, Niswander says they are a very good team and one that is going try and put pressure on the Lady Rams.  “I have a scouting report on them from a couple of friends of mine up that way.  They were at our game Tuesday, which we are pretty excited about because we didn’t throw our number one pitcher Tuesday, so they didn’t see her.  They hit the ball well.  We know how they like to pitch batters and we worked on that in practice on Thursday doing what we need to do with what they are going to try and do to us.  We don’t know if we have anybody we can compare them to.  We do know that they play a really good schedule.  They are a .500 team and they have beaten some pretty good teams and some of the teams they have lost to are very, very good like Perrysburg, Anthony Wayne and Holland Springfield and they were in those games.  We are going to have to show up and play even though we are the higher seed and it is our home game they are a really good softball team and they are going to challenge us.  They are going to put pressure on us like we are going to try and do to them as well,” said Niswander.

 

Published 5/05/17

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Madison Beats Wooster

  

          Madison won its fifth “OCC” game in its last six by knocking off second place Wooster (6-4) at home on Tuesday night.

          Coach Doug Rickert says they were finally able to put a big inning together and that was crucial for them.  “It was a good win for our kids.  They played well and Wooster is a great team.  They swing it really well.  They jumped out on us 3-1.  The good thing was a lot times when teams have jumped on us early we haven’t responded, but we responded with four runs in the third inning.  We were able to tack on one more big run in the bottom of the sixth.  That two run cushion was big in that last inning.  It was a big win for us,” said Rickert.

          Madison (10-10,6-5) has started to get some more hits and score more runs and Rickert says this a team that is willing to work hard and become better baseball players.  “Some of them have gotten better as hitters.  I think we have worked more on our hitting than we ever have.  Everybody has a little something they can work on.  One thing about this team is they are willing to learn,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night, “Especially if you have a lot of seniors if things don’t work out they think man this my senior year and it is going to be a miserable year.  We keeping telling them we have a lot of baseball to play.  I think some kids really bought into that.  We tell them to flush it and don’t remember the bad. We talk about living the next pitch and not getting caught up in an error or strikeout of whatever.  We have had some kids really buy in.”

          The Madison win gave Mt. Vernon, who beat Clear Fork (5-3) on Tuesday, no less than a share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference title.

          The Rams play at Wooster on Wednesday, weather permitting.

          They play host to Sandusky in a first round division two tournament game next week.  Rickert says this can be a good tournament team, especially if they can find a way to be more consistent with the bats in their hands.  “I think we can be dangerous, but we are also a team that lacks consistency.  We get a couple of wins and we get back to .500 and then we lose a game.  We are kind of a team that could win the thing or we could lose right away.  We are confident and we feel good, but the margin of error for this team was not as big as it was in the past.  We just don’t have enough hitters yet.  We are getting there.  We have to throw strikes and we have to field the baseball to give ourselves a chance to win,” said Rickert.

 

Published 5/03/17

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Madison Edges Clear Fork

  

          Cal Rickert scored on a suicide squeeze bunt by Cameron Finley in the top of the 10th inning and Madison got past Clear Fork (5-4) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball game on Wednesday night.

          Cal walked with one out in the 10th, stole a base and advanced to third on a single by Hunter Galbraith.  He scored what turned to be the winning run on Finley’s bunt.  Gavin Adkins, Madison’s fourth pitcher of the night, got the Colts 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 10th for the save.

          This is Clear Fork’s last year in the “OCC” and Madison coach Doug Rickert felt it was a big win for him and his program.  “It is huge because we have had great games all of the way through.  We talked to our kids about the history here.  When they won the state championship (2010) we are the only undefeated team ever in “OCC” history and when we came here that night we were able to beat them.  I’ll never forget Mike Siwek’s three run homer that night.  We told them that every game we play they are going to be well coached and they are going to be ready to play.  They are going to make a strong tournament run.  There is no doubt about it that that team can get all the way to state again.  We have really been battle tested,” He told Swankonsports.com on the field after the game, “We have had so many one run ball games.  Early in the year we wouldn’t have won this game, no way we would have won this game.  Right now they just believe in themselves and we are getting production out of other kids finally and we are making our plays.  In ten innings we gave up four runs.  We will take that anytime.”

          Madison (9-9,5-4) scored first in the game on Trenton Mortimer’s two-out RBI single in the top of the second.  The Rams would add another run in that inning on an error.  Clear Fork would make it (2-1) in when Hunter Boyer scored when Mortimer threw the ball away trying to pick him off third base in the fourth.  Madison went back up (3-1) when Cal Rickert scored on a passed ball in the top of the fifth.  Mortimer came up with another RBI single in the sixth to make it (4-1) Madison.

          The Colts (11-9,6-4) were down to their last out in the bottom of the seventh when Mitch Dulin came through with a two-run single and pinch hitter Jarrod Smith added a run scoring single.

          Both teams had their in extra innings.  Madison left them loaded in both the eighth and ninth and the Colts also left the bags juiced in the ninth.

          It was small ball that turned the trick in the 10th and coach Rickert says they were ready to execute.  “We missed some bunts early that we were a little frustrated with. Cameron Finley can handle the bat as well as anyone on our team.  That was an excellent squeeze bunt on a really, really tough pitch.  We had some big plays in the game.  We talked about that being a really big play.  I thought Cal (Rickert) getting home on that little passed ball with a big play.  You don’t realize you have to add a run every time out.  We were a little frustrated that we didn’t get some bunts down.  In the ninth we left them loaded and they left them loaded.  It was one the best high school games I have been involved in,” said Rickert.

          Logan Daniels and Layne Berrier relieved starter Chase Jessee and Gavin Adkins came in to get the last three outs in the 10th.  Rickert says they made some big pitches.  “Layne Berrier has been a very good pitcher for us.  His arm angle was down, he was walking some guys and we brought in Logan (Daniels) he is a strike guy and he got us out of a jam.  He was wearing down just a little bit.  We were able to come back with Gavin (Adkins) who hasn’t pitched in a while and I thought he was fantastic in the last inning throwing strikes and making them hit the baseball,” he said.

 

Published 4/27/17

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Lady Colts Bounce Back

  

          A night after dropping a one run decision to Madison, Clear Fork bounced back to down the Lady Rams (8-2) on Wednesday and keep themselves in the Ohio Cardinal Conference race.

          Catcher Haylie Miller hit two home runs and the Lady Colts scored six runs in the first two innings.

          Madison beat Clear Fork (5-4) on Tuesday and the Lady Colts trailed Mt. Vernon by two games.  Clear Fork coach Jeff Gottfried says Wednesday night was a game they absolutely had to win and his girls came ready to play.  “We knew we didn’t play very well (Tuesday) night.  We kind of felt like we left some things out on the table that needed to be accomplished.  Our number one goal was to defend that conference.  I know it is a new year and it really isn’t defending you have earn the next one.  Our kids took the loss pretty hard (Tuesday) night.  We didn’t play very well.  We didn’t hit the ball very well.  Basically our backs were against it.  We couldn’t afford another loss.  To get that conference title back here at Clear Fork again with two losses with now four games to go we know we have to win out,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game on Wednesday, “Our kids came ready to play in that first inning.  I think we were nice and relaxed and we made some great adjustments from (Tuesday) night.  We didn’t have time to practice so you pretty much had to verbally go through things pre game.  Our kids responded very well with what we suggested they do and it showed by the way we played (Wednesday) night.”

          Gottfried says they came out focused and were able to put the pressure on Madison right away.  “Leading off the first inning Carson Crowner hit the ball hard to the third basemen and put some pressure on them with her speed.  They misplay the ball so we get on that way and we advance the runner to second base.  She steals third and we just play the way that we play.  Haylie Miller connected on one in the first inning and put us up 2-0 and gave a nice start.  We didn’t quit.  Caitlynn Hilverding drove in Macy Wade with our third run of the first inning.  I think Madison knew from then on we were going to bring it.  We put three more runs on the board in the second.  We hit the ball.  We had seven hits as compared to (Tuesday) night when we only had three and played much, much better defense (Wednesday) night.  Like we told the girls when you pitch and play defense you are going to keep yourself in a lot of ballgames,” said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork (15-2,8-2), #2 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, plays first place Mt. Vernon next week and finishes against Lexington.

          Gottfried says his kids are coachable and they tend to respond very well.  “We made the adjustment at the plate.  We thought this is the approach they were going to use because we saw what they did (Tuesday) night.  The basically pitched us the same way.  Our kids, give them credit, we made suggestions for them, this is what you need to do, this is the way they are going to try and attack us.  We need to turn it around and start attacking them.  The kids did that they listened very well.  High school sports is all about momentum and it was on our side early and stayed on our side all night long,” he said.

 

Published 4/27/17

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Madison Plays Clear Fork Back to Back

  

          The next two days baseball rivals Madison and Clear Fork lock horns in back to back games in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

          They play at Madison on Tuesday and at Clear Fork on Wednesday.

          Over the last 25 years, Madison has been the best big school baseball team in North Central Ohio, but this has not been one the Rams (7-9,3-4) best years.

          Veteran coach Doug Rickert says they are willing to learn the game and than is going to be the key to their improvement.  “We haven’t been very consistent.  We have preached consistency, mental toughness.  We have done more work this year than maybe we have in the last couple of years in teaching.  We have had to do a little more of that, especially when it comes to hitting.  The good news is I really have a bunch of kids that have been willing to work and willing to learn and willing to listen.  In the course of a baseball season there just isn’t a lot of time.  It’s 27 games in six weeks, so you do as much as you can and sometimes you are doing it before and after a game.  We are getting there.  We are getting better, but we aren’t where we want to be yet,” said Rickert.

          After graduating some pretty good players last year, Rickert says they really haven’t had a lot of guys step up into positions on the field.  “I think the toughest thing for us is we haven’t had anybody in some of our spots really take the job.  Somebody shows signs and then they fall off a little bit and the other guy shows some signs.  We have had to play just about everybody.  We have had a lot of different lineups,” he said.

          Defense and especially pitching have been good for the Rams, but Rickert says the hitting has been the problem area this spring.  “It has really been hitting.  Our pitching has been fairly consistent all year.  The batting average against us is only .240 something, which is fantastic.  Our ERA is around 3.00.  We just haven’t been consistent hitting and we have made a couple of errors at crucial times and what happens when you don’t hit everything is magnified because one error becomes a really big deal because you can’t hit your way out of it,” he told Swankonsports.com, “I have had some teams that have made some mistakes defensively before, but no one remembers then because we scored four, five, or six runs.  It is kind of tough on the kids because they put a lot of pressure in themselves to make plays.  We don’t have strikeout pitchers, so when you aren’t striking guys out you have to field the ball 18 times you are going have a chance to make a lot more mistakes.  There was a time there when we had guys striking out 13, 14, 15 guys and we only had to field six, eight times a game.  We just haven’t been able to get a lot of keys hits this year.”

 

Published 4/25/17

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Madison Belts Mansfield Senior

  

          Madison hammered Mansfield Senior for the second straight night (10-0) in Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball on Wednesday.

          They had beaten them (13-0) on Tuesday.

          Coach Doug Rickert says he thought they had pretty good focus against the Tygers.  “We told the kids before the game for whatever reason a lot of times this year we have played to the level of our competition.  Taking nothing away from Mansfield Senior.  We thought we played well against Lexington and we played well against Vermilion and we played well on the spring trip we thought against a Calvary Day team that travels all over the place to play and ended up beating them.  We played another team on the spring trip that we didn’t think was good as we lose 5-4.  So, our mentality (Wednesday) night was we have to start playing baseball games here every night the way we want to play them.  Fortunate for us we were able to do that,” said Rickert.

          Last week, Madison (6-8,3-4) played in the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  They went 3-3 and Rickert says they were either good or bad, there was no in between.  “When we played well we played really well and then we had a couple of down moments.  It was basically it was the games when we didn’t throw strikes.  When we throw strikes this year we have been in every game.  We had a couple of games there where we didn’t throw strikes and we got beat.  We walked eight in a game and we lost 5-4,” he told Swankonsports.com after the Mansfield Senior game, “The games where we threw strikes we won the games.  Chase Jessie is a kid will give you all he has, but he hasn’t been able to put it all together.  Fortunately the last game down there against Buckeye Valley he was as good as we have seen him and we were able to win a 1-0 ball game.  He has lost a couple of one run games this year.  He struck out 13 and only gave up one hit.  So, if he can emulate that for another start.  If he throws strikes he is really affective.

          Madison plays Norwalk and Clyde in a tri on Saturday in what should be some good games.  Rickert says they have to continue to hit the ball.  “I think we are starting to hit the ball a little bit better down there.  I really thought it started on Saturday before we left.  I thought we hit the ball really well against Vermilion.  I thought we hit the ball pretty well down there.  I thought our approach was better and hopefully we continue to do that this weekend,” he said.

 

Published 4/20/17

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Madison Back Home; Gets Win Over West Holmes

  

          Madison spent last week in sunny and warm South Carolina playing softball and improving and Monday night they went out and beat West Holmes (6-2) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

          Coach Tim Niswander says the Lady Rams (8-4,3-2), #5 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, did got some timely hitting and solid defense on Monday night.  “West Holmes does a really good job swinging the bat and they are solid defensively, so it is one of those games were you have to do all of the little things right to get a win, especially on the road.  Our kids played well.  McKenzie Mullins pitched really well and we made some plays defensively behind her.  Then we were able to get a couple of timely hits that scored some runs.  Mullins had a based loaded two run double.  Then we had a suicide squeeze that was followed up by a three run homer.  The timely hitting coupled with some good defense really helped us (Monday) night,” said Niswander.

          Madison went 6-2 on their trip to Myrtle Beach of spring break and Niswander says it could have been better than that really.  “The two games that we lost I think we had an opportunity to win and they were really good teams.  Moore Catholic from Stanton Island, New York was one of the them and they were as good a hitting team that we have seen in a couple of years, but we controlled that game and ended losing in extra innings.  We were up two, three runs most of the night and just didn’t make plays at the end of the game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night, “The other one was West Allegheny, Pennsylvania, who has lost one game in the last two years, obviously that was a tournament game.  They are also very, very good.  They jumped on us early and we came back and tied it up and had a couple of opportunities and couldn’t get a base hit and then they got us in the bottom of the sixth inning and ended up winning.”

          Niswander believes they got better in a lot of areas of the game last week and that is going to help them the rest of the year.  “Some of the other teams we played there were some quality kids on those teams.  The one girl from Croton Harmon is a division one signee.  That was their shortstop.  We saw some decent competition.  The biggest thing is we got to play seven games in five days and we got to work on some things that we haven’t always had a chance to work on and got to do it in a setting where that was more contusive to learning than your nose to the grindstone and it is conference all of the time.  It was beneficial from a softball standpoint that we did get to work on some things that we don’t normally do and a couple of those things we executed (Monday) night,” he said.

 

Published 4/18/17

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Madison Focused on Getting Better

  

          Madison is a good, young softball team and they learned some things this week and hopefully will learn a little more next week too.

          They lost back to back games to a very good Mt. Vernon squad this week (3-0 and 13-1) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

          Coach Tim Niswander says they just made some mistakes against a very good team and that cost them.  “We played at Mt. Vernon on Tuesday night and it was a 0-0 game after five innings.  It was a tournament type game.  It was really good for our kids to be in that atmosphere and be in that type of game.  I think they learned a lot.  I told them when the game was over this was like a final four game or a regional final game where nobody is really doing a lot and the pitching is controlling the hitting and the first team that makes a mistake is going to be the one that loses and unfortunately that was us.  We went down 3-0.  We had an opportunity when we had a couple of kids on and we couldn’t score.  We made a big error and ended up opening the door up for them.  We didn’t give up an earned run to them,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “The next night it was the same thing as far as the pitching was concerned.  They really didn’t hit the ball hard on us, but we had a couple of kids that didn’t play very well and made some mistakes and had some errors and it kind of snowballed on us.  In two games they only had three earned runs.  Our pitching played well.  Our defense didn’t play so well in the second game.  We had six freshmen out there.  Five of them started and another one went into the game.  We are going to have some growing pains and that is a tough draw the second week of the season because I think we are going to be much better as the season goes on and I think Mt. Vernon is kind of a finished product and they are a very, very good team.  If they continue to win and we continue to win and we get some help in the conference or maybe we see them somewhere down the road in the tournament.  Our kids are excited for that.”

          Niswander says it is clear his players are dedicated to improving as a team and that is a good sign.  “The thing that gets me about my group of kids is after that game was over we had a heart to heart talk for maybe 30 minutes and I went to lock up the facility and as I came back out my kids had started their own practice.  They practiced for 45 minutes after the game was over and I just stood and watched them do it.  They were phenomenal in practice, unfortunately they were not phenomenal at five o’clock.  It is just the fact that they would do something like that without me asking them to or without me saying anything.  That thought never entered my head and they got out and they got after it after the game was over because they were so disappointed in how they played.  Practice Thursday night was much more crisp and I think we are getting better,” said Niswander.

          Next week, the Lady Rams will be in South Carolina during spring break and Niswander says it is a chance to get better at playing softball and getting closer as a team.  “It is not snowing in South Carolina right now and that is a plus.  We have six games scheduled down there and we have packed the schedule pretty full.  It is a softball trip and the kids are excited to get to go to Myrtle Beach.  We have a couple kids that have never been to the beach even at Lake Erie or Pleasant Hill before, so they are really excited.  The biggest thing is we are going to get down there and we are going to spend a week doing everything together.  We are going to have practices together.  We are going to have six games.  We have a day in the middle of the week when we don’t have anything scheduled other than a practice and it will be in the morning and then we are going to go do things as a team in and around the beach and the boardwalk.  I think the team bonding part of that is a big thing.  With a group of kids that are as young as we are I think it is going to be important to basically spend six days away from any distractions and it is just going to be them.  Everything we do is going to be centered around them and I think there is going to be some growing up while we are gone.  Looking at the weather for the next week we are going to get a chance to play and we are going to get a chance to practice and do it all outside.  It will be fun and I hope it is something that brings us together, not that we are not together now.  We are hoping to get a lot of good things out of it over and above softball, but obviously the softball is what we are going for,” said Niswander.

 

Published 4/07/17

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Lexington Edges Madison

   

          It was a standoff on the first week of the season as Lexington and Madison each won at the other’s field on the first week of Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

          Lexington’s Austin Eifrid and Madison’s Layne Berrier locked horns in an old fashion pitcher’s dual at Ram Field on Thursday with the Minutemen scoring on unearned run in the top of first inning and winning (1-0) in a game that took less than 90 minutes to play.

          Eifrid struck out nine.  He fanned Chase Jessie with Rams on first and second to end the bottom of the sixth and struck out Doug Shenberger to end the game.

          Coach Kevin Morrow says he had command of all of his pitches on Thursday.  “He did an excellent job.  He had a great scrimmage down a Delaware Hayes.  He took on a division one school and pretty much held them hitless, maybe one hit.  (Thursday) he was super efficient and had a few plays behind him.  It was like one of the fastest games I have been apart of.  I know coach Rickert said the same thing.  Both pitchers just looked great.  It is early and the bats aren’t quite getting there yet.  To win a game with pitching and defense you have got to here in the early season,” said Morrow.

          Madison’s best chance to score came in the fourth inning when Jaycob Stone walked and advanced to second on a ground ball by Cal Rickert.  Stone tried score from second when Jessie layed down a good bunt and was thrown out at first, but Stone was tagged out at home.  “That is a fast kid in Stone.  I like that play too.  Stuff like that in a 1-0 game you have got to do it.  You have to try and manufacture a run.  It was close.  We had a good relay to Odson and he got the tag in there, thank God,” said Morrow.

          Lexington’s run came in the first when Jacob Odson and Jared Strickler singled and that put runners at first and second.  Ian Moore hit a ball to Stone at short and he threw it high to second and the umpire said Cal Rickert pulled is foot in what would have been the third out.  Odson scored on the play.

          “You have to know where you are going with the ball before it is hit.  We made a little mistake there.  It ends up being a big one.  Even with the mistake I thought we got him at second base.  For the most part we made some nice plays.  We made a nice double play and made some nice catches in the outfield.  We only gave up one run, so we are not going to hang our heads,” said Madison coach Doug Rickert.  The Madison coach came out of his dugout to argue the call, but to no avail.

          Madison (1-2,1-1) has less than 10 hits total in three games this week, but coach Rickert believes they will start to hit.  “I told the kids it’s tough to hit early.  You don’t ever get out of box just ripping the baseball.  The conditions the wind has been blowing in every game that we played.  It’s a little chilly.  The umpire had a little bigger strike zone (Thursday) night and it makes it a little tougher sometimes.  It will come around.  I told them we haven’t hit the ball real well yet and we have had some loud outs at times.  When you look at the other team they aren’t hitting the ball much either,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “They had one hit against us (Wednesday) night and three or for (Thursday).  I saw Clear Fork against River Valley the other night went 10 innings and only had three hits.  It will all come once guys get to see more curveballs and change ups.  You can’t simulate that very well in practice.  We didn’t get outside until last week.  Usually we are outside a little more than that.  It will get better.”

          Fundamentals are big in baseball and Morrow says they were able to execute them on Thursday.  “Both teams are well coached on the defensive end.  We spend a ton of time handling all of the situations.  I give them credit we didn’t have any mistakes or any meltdown innings.  We played good defense for Austin and they played great defense for their pitcher.  It was a crazy win and we will take 1-0,” he said.

 

Published 3/31/17

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Madison Takes Step Forward; Gets Big Win over Lex

  

          Madison landed the first big punch in the race for the Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball title on Wednesday with a (3-1) win at Lexington against the rival Minutemen.

          The Rams scored two in the second and another in fifth and made it stand up in game between two of the contenders for the league flag.

          Coach Doug Rickert says it was a big one for his ball club in a lot of ways.  “I told our kids it was pretty special to bounce back after Monday night where we didn’t get a hit and we didn’t play our best ball.  We were playing the team that a lot people consider the favorite to win the league this year after their regional run last year.  They have a lot of kids back.  It has been about five years or so since we have won a game at Lex, so this was a big one for us,” he said.

          Lexington (2-1,0-1) has a lot of their line-up back from the last year when they advanced to the regional tournament.  Rickert says their pitching did a tremendous job, especially in the clutch.  “Chase Jessie came here last year and had to set out half of the season.  He is a Madison kid who had moved and come back, so he didn’t get to pitch a whole lot for us last year.  He pitched some in the summer and some in the fall.  He has some really good tools.  He is a low 80’s guy.  He is only going to get better.  I don’t think he was perfect (Wednesday) night.  I think he had six walks, but he only allowed the one infield single,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night after the win, “Then Chris Morakis, who came into close it, is a kid that we have come to count on.  He did it last year and he struck out three and only walked one and didn’t give up a hit over the last three.  So, the pitching was fantastic.”

          Madison got some clutch hits too.  A two run single from Trent Mortimer in the second and another big hit from Carter Hayes in the fifth.  Rickert says this is a club that is going to have to hit as a team.  “The bottom of the order made something happen.  We had a hit and we had a guy get hit by a pitch, then a balk, then Trent Mortimer, our nine hole hitter, our catcher, had a fantastic game, came up with a big, clutch base hit.  Then later in the game we got another big, clutch hit from Carter Hayes to get that third run across.  That’s what we have to continue to do.  We have to trust each other.  We can’t have one or two guys expected to hit all of the time.  We have to trust each other that we will come through,” said Rickert.

          Already rained out on Tuesday, the two teams are scheduled to play on Thursday.  Rickert says they have to be ready no matter when that first pitch comes.  “We told the kids that it could be a thing where we don’t play them again until the end of the year.  The weather doesn’t look good for (Thursday) and it doesn’t look good Friday.  We said we would play them Saturday, but the forecast doesn’t look good for drying up by Saturday.  So, it could very well be a situation where we don’t play them until later.  We just have to take care of business and this team has a lot of work to do.  We just have to keep getting better.  We aren’t focusing on wins so much right now as we are just improving,” said Rickert.

 

Published 3/30/17

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Madison Knows it will be Tough

  

          Almost every year Madison fields a solid baseball team and this year will be no different for the Rams, but veteran coach Doug Rickert knows it will be a challenging season too.

          This preseason the Rams have not been outside that much, but Rickert says he likes the work they have gotten done and he likes even more the attitude he has seen from his team.  “Honestly we haven’t been outside much.  It was beautiful before we had official practice.  We have actually only been able to be on our baseball diamond once and the football field a couple of times.  We have done a lot of indoor stuff.  Our kids have been extremely hard working and I think that is what I like the most.  We have a bunch of really good kids, really smart kids.  I think I looked the other day and our GPA for the varsity baseball team is 3.75.  To be honest I have never had that before, so we have a just a bunch of good kids and kids that are really willing to work on the things we have asked them to do so far,” said Rickert.

          Doug likes to have a smart team, but he doesn’t want one that over thinks the game either and he knows that is a fine line.  “We still have a lot of work to do in that area.  We have some kids battling for some spots and I think sometimes the pressure might get to them and do the wrong thing or over think sometimes in situations.  It is funny we do want to be an intelligent team and do the right thing, but also there is a fine line between over thinking and over analyzing on some situations and some pitches and what’s next.  We kind of have a theory here a lot of times when we are playing when you think, you stink.  We want them to be comfortable, we want them to be confident and that is our job as coaches to get them to that point where they’re not over thinking or over analyzing the choices,” he said.

          Madison finished second in the Ohio Cardinal Conference last year behind Wooster and they are going to be a factor again this season.  However, Rickert knows a championship will not come easy.  “I think the expectations are always there.  We thought we had a nice team last year.  We went 12-2 in the league and nine times out of ten that is going to win a league championship.  We were really trying to win that thing three years in a row, that was our goal.  As good as we did 12-2 wasn’t good enough.  We were the only team good enough to beat Wooster and unfortunately they got us once and Lex got us once.  We told the kids the league is going to be tough this year,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesaday, “You look at Clear Fork went to the state and is bringing about their whole team back, Lexington went to regionals and brought their whole team back, and then you add a very good Mt. Vernon team to what is already a very, very good league and it is a very brutal “OCC.”

 

Published 3/15/17

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Madison Has to be Tough

  

          Madison plays Sandusky Perkins in a first round division two tournament game at Willard High School on Tuesday night.

          The Rams beat Perkins in the tournament last year, but this is a different season.

          Madison (12-10) comes in losing two of its last three, but coach Tim Mergel believes they are still playing pretty good basketball entering the postseason.  “I think we are playing some decent basketball we just have run into some good teams that are playing some really hot basketball.  You look at Mt. Vernon and we played well enough to win and they are one of the hottest teams in our league and then against a good Ashland team that is 15-7 they just came in our gym and shot lights out and had 15 three balls.  In the games that we lost I didn’t think we played terrible the other teams just played a little bit better.  I like our kid’s moral and where we are right now,” said Mergel.

          Defensive is critical in the postseason and Mergel says they must buckle down and be able to play good, tough, half court defense if they are going to survive.  “We really have to focus on getting stops every time down the floor.  We have a couple of lapses here and there.  You take the Ashland game for example.  We are right in the game and they hit two threes back to back and we come down with some empty possessions,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Those empty possessions don’t hurt as much if we limit them to one and done.  I think we need to focus each and every possession defensively and not have those mental lapses.”

          Perkins (17-5) is the co-champion of the bay division of the Sandusky Bay Conference.  They earned that title with a (61-53) win at Huron on Friday night.

          Mergel says the Pirates are patient and they are a physical team that can score inside or outside.  “They run their stuff well.  They don’t force anything.  They are not inpatient.  They have a philosophy let’s work inside out.  Their guards do a good job of feeding their bigs.  They do a good job of going inside out.  The kid on the outside, the Voight kid can knock it down.  You have to deal with the Roesch kid inside and Wheeler inside.  Anytime you deal with size you worry about them pounding the ball in there, but then again anytime they shoot outside shots they have the ability to rebound the basketball with their length,” said Mergel.

          The Rams beat Perkins (59-44) last season in a second round tournament game.

          This year, Mergel says his bunch has to be tougher in tight ball games and he hopes they are able to do that on Tuesday night at Willard.  “That is something we have been working on with this group of ours overall just getting a little bit tougher each and every day.  It is not an easy thing to teach toughness.  Some kids are born with it and some kids have to get taught it.  This is obviously a different group from last year.  We are not as physical.  We are not as gritty.  We are working to get to that point and hopefully that work pays off (Tuesday) night,” he said.

 

Published 2/28/17

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Madison Wants to End Regular Season on High Note

  

          Madison hosts the Ashland Arrows in an Ohio Cardinal Conference boys’ basketball game on Friday night.

          They want a win to help propel then into next week’s district tournament.  They play Sandusky Perkins in their first postseason game.

          Last week, they lost in double overtime to Mt. Vernon (62-54) on Friday and beat Willard (80-48) in a non-conference game on Saturday night.

          Coach Tim Mergel says he was very pleased with how they responded on Saturday night after the tough loss on Friday.  “I thought we played pretty good basketball for three quarters against Mt. Vernon and credit them they made a couple of big shots to send it into the first and second overtime.  We put them on the line 32 times and I thought that was a big difference in the game.  The way we bounced back Saturday I thought was a really positive thing for our kids.  Willard being off the night before and us going a whole extra quarter in a sense I thought our kids bounced back in a really positive way,” said Mergel.

          Senior guard Tyrell Ajian could have as few as two games left in a Madison uniform.  Mergel says he is playing like he would like to have a few more.  “He scored 60 points on the weekend for us.  He had 23 on Friday night and then a big night with 37 on Saturday.  Something has just clicked with Tyrell.  I don’t know if it is that all of the weight is off of his shoulders signing and becoming official with Kentucky.  It just seems like something has clicked with him.  He is starting to understand that he is the best on the floor on any given night and he has kind of taken that opportunity and ran with it,” he said.

          Ashland comes to Madison (12-9,6-7) on Friday night.  Ashland held an eight point fourth quarter lead last Friday at conference champion Wooster before losing (69-60) to the Generals.  Mergel the Arrows can do a lot of things.  “They have been in every conference game except for Wooster the first time.  They have length that gives you problems.  They have a couple of kids that can knock down shots.  They have the Gerwig kid that can take you off the dribble and take you inside.  They have a lot of weapons at their disposal,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We were right with them the first time.  We know we are going to get a battle on Friday night.  There wouldn’t be anything better than to send our kids off the court with a win in their last home game that’s for sure.”

          Ashland (14-7,9-4) and in second place in the “OCC” standings, beat Madison (62-60) on January 20 in their first meeting.  Mergel says the Rams have to be better on defense.  “Our inability to guard the basketball really hurt us the last time, but you have to give Ashland credit they had kick outs and they just shot a pronominal percentage behind the three point line.  I think they finished around 52 percent.  They made some big shots and were not able to close down some passing lanes.  We have to do a better job of guarding the basketball one on one, but also closing out on those shooters and get them to rush their shots.  It is going to be a back and forth game and we have to be able to make that one extra stop and one more basketball in the hoop,” said Mergel.

 

Published 2/22/17

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Madison Needs Good Start

  

          Madison plays at Mt. Vernon in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night and then takes its act to Willard for a non-conference game on Saturday night.

          The Rams dropped one (43-41) to the arch rival Mansfield Senior Tygers in “OCC” play last Friday.  Coach Tim Mergel says they weren’t too bad, but they didn’t make plays when they needed them most.  “I don’t think we played extremely horrible.  I thought Mansfield did a pretty good job of slowing them tempo of the game down.  You can point to some missed layups that we had point to some offensive rebounds that we gave up.  Those are magnified by the lack of possessions we had due to Senior High being very patient.  We had a pretty good effort from our kids, but unfortunately we came up a little bit short,” he said.

          Madison (11-8,6-6) plays at Mt. Vernon (9-11) in “OCC” play on Friday night.  The Yellow Jackets beat the Rams (60-53) on January 13.  They also upset Lexington (59-35) last Friday.

          Mergel says the Yellow Jackets have developed a more well rounded game and they have to be ready for that.  “I think they are very well coached.  They are very disciplined.  They play to their system very well.  You look at what they did to Lex.  They were able to force some turnovers.  They shot lights out against them.  That is what they have the ability to do.  The first time we played them they didn’t shoot it very well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “What they did is they took the ball to the basket extremely well and had a high success rate that I didn’t necessarily see at the beginning of the year.  So, they kind of have that inside and out thing going on.  It something we have prepared for.  Against Lexington they put some different schemes in defensively.  A lot of prep work goes into Friday night,”

          Mt. Vernon tends to be a very patient team and Mergel says you can’t afford to get behind a team like that.  He says they want to force the Yellow Jackets to play faster.  “You have to pick and chose your moments.  The big thing with them is anytime they get a lead on you they are going to try and stretch it out and take the air out of the basketball.  You have to take some chances and get some easy baskets.  We were able to heat them up a little bit in the second half and get us back in the ball game.  Unfortunately we just ran out of time,” said Mergel.

 

Published 2/15/17

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Madison Expects Fire From Tygers

  

          There is going to be a lot of pride on the line when Mansfield Madison travels to Pete Henry Gym to lock horns with Mansfield Senior in Ohio Cardinal Conference action on Friday night.

          Madison (11-7,6-5) has won its last three and four of its last six and coach Tim Mergel says they are getting back to full strength and playing pretty well right now.  “We are finally all healthy.  With that being said we have our big kid Koehler go down in the middle of the season and it took him four or five games to kind of get back and we kind of struggled during those games.  On the flip side of that some guys got some valuable minutes and I think that has kind of benefited us.  We are playing very good basketball, but Friday night is a different animal.  You can throw in the cross town rivalry and the fact that we beat them once already this season they are going to be gunning for us.  We know what to expect we just have to handle it,” he said.

          Mansfield Senior (4-14,3-9) beat West Holmes (45-31) on Tuesday night in “OCC” play.  They have changed their offense somewhat this year.  Mergel says they are really trying to spread you out.  “They are going to spread you out.  They are going to try and attack some gaps and try to get some straight line drives to the basket.  That is where individually we have to step up and be able to guard the basketball one on one, but if a help side situation comes up we have to have our rotations in place,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Anytime Senior High dribble penetrates in brakes you down a little bit and you risk giving up some rebounds.  We are preparing for it, but there is only so much preparation you can do, you have to execute.”

          Mansfield Senior does not have the overall height they have had in the past, but Mergel says the still rebound well.  “Having some time at Senior High early in my coaching career with their athleticism it felt like they jumped twice before you jumped once.  That is kind of what we have to get through to our kids.  We have to them checked off the glass before they beat you to it.  It’s not the first shot that is going to hurt you it is the second, third, and fourth.  If you give them those types of opportunities it is a difficult game to win,” said Mergel.

          Madison won at their place (53-50) on January 6.  Mergel says the Tygers will be out for some revenge.  “When you look at the down season that they are having what a better way to highlight their season than to knock us off.  That is kind of what we are relaying to our kids.  It’s a chance for them to regain their season it little bit by knocking rivals and we are playing basketball extremely well, so if they knock us off they are going to be feeling pretty good about themselves.  We don’t want that to happen we want to keep the momentum rolling into the tournament,” he said.

 

Published 2/09/17

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Humble Ajian Signs With Kentucky

  

          Tyrell Ajian is the kind of athlete that comes around once in a generation, but he is a kid that just wanted to play with his friends and be one of the guys.

          With hard work and dedication he is going to take his game to the next level.

          Wednesday, he signed a national letter of intent to play football next fall for the University of Kentucky.

          True to his character when he took the stage Wednesday in the high school library he wanted to thank everyone else.  “I would like to start off by thanking God and thank my family and all of my friends and everybody who supported me, coaches, teammates, everybody for always being by my side helping me, older brothers, playing with them in the backyard, giving me skills and tips on everything.  I have kind of used everything they have given me, even coaches too, when they talk and tell me things.  I use what they tell me.  I even pay attention to other people’s skills.  Sometimes I will take other people’s skills and turn them into mine.  You have to do what you can do to be successful,” said Ajian.

          He will leave Madison as the school’s all-time leader in pass receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.  He was All-Ohio as a junior and senior and selected as the eighth best safety in the country according to ESPN. 

          That being said that is not what why coaches praise him the most.  Athletic Director Doug Rickert says to Tyrell is has never been about him.  “He had every right to act like he was better than somebody else.  He never did that at school.  He never did that for his coaches or his teammates.  I remember when he was playing fifth and sixth grade basketball he was by far the best kid out there, but would make sure everybody else touched the basketball when he could score probably 50 points a game if he wanted to,” said Rickert.

          Ajian was offered a scholarship by 17 division one programs.  Jamie Masi, his head football coach his junior and senior years, says the college recruiting process can be a circus, but it never bothered Tyrell, he always stayed humble.  “He could really care less about stardom and to me he is just calm and cool,” he said, and Masi added when he got his first significant playing time as a sophomore his incredible talent was obvious to anyone that was watching.  “In 25 years of coaching, he was just a sophomore then, and I never saw a player that was as good as him,” he said.

Some college recruiters have been saying he is a kid that will end up playing the game on Sundays.  Masi says no matter what he does for a living he is going to be good, really good.  “Tyrell displays these intangible qualities of kindness, loyalty, enthusiasm, and sincere caring attitudes for those around him.  I have the up most confidence this young man is going to succeed in whatever he wants to do in life,” said Masi.

          His 3.4 GPA would testify to that fact.

          Ajian is equally as good in basketball where he is 1,000 point career scorer, All-Ohio Cardinal Conference and all-district.  Basketball coach Tim Mergel says he would be the school’s all time leading scorer if not for an injury his sophomore year.

          Sean Conway was his varsity football coach his freshman and sophomore years.  He says loyalty is what comes first to mind for him.  “What stands out to me is he is a Ram.  He had the opportunity to go other places.  He could have taken the easy way and he chose to stay at Madison.  He chose to battle with his friends.  He chose to be here and represent this community.  That is the most important thing I have learned about Tyrell Ajian,” he said.

          Ajian says it is his family that is most responsible for where he is at today.  “All in all I am glad to be attending the University of Kentucky to play football.  It started here with these two.  I wouldn’t be able to do a lot without them.  My parents are all I have got at the end of the day.  Everything always comes back to them,” he said.

 

Published 2/02/17

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Madison Happy With Time to Prepare

  

          Madison is hoping to build some momentum for the post season tournament coming up in less than a month and last weekend was a good way to get started.

          The Rams beat Clear Fork (60-49) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday and they took out River Valley (65-48) in anon-league game on Saturday.

          Coach Tim Mergel says they did a lot of good things in both games.  “I thought our guys did a good job taking care of business.  We jumped out on Clear Fork early and were able to hold onto a lead and then gradually wore down River Valley.  We shot the ball pretty well and I think that was a product of us being unselfish.  We had a high number of assists and that is always good.  I thought we did a good job on the glass this weekend,” said Mergel.

          With just one game this week Mergel says they have time to work on some things and that is a plus when it comes to continuing to get better as a team.  “The kids want to play every single day.  As coaches we understand that there are some conditioning issues and we need to get our legs back underneath us.  Last weekend we got tired at times going Tuesday, Friday, Saturday.  With four days of practice and one game this week I think will definitely benefit us,” he said.

          Madison (10-7,5-5) plays at home against West Holmes (1-15,1-9.) who is coming off a (47-37) loss to Mt. Vernon in league play last Friday.

          Mergel says the Knights have lost a lot of close games this year and if you let them play their game they can be tough.  “You look at their scores and they are in dang near every ballgame, take away Wooster, which I think you can say for every “OCC” team.  West Holmes does a good job.  They have a couple good guards that control the game pretty well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We are going to have to put them in an uncomfortable situation and maybe force the issue a little bit because if you let them pass the ball around and run their stuff they are pretty affective.”

          With the “OCC” this year there are a number of teams with different styles of play and Mergel says that has helped make them a more well rounded team.  “Our kids have done a good job of game preparation.  We go in and tell the guys it’s important to pick the tempo up a little bit and when play teams that are little quicker and more athletic than we are they understand ball protection and shot selection is important.  They understand the game and have some trust in the coaches and I think that has gone a long way,” he said.

 

Published 1/31/17

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Madison Needs to Get over the Top

  

          Madison played well Tuesday against Wooster, but still it wasn’t a win and that what they need more than anything when they play Clear Fork and River Valley Friday and Saturday.

          After having been blown out the first time they played unbeaten Wooster (87-49,) the Rams played better Tuesday night, but still lost (65-55) to the Generals.

          That is not good enough for Madison coach Tim Mergel.  “I am not really into moral victories and I am not going to claim a moral victory in this one, but you know what it the same old thing we were right in the game, but we didn’t have enough to get over the hump.  Sooner or later as a coaching staff we have to put out kids in a better position when we are not saying we are right there, we are right there.  We have to find ways to get over the top and get the win,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “As a coaching staff we have sat down and dissected what we are doing.  That being said I think we are playing pretty good basketball.  You can’t be too upset with a loss when you are looking at a 14-0 Wooster team that is ranked sixth in the state.  Once again we are not in it for moral victories we need to get over the top and be ahead on the scoreboard after 32 minutes.”

          Right now, Mergel says they are not making the big play when they have the chance.  “We are not having good possessions at crucial times.  We are trading baskets with people, but when we need get those shots that we really need we are not stepping up and making that big play.  As coaches we have to do a better job of getting our kids in the right situations.  One, getting them to understand the situation and work extremely hard to get that shot, but two also putting them at a spot on the floor where they are going to be successful.  It is something that as coaches we have to get corrected,” said Mergel.

          Madison (8-7,4-5) hosts Clear Fork (5-8,2-7) at their place on Friday night in Ohio Cardinal Conference action.  Mergel says the Colts have been though a little inconsistency, but that is expected.  “They are playing a freshmen point guard and playing some younger kids.  They do have some experience back, but you will go through some ups and downs, just like everybody does in a 22 game regular season.  Clear Fork is going to start playing better basketball, we know that, we saw that the first time that we played them.  We have to be ready and we can not let them have a good start Friday night,” he said.

          Madison beat Clear Fork (56-54) in their first meeting and Mergel says a goal on Friday night would be to stretch that advantage.  “The second time through the league you want to have a better performance than the first and we have been successful with that so far.  If we can continue that trend and taking those steps forward I like where our basketball team is heading.  Again we have to make those plays that put us over the top.  I am enjoying the guys and the guys are having fun and we seem to making that progress as we head toward tournament time,” he said.

 

Published 1/27/17

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Ajian’s Three Beats Lexington

  

          Tyrell Ajian’s 25 foot three pointer with 2.3 seconds left gave the Madison Rams a trilling (56-53) win at Lexington in Ohio Cardinal Conference action on Tuesday night.

          Ajian made four of Madison’s last five field goals and scored 19 of his team high 23 points in the second half.  “I’ll tell you it starts in the first half.  Tyrell is a great kid and knows how to conserve energy because he plays a ton of minutes for us.  He knows when he has it and when doesn’t and that has been a process for us trying to get him to understand that.  He conserved enough energy (Tuesday) night and he knows when he has to take over.  That is what a four year kid does,” said Madison coach Tim Mergel.

          Shamir Brown’s three pointer out of the right corner gave the Rams a (51-48) lead with 2:31 to play.  Ben Vore tied the game with 18 seconds left when he made the front end of a one and one, but he missed the second.  After Ajian’s three, the Minutemen were unable to get off a shot before the buzzer sounded.

          Lexington coach Scott Hamilton felt they defended to play well, but sometimes great players made big shots.  “I was just hoping we could keep up with him a couple of times.  He is a great athlete and he has the capability of taking over a game at any point.  We have known that for four years.  You try to make sure you are matched up with everybody.  The thing he is so good at is if you do lock him down, if you are capable of doing that, he just finds an open guy.  We pick and choose what we can and can’t do,” said Hamilton.

          Lexington led for most of the first three quarters of the game.  Holding a seven point lead in at the half (31-24) and two point lead (41-39) after three.

          The first half featured a lot of fast break action by both teams, while the second half was cauterized by more half court play.  Mergel thought they were able to make Lexington a little tired.  “The first half we wanted to be aggressive and we wanted to get out and run with them.  Our kids are tough kids.  There is no question they are tough kids.  We knew that if we could get them up and down and get them a little tired and put them is some uncomfortable situations we could have some success,” he said,

          Jaycob Stone gave Madison a (43-41) lead on a three with 6:32 left, but Lexington’s Cade Stover tired it at 43 with a layin.  Again it was Ajian with a three from the wing that gave the Rams a five point lead (48-43) with 4:40 remaining.  However, Lexington battled back to tie it when Stover muscled one in from the lane and added a free throw with 3:07 on the clock.

          Hamilton says they let the Rams have too many opportunities in the second half.  “It is like I told the guys the game was not won or lost on that very last play.  It was done way before that.  If you is going to make that shot from that range that reminds me of Naridin James hitting that shot from a similar spot a couple of years ago.  That is a tough shot to make.  That was just a good player making a good shot,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “Actually we thought he was going to try and get into the paint and maybe get to the line because he shoots free throws extremely well.  Give them credit they played really hard.  They took care of the ball, we did not.  18 turnovers for us, that is extremely high.  It was all my guards turning the ball over.  We have to regroup and come back strong.”

          Stover led everybody with 25 points for the Minutemen, but two of their starters went scoreless.  Mergel says Stover is almost impossible to stop and they knew that going in.  “We went in saying with Stover is as good as he is for a reason.  We know he is going to get his 22 and 15, but we couldn’t let him have 35 and 20.  So, we knew that going in.  So, we knew going in he is not a kid you can just shut down.  He reminds me a lot of Justin Larrick when I played with him.  Let him get his, don’t let other guys have career nights,” he said.

          Hamilton says they are looking for the right mix in their lineup and he thinks they had the right kids on the floor at the right time Tuesday night.  “You like to find the reason for that, but the bottom line you are dealing with 16, 17, 18-year-old kids.  You are just trying to find that mixture out on the floor on any given night on who is hot and who is not.  We had a couple of guys with conditioning issues and we are trying to get them up and down the floor as much as we can and get them rest knowing we have three games this week.  Coming down to it we thought we had the right line up in.  They took 22 threes, but it seems like the ones they hit were at key moments and really kept their emotion,” said Hamilton.

 

Published 1/18/17

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Madison with Lexington AND Ashland this week

  

          Madison has a pair of difficult road games in the Ohio Cardinal Conference this week with visits to Lexington on Tuesday night and Ashland on Friday night.

          The Rams were upset by Mt. Vernon (60-53) last Friday.  They were outscored (19-2) in the second quarter and coach Tim Mergel says the Yellow Jackets just got on a roll.  “To Mt. Vernon’s credit the finished at the basket much better than we have seen them do all year.  They have a couple of baskets go in and before you know their guys are feeling pretty good about themselves and form then on out it was an uphill battle for us.  We weren’t very efficient offensively to begin with.  We battled back and got it down to six at one point, but we just ran out of time,” said Mergel.

          Tyrell Ajian scored 25 points, but only four Rams scored.

          It is the second meeting between the Rams and the Minutemen this year.  In the first, Lexington rallied from down six in the fourth quarter to win (51-49) in overtime on December 9.

          Mergel says it is a win they would very much like to have.  “We are at the point in the season that as a coach I like to say they we have taken strides forward, which we have, but we have also taken some steps backwards in situations.  You are always searching for that game that puts you over the top and kind of gets you going and gives you momentum going into the tournament season.  We are searching for that one and hopefully Tuesday night is our night for that,” he said.

          Lexington (11-1,5-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, comes off a (58-48) win over Mansfield Senior.  In a number of games Lexington’s opponents have not scored 50 points.  Mergel says they would like the tempo to be faster, but that won’t be easy.  “I think Lex does a pretty good job of dictating tempo.  It is not that we are uncomfortable at that pace.  We would like to get out and run, but Lex is a team that if the opportunity presents itself they are going to run as well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They have some athletes that can run the floor.  They do a good job staying disciplined and they don’t give away many possessions by turning the ball over.  They know where their bread and butter is.  They know they can go inside to Stover and he can get the job done.  They don’t take terrible shots.  For us we have to be bend don’t break defensively and look to push the basketball when we can.”

          Madison (7-5,3-3) plays at Ashland (9-3,4-2) on Friday night in an “OCC” game.  It’s their first meeting.  Ashland is coming off a (75-41) thumping by Wooster last Friday.  Mergel says that result doesn’t mean a whole lot.  He says the Arrows are very good.  “Wooster is a team that can make you look worse than you are.  Wooster plays a style that not a lot of teams are accustomed to.  When you look at the Wooster-Ashland score it is definitely not indicative of what kind of team they are.  They have some great quality wins against some quality opponents.  Their height is going to give people problems and has given people problems.  For us it won’t be any different. We have to find creative ways to score.  They have a couple of guys that can shoot it up from the outside,” he said.

 

Published 1/17/17

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Madison Faces Perimeter Oriented Mt. Vernon

  

          To stay on the edge of the Ohio Cardinal Conference race, the Madison Rams must beat Mt. Vernon in an “OCC” game on Friday night.

          Right now, they trail unbeaten Wooster by two games.

          They rallied in the final minutes to beat arch rival Mansfield Senior (53-50) last week.

          Coach Tim Mergel says they showed a lot of toughness against the Tygers and they didn’t get rattled.  “When you look at kind of how it transpired.  We jumped and they got the lead at half, we get down and respond, we get down again in the second half and respond again.  There was never a sense of panic and that is kind of way it has been all year for us if you take out the Wooster game.  These kids have not panicked.  It starts with Tyrell (Ajian) being a four year starter and him kind of leading that.  We are really never out of a ballgame with the way we play defensively and some of the guys we have and their ability to score,” he said.

          Last Saturday night, the Rams lost (49-42) to Ontario in a non-conference game.  Mergel says that game reveled some things they need to do better when they game is close and especially in the second half of double weekends.  “We know we have some deficiencies.  I don’t think there was any question that we were tired, but we are not using that as an excuse.  We have to learn to be a little more efficient when the legs get tired and when we aren’t as mentally sharp as when we are fresh.   With some tipped balls and some loose balls, 50/50 balls, we didn’t win that battle. We are down two going into the fourth against a solid Ontario team playing some pretty good basketball.  I think our effort was fine we just have to get a little sharper,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We have to continue as a coaching staff to try and get our kids better and try put them in better situations in practice where they are going to have to concentrate a little bit more.  I think we have done a pretty good job of that this week going into Mt. Vernon.”

          Madison (7-4,3-2) plays host to Mt. Vernon (4-7,2-3) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.  The Yellow Jackets have a number of good outside shooters, but they have shown some inconsistency, according to Mergel.  “I think it is a double edged sword when you kind of live and die by that three point shot or live or die on the perimeter.  They are a team that is not blessed with a lot of size, but they have a lot of guards that can fill it up.  We have to do our best to kind of rush them off some spots and force them into some uncomfortable situations.  Once they get a couple going through the hole they can get it rolling.  Watching them against Clear Fork on film they are a different team that you saw against Lexington.  Against Lex I think they gave them three quarters, but kind of fell apart in the fourth.  Anytime they are shooting the ball well it is going to be a tough game to come out on top,” said Mergel.

 

Published 1/13/17

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Madison Takes Two on it’s Biggest Rivals

  

          Expect big crowds this weekend at Madison High School as the Rams host arch rival Mansfield Senior in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night and then non-conference rival Ontario on Saturday.

          Their last game over the Christmas break resulted in a (43-31) win at West Holmes last Friday.

          Coach Tim Megrel says they did a number of things well, almost everything except shooting the basketball.  “We did I thought a lot of good things.  Starting of defensively I thought we really set the tone.  Kind of made them do what we wanted to do.  Offensively I thought we did a decent job at getting good looks we just didn’t shoot the ball very well.  I think we were 0-13 from behind the arc in the first half.  We were able to connect on a couple of them in the second half.  We just couldn’t get the easy ones to fall.  Half of the battle is just getting in the right position we just have to finish the other half of the battle off,” he said.

          Despite not shooting well, Mergel says his guys found a way to win the game.  “We kind of challenged our guys at halftime.  It wasn’t lack of offense it was converting those opportunities which we weren’t doing.  So, we knew we were in for a struggle offensively, so we challenged our guys defensively to finish each possession and offensively you are going to get some shots to fall.  You have to win those defensive possessions in games like that.  I think we gave up 22 in the first half and only nine points in the second half.  Our guys were definitely up to the challenge and we were able to get a couple of shots to fall,” said Mergel.

          Mansfield Senior (1-7,1-3,) their only win in triple overtime over Mt. Vernon, plays at Madison (6-3,2-2) in Ohio Cardinal Conference game.  The Tygers have struggled to get wins, but Mergel believes they will turn it around.  “It is early in the season.  They have some younger kids.  I think things are going to come their way.  For us hopefully that is not Friday night and our kids are going to be ready.  It is a similar game plan as far what they are going to try and do as far as what they are going to do to try and attack you.  They just have some kids that are a step behind right now and they are going to get caught up.  They have tremendous athletes.  They are going to start playing better basketball and it is up to us to keep them from doing that,” said Mergel.

          There is a lot of emotion associated with the “Battle of Mansfield” and Mergel says it usually produces exciting results.  “There is always that good chance that something special is going to happen whether it is an individual performance or a team performance.  Whether it is a last second shot.  You are always going to something out of these types of games because so much emotion is involved with the cross town rivalry.  We just try to get through to our kids to enjoy the moment and it is moments like these that you don’t forget,” he said.

          Ontario (5-4) brings a three game winning streak to Madison on Saturday night.  Mergel believes they are finding their grove a little bit.  “It is kind of similar with some new guys stepping in at Mansfield Senior and Ontario.  They have some kids in some roles that they weren’t quite in last year.  Ontario has taken a step forward quicker than Mansfield Senior and their guys are starting to get comfortable,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They were little bit up and down at the beginning of the year, but they have seemed to hit their stride with three straight wins.  It is going to be a good weekend and a fun weekend.  When you see Mansfield Senior and Ontario back to back that is a good schedule as far as competition wise and especially for community involvement.”

 

Published 1/04/17

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Madison Must Learn from Last Week

  

          Last Friday night was not a pleasant experience for the Madison Rams, but they have to learn from it.

          Wooster drilled the Rams (87-49) in an “OCC” game.  Coach Tim Mergel says the Generals forced them into a lot of empty possessions and that is never good.  “They are very athletic and they shot the ball extremely well.  We did some uncharacteristic things and you have to credit them for some of the pressure they applied to us and they got us into some things that we weren’t quite comfortable doing.  I think out of our first 10 possessions we had nine turnovers and one shot.  Against a good basketball team and you give them that many extra opportunities you are setting yourself up for not a very good outcome and it turned out that way for us.  We have to get back on it, get some good practices in at the break, and get ready to go to West Holmes,” he said.

          Madison is going to play Wooster again in about a month in the second round of “OCC” play and coach Mergel says they absolutely must learn from what happened last week.  “In the locker room after the game I said we are not going to forget this one.  We have to play them again that is the kind of game when you come back and play them the second time you look for some kind of improvement,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We have to see what we did deficiently and what we can execute on better offensively, and how we can take care of the ball better.  Going in we were averaging 11 or 12 turnovers a game and I think we eclipsed that mark by the beginning of the second quarter.  There are some things we need to touch up on.  I don’t think it is one of those times when you file it away, maybe latter in the year, but we get another crack at them and we are going to try and prepare the best we can the next time around.  You watch that film and hopefully you get better for the future games as well.”

          Madison (5-3,1-2) travels to West Holmes (0-7,0-3) for an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.  The Knights lost Tuesday night to Sugarcreek Garaway (67-48) in non-league play.

          Despite a winless record, Mergel says the Knights will be no pushover, evidence being a 10 point loss (57-47) to unbeaten Lexington last week.  “Just by watching them they go down to Mt. Vernon and I thought played a pretty good game against Mt. Vernon, the score wasn’t indicative of that.  Mt. Vernon shot the ball extremely well.  You take the Lexington film and you look at that and those kids are playing hard.  We went down there last year and we had a dogfight on our hands for three and half quarters.  Those kids are playing well and coach Troyer always does a good job.  His first year in the league he won a league title.  He knows he has to prepare his kids well for us.  They always seem to get up for us.  Whenever they see the green and white we know we are going to get their best effort,” said Mergel.

 

Published 12/28/16

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Madison Anxious to Play Wooster

  

          So far, Wooster has beaten everybody they have seen, could it be Madison that hands them their first loss?  The Rams are chomping at the bit to find out.

          Madison hosts Wooster in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.

          The Rams won their third straight game Wednesday night in beating Norwalk (60-46) in non-conference play.

          Coach Tim Mergel says they did a very good job of finding second and third options, especially Jaycob Stone.  “Steve (Gray) does a good job of what I like to call the Bill Belickick theory that he wants to take out your superstars.  I don’t want to say he took out Tyrell and Kyle, but he definitely made things tougher on them and when they do that you have to have other guys step up.  Jake Stone just had a monster game going seven for nine behind the arc and finishing with 24.  In order to be a good basketball team those are the types of efforts you have to have night in and night out having other guys step up,” said Mergel.

          Mergel says they need to continue to get some balance on offense because that makes them hard to guard.  “In years past we have struggled to find some secondary scoring options and this year we have been the beneficiary of some big games out of some guys.  Cal Rickert’s scoring is up this year Judiah Fields had three threes at Clear Fork, Koehler had a big game against Bellevue.  Tuesday night it was Jake Stone’s turn.  We are getting contributions from everyone and that has to be consistent,” he said,

          Wooster (6-0,2-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, plays at Madison (5-2,1-1) on Friday night.

          Mergel says the Generals are just very athletic as a team and he knows both teams are going to bring a lot of passion to the game.  “They are long, they are strong, they are fast, they jump high, they are shooting the ball well.  You can’t say many negatives about them.  They are number in your power poll and number one in the “OCC” for a reason.  They play the game extremely hard.  They have kind of a chip on their shoulder about them.  It is a challenge for us, but looking back at last year and a couple of years ago we had them on the ropes at our place.  Last year, we just couldn’t quite get over the hump.  It is something our kids are anxious for,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We are looking forward to it.  We are playing some pretty good basketball right now.  We know there are going to be some runs in that game.  There is going to be some chipiness in that game.  We are going to do our best to play as hard as we can.  I keep preaching to our kids the harder you play the more mistakes you are going to cover up.  That is kind of where we are going this Friday.”

          Last season Wooster was very good too, but they got a very high percentage of their scores either on fast breaks or off turnovers.  Mergel says they are better this year in the half court.  “They have a kid over from Northwestern in the Smith kid and he is an added threat for them.  He is a good outside shooter.  I think they are bringing a lot to the table.  They are going to be Helter Skelter and trap you anywhere and everywhere.  They are going to look to get some cheep easy baskets off steals.  This is where you have to limit your turnovers.  We know we are going to have some, but we have to have the dead ball turnovers.  If we have a turnover maybe we throw it out of bounds.  If we turn it over it is just a five second call.  At least give our defense a chance to get some stops on our end.  It is about how your kids are made up.  I like where we are at right now.  We were in some situations in some tight ballgames where we didn’t necessarily succeed last year or even at the beginning this year.  Like I said our kids are anxious and we are ready go.  I walk into the locker room after the Norwalk game and right away we are talking about Wooster.  It was good to hear from the kids,” said Mergel.

 

Published 12/23/16

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Madison Improving on Both Ends

  

          Just where this season will end for the Madison Rams is a long way from being determined, but if they continue to have the attitude of wanting to get better it will probably be pretty good.

          They won two games last weekend, beating Clear Fork (56-54) in overtime in Ohio Cardinal Conference play on Friday night and handling Bellevue (62-46) as part of the “OCC/NOL” challenge on Saturday.

          The week before they had lost in overtime to Lexington (51-49) and this time against Clear Fork coach Tim Mergel says they found a way to win a close game.  “We kind of put ourselves in a position in a close game.  I thought we controlled the game pretty well in the first half.  We definitely took a step forward and had some good possessions toward the end of the fourth quarter and overtime.  We were pretty efficient.  The film work definitely paid off and the guys bought into what we are trying to achieve.  The execution was much better than last week,” said Mergel.

          They outscored Bellevue (20-4) in the second quarter on Saturday afternoon.  Mergel says they got better last weekend.  “I felt we took that step forward.  It’s early in the season, but any steps forward you can take forward and show a little progress and anytime you go down to Clear Fork and get a win, we struggled their in the past it is always a difficult place to play.  Steve (Bechtel) has his guys playing well and we were just fortunate to come out on top,” he said.

          Senior guard Tyrell Ajian is the Rams leading scorer (17.1) PPG and that is no surprise.  Mergel says he does a lot more than just score, but they need to get him some rest too.  “Tyrell, we really ask him to do a lot for us and he does a lot for us.  We are at a point his year where he has logged a lot of minutes.  We have some guys that are starting to get a little comfortable.  Judiah Fields played well Friday night, Cal Rickert played well for us.  We are going to try and get some more guys on the court and get Tyrell a little bit of rest,” he told Swankonsports.com, “Anytime we can get a break for him and keep him fresh for the second half we are going to try and do that.  He has been a great player for us for four years, not only in basketball, but on the football field.  I think he is going to go onto a pretty successful career in football.  You can’t say enough about the kid and the match-up problems that he brings for other teams.”

          Madison (4-2) plays at home against Norwalk (1-3) in a non conference game on Wednesday night.  The Truckers also won a game in the “OCC/NOL” challenge on Saturday, beating Mt. Vernon (54-50) in game played at Ontario High School.

          Norwalk plays really good defense and Mergel says that is what they try to do too.  “We try to be good at a couple of things and one of them is defense.  Our kids have kind of bought into the system and what we are trying to accomplish.  We try and keep it as simple as possible, but above all else you have to play hard.  For the most part it has worked out for us. We just want to make it extremely difficult for other teams.  We try to give a half a second to get off shots, but at the same time you have to finish off possessions by getting the rebound and that is always a point of emphasis.  We did a great job in the first half against Clear Fork and they made some adjustments.  Defense is one of the things we hang our hat on and we try to get better each and every week.  We are at the point know where we are going to have make some changes defensively and give some different looks,” said Mergel.

 

Published 12/20/16

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Madison Must Concentrate on Improving

  

          Madison has played four pretty good teams so far this year and they have split those four games, losing to both Lexington and Sandusky last weekend.

          They play at Clear Fork in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night and Bellevue as part of the “OCC/NOL” challenge at Ontario High School on Saturday.

          The Rams (2-2,0-1) lost a tough overtime game to rival Lexington (51-49) last Friday and then dropped a decision to the talented Sandusky Blue Streaks (63-51) on Saturday night in non-conference play. 

          Coach Tim Mergel says a lack of execution in the late going against Lexington cost them a win.  “We were in both games.  On Friday night a lack of execution kind of did us in with just some inpatient things that we did and there we obviously some learning points there when you watch film.  They were two highly competitive games against a couple of good opponents.  We have to find ways to win those ones in the future,” said Mergel.

          He says that is they are going to be one of the better basketball teams in the area they have to have the willingness to continue to improve as a unit.

“To be a good basketball team and be considered one of the upper echelon teams you have to see improvement and that is what we are striving to do.  We are looking to improve this weekend and if are put in those situations again we are looking for that improvement.  You are hoping that once these situations come up your kids come up with the right plays,” said Mergel.

          Madison plays at Clear Fork (2-1,0-1) on Friday night in “OCC” action.  Clear Fork got 31 points from Chance Barnett and beat River Valley (68-47) in a non-league game on Tuesday night.

          Mergel says playing in the valley, this being the last time Madison will be doing that with Clear Fork opting to leave the league, is always tough.

“They have everybody back plus they are throwing in a freshman that has some skill.  It is never easy to go down and play at Clear Fork.  When you go down there it is a different atmosphere a different setting and coach Bechtel’s kids always play hard,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Nothing is a given in this league as usual.  This league has so much competition that at any point and time if you look at a Friday or Saturday score you are not really surprised if you are looking for so called upsets.  I don’t know if we are considered the favorite or not, but definitely know we are going to up for a challenge.”

          Bellevue (2-1) beat Plymouth (48-45) in a non-league game on Monday night.  Mergel says the Redmen are going to execute their stuff very well.  “I have known coach (Ed) Rich for a long time from his time at Galion.  Just from watching them a little bit so far they seem to always run their stuff well.  I went and watched them when they played Plymouth on Monday.  What I saw was what I expected, a very well coached team.  They have some height inside and they have a couple of guards that can shoot it.  Once again like last weekend it is going to be a challenge for us,” said Mergel.

 

Published 12/14/16

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Madison Host Defending “OCC” and “NOL” Champs

  

          Madison has two quality wins to its credit already this season, but they face a difficult weekend as they host last year’s champs in both the Ohio Cardinal Conference and Northern Ohio League.

          The Rams beat Shelby (61-49) last Friday and traveled Olentangy and to win (61-60) Tuesday night.

          Coach Tim Mergel has a smile on his face.  “Anytime you win a couple of ballgames to begin the season you feel pretty good about yourself.  We know the challenge that lies ahead of us.  We haven’t played a conference game yet, so right now we are right in the middle of the pack in the conference until there is separation.  We will take two wins against two solid opponents to start off,” he said.

          Kyle Jackson scored more than 20 points in both of those wins and Mergel says he is a different player this year.  “I was talking with my assistant coach on the bus on the way back (Tuesday) night.  Kyle has a different look in his eye this year.  Last year he was kind of that guy with the wide eyes.  This year he has kind of surprised us and taken that role he knows he is supposed to one of the guys.  He has taken his level of competitiveness up a notch and it is definitely paying some dividends,” said Mergel.

          Lexington is also unbeaten after wins over Northmor (68-48) on Friday and Willard (70-37) on Saturday.  Mergel says this is another outstanding Lexington team.  “They are the champs until somebody knocks them off.  It is kind ironic they win the “OCC” last year and they knock us out of the tournament in the districts and here we are opening up “OCC” action with them.  It is going to be a fun night.  It is going to be an interesting night.  I think the crowd is going to be great.  It is always fun when us and Lex get together,” he said.

          Cade Stover started last year as a freshmen and he is better this year.  Mergel says he is tough to keep off the boards.  “I have went through scouting reports on a lot of teams and to be honest he is the only guy I have ever scouted to keep a guy off the glass.  The guy just has a nose for the basketball.  They will put up some ugly numbers on you if you are not careful,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “He is a big concern, but they have some other guys coming back with Nickoli coming back shooting from the perimeter.  The point guard I think handles himself pretty well.  There are some other pieces there, but obviously Stover is a key point.”

          Sandusky (0-1) lost to Ashland (60-59) last Friday.  They are very talented led by senior Jayreese Williams, last year’s division two player of the year.  Mergel says the Blue Streaks are athletic.  “I was just talking to Ashland and they have played them already and knocked them off by one to get some insight from coach Hess.  He says they are all athletic and the Jayreese (Willianms) is as good as advertised.  Obviously Friday night is kind of what we are putting our target on.  It is two great match ups to see where we stand,” he said.

 

Published 12/08/16

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Madison and Shelby Square off

  

          Madison hosts Shelby on Friday night in one of the premier games on the opening night of the boys’ basketball season.

          Rams coach Tim Mergel says they have looked pretty good in the preseason, but you are never sure what you are going to get on the opening night.  “I don’t think any coach if you asked them is going to say, yeah, 100 percent we are ready to go.  I know we are 100 percent healthy up to this point.  We have had some good practices, we have had some good scrimmages leading up to this point.  When you look at game one all of the way through the season to game 22 of the regular season you are a totally different team.  I expect this year to be no different than that.  One thing I know is our guys are ready to roll,” he said.

          Shelby has had only two scrimmages due to a long football season, so it is going to be difficult to anticipate what you will get.  Mergel says it is a game when his older guys have to show leadership.  “We have such a small sample size with Shelby given with a shorten preseason with their football success.  It is going to be difficult at first as players and coaches to get a read,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “You hope when the lights come on and people are paying at the gate to come watch that your kids are going to react in a positive way.  We have some good leadership back, we have some returning lettermen back.  I don’t think the lights are going to be as bright this year for some of them.  We are expecting those guys to step up and lead us through these first couple of games anyhow and obviously that will be big against Shelby.”

          The Whippets say they are going to be kind of vanilla, but Mergel says they have got guys that can make plays and that is what counts.  “They have guys that can flat out handle the ball.  They have guys that can flat out shoot the ball.  They can say they are vanilla all they want, but you have to be able to guard the basketball one on one.  You talk last year we were right with them for a half and then the dribble penetration completely broke us down and they are kicking it to outside shooters who are knocking them down.  They have great athletes.  They have great guys that can handle the ball.  They have some length they are putting on the floor.  At anytime they can knock down shots, so they are a great challenge to us,” said Mergel.

          This is a game that both schools take a lot of pride in and Mergel says a possible win over Shelby means a lot.  “It is a good way to get the season started.  It is always a good win to hang your hat on.  You look through and we are in the same division now, the same draw.  This game is big in a lot of ways and carries a lot of weight throughout the season.  It kind of puts that tournament atmosphere right at the beginning of the season.  It always makes it fun.  The stands are going to be packed, the student sections are going to be rocking.  When you wake up Saturday morning it is a good feeling if you come up with a win that you can kind of hang your hat on for the rest of the year,” said Mergel.

 

Published 12/02/16

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Madison Has Good Attitude

  

          Madison basketball players like to be in the gym and they are showing the kind of positive energy that can lead to a good season for the Rams this winter.

          Coach Tim Mergel, a Madison grad himself, says his kids are working hard to be ready for the season that is supposed to start against Shelby in a little over two weeks.  “I love the group of kids that we have got here.  We had over 50 try out this year and getting it down to where we are at was a tough thing to do.  The group we have I am enjoying it.  I think practice is fun.  They are working hard.  They are tired when they are done, so that means they are putting in the effort.  Every day is a fun day to walk through the gym doors,” he said.

         With Shelby still in the football playoffs that opener may be moved back to later in the season.

          Mergel says sports is about winning, but it is about other things too.  He says he is proud of the kind of young men they have and have had in their program.  “A lot of people gauge of success of a program on wins and losses and there is a lot to be said for that.  I more than any coach want to win, but I think when you can walk into a gym and you can get a good practice in and you can teach principals and the characteristics of what a good life is going to be they can take those habits out to the outside world and that is one thing that we shoot for here at Madison, at least since I started here.  I think over the last three or four years we have put kids of high character out there.  When people come into the gym they are going to walk out of the gym and say Madison is a hard working group,” said Mergel.

          Rebound and shooting ability are concerns for the Rams, but Mergel believes with the athleticism they have they are going to be able to find some ways to score.  “Every year it seems like we are fighting the battle of height here at Madison.  We don’t have much height considering what conference we are in.  This year is no different.  We have a little bit of length to us, but rebounding is always a concern.  We are not blessed with the perimeter shooting.  We are going to have to use some of or athletic ability.  We are going to have to use some of our defensive ability to kind of create our own scoring opportunities,” he told Swankonsports.com courtside when we visited the Rams on Monday, “You set here and harp on the negatives and you think how in the heck are you going to put the ball in the hole, but we have some kids that can get up and down the floor and we have some kids with a high basketball I.Q., so I think we will try and turn up the tempo a little bit, but not get too greedy and not play out of control.

 

Published 11/15/16

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Battle of Mansfield for Pride

  

          Madison hosts Mansfield Senior in the renewal of one of the better big school rivalries in North Central Ohio on Friday night at Ram Field at Startek Stadium.

          There are no playoffs and no conference titles on the line, but a whole lot of pride.  “It is a great rivalry and we are very proud to be part of it.  Our kids embrace it, the coaches embrace it.  You can throw the record books out and we will be excited,” said Madison coach Jamie Masi.

          Madison (2-7,0-5) played one of their better football games last week in losing (42-20) to Ashland in “OCC” play.  Masi says again they did some nice things on offense, they just couldn’t finish the deal.  “We have done things pretty well on that side of the ball.  We have done some things on the defensive side of the ball pretty well too, but we are just not able to finish.  We give up too many big plays.  We had two turnovers again Friday night and those hurt you.  It’s 28-20 in the fourth quarter against what we think is a pretty good Ashland team, but we can’t finish it,” he said.

          Mansfield Senior (5-4,3-2)  has lots of athletic football players again this year.  Beginning with Brian Benson, who is Mansfield Senior’s all time leading rusher, but Masi says it doesn’t end there.  “They have guys everywhere.  Brian Benson is a phenomenal football player.  I have heard nothing but good things about his character.  We are going to have our hands full with him,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I think Chioke Bradley has done a great job with him and a bunch of other guys as well whether it is Jornell Manns, who is a division one recruit, the Chapman kid, and a bunch of other football players.  I think the quarterback plays very well.  They are very young up front, but they have some very good skilled players around them that present a lot of challenges for us.”

          Defensively, like the Rams, the Tygers have given up some points this year.  Mansfield Senior has allowed more than 40 four times this fall, while the Rams have done it six times. 

          Masi says the Tygers are still pretty athletic on that side of the ball.  “A lot of it stems around the kids I have already mentioned, guys playing on both sides of the ball.  They are extremely athletic.  I think they do a good job scheme wise of taking away what most teams do best.  They have struggled and they have given up some big plays themselves.  It is going to come down in my opinion to who takes care of the football and who can tackle put themselves in position to win the game in the end,” said Masi.

 

Published 10/27/16

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Madison Needs to Get Match-Ups

  

          Madison is a football team looking for the right answers with two weeks left in their season.

          They host Ashland in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.

          The big problem for the Rams (2-6,0-4) is they haven’t been able to stop anyone on defense pretty much all year.  Last week, Canal Fulton Northwest beat them (56-36) in a non-conference game.

          Coach Jamie Masi says that is what is plaguing them.  “It is the same problem we have been having for quite a while we are just struggling defensively whether it is tackling, the size match ups.  It has just been a steady problem for us,” he said.

          This week they play a team in Ashland who is one of the more explosive teams in the area.  Masi says this year they have done it with a couple quarterbacks this year.  “I think Scott Valentine and his staff do a great job.  Traditionally they have a good mix between run and pass.  They do the empty and the five wide stuff.  They are very good at motioning people in the backfield.  They run a few different things.  They don’t run a lot of things, but what they do run they run very, very well,” he said.

          Against Ashland Masi says they try to get one on one match-ups and you try to avoid them.  “You play your favorite zone, you try to bring pressure and play some man and anytime you get a an athlete in a one on one match up it is scary because you are forced to bring a guy down by yourself.  It is very good of them the way they run their offense to get those match ups,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They have great height.  They have two kids that are 6’4” or 6’6”.  I think their quarterback is a pretty good kid that is able to throw the ball all over the field.  They have some really good kids skilled wise and any of those guys can make things happen.  They are definitely a dangerous match-up for us to bring these guys down all over the field.”

          Ashland (5-3,3-1) is just a game behind “OCC” leader Lexington is coming off one its better defensive performances of the season in a (23-14) win at Clear Fork last week.  However, they have allowed more than five touchdowns three times this year.  Masi hopes they can score some points and give themselves a chance to win.  “Traditionally Ashland has had a pretty good defense, but this year they are giving up some points.  We will see if we can put our guys in the open space situations and get our running game going.  That is what we are working on this week.  There were times last week when we were able to do that and we were able to score some points.  We have scored around 30 points the last two games.  If we can do some things and get that offense rolling I think we have a good shot,” he said.

 

Published 10/19/16

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Madison Still Searching

  

          2016 has been a frustrating year for the Madison Rams football team so far.  Hopefully the final three weeks will be better.

          It starts on Friday night with a game at home at Startek Stadium at Ram Field in non-conference play against Canal Fulton Northwest.

          Last week, the Rams (2-5,0-4) lost (31-28) to Clear Fork in a game in Ohio Cardinal Conference play in which they carried an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter.

          Coach Jamie Masi says they executed well at times, but they were not consistent enough.  “At times I thought the boys played really well.  I thought we did some good things.  I don’t think we turned the ball over, which is something that has been hurting us in the past,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Give Clear Fork some credit they did a nice job.  We had our chances, but it just fell the wrong way and we ended up in the loss column again.  Frustrating, but I think our guys are still plugging away and giving us good effort.”

          Tackling has been an issue for the Rams this year and Masi says it still is.  “Tackling is something we have to get better at.  Going into the fourth quarter we are winning the game 20-12 and Clear Fork didn’t do anything special.  I mean they ran a formation we kind of expected them to run, try to out flank us a little bit.  We adjusted, but we just aren’t getting the job done sometimes with tackling,” said Masi.

          Masi says there are some numbers issues this year at Madison and they just have to do a better job as a coaching staff getting around those hurdles that they face.  “We have to do a better job getting our kids prepared.  Finding a way to practice where they can be successful.  With our numbers so low it just has been a thorn in our side.  We will do everything we can to get better,” he said.

          Canal Fulton Northwest (4-3) posted a (17-6) win over Warrensville Heights last week.  After scoring a bunch of points the first month of the season, they have been slowed down the last three weeks by some better teams.

          Masi says the Indians are going to try and be physical with them at the point of attack.  “They are a smash mouth football team, very physical.  They do a great job up front.  The have some very good big kids that lead the way for some pretty good skilled kids.  It will be challenge there.  Defensively they have been a little up and down as well.  Last week they looked phenomenal, so we will see how we do,” he said.

 

Published 10/13/16

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Madison Rethinking Some Things

  

          Madison has lost all three of its Ohio Cardinal Conference games so far going into a home game with Clear Fork on Friday night.

          The Rams fumbled the ball the first time they touched it last Friday and Lexington overwhelmed them (49-6) in an “OCC” game at Lexington.

          Coach Jamie Masi says they made a lot of mistakes early and you can’t do that against a team as good as the Minutemen.  “Give them some credit I thought they came out and they were excited and they were definitely prepared and did a good job.  We fumbled the ball the very first play of the game and I think they got it on about the one or two and we got down 7-0 and we got down 14-0 right after that.  We had a couple of turnovers and before you know it in a blink of an eye is was 22-0.  It took us completely out of our game plan.  We were fighting an uphill battle all night long,” he said.

          Madison has lost its conference games by at least 20 points and Masi says they might have to come out and do something different against Clear Fork because what they doing know isn’t working.  “When you are trying to play from behind it is hard for us to establish the run to begin with.  Then when we feel like we have to play catch up we just make even more mistakes.  As a coach you try not to be in that position and keep everybody cool, you know, hang in there, we have weapons, we have the ability to make a come back here.  You hate to talk from that point of view all of the time, but gosh that is what we have been doing.  Defensively we are struggling,” he told Swankonsports.com on Sunday evening, “We are struggling in about every area on defense.  I take a lot of the blame with all of it.  We have got to find a way to do all of the little things right.  Maybe it’s our scheme, maybe we are trying to do some things that we have been successful with in the past, but it doesn’t fit the talent that we have right now.  We have to do some soul searching and see if we can find a way to right the ship here.”

          Clear Fork (2-4,0-3) has also lost all three of its conference games, including (42-20) last week to Wooster. 

          They led the Generals (14-0) at one time last week and Masi says the Colts have some players that can do some things.  “They are definitely a capable team.  They have done a nice job they are scoring points.  They are really close in some games.  They played Senior High to the wire.  I thought they played well at times against Wooster Friday night very sound football.  Like us mistakes one way or another kills them.  I think it going to come down to who makes the fewest mistakes on Friday to be honest,” he said.

 

Published 10/03/16

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Tackling, Tackling, Tackling for Madison

  

          Madison has continued to struggle on defense this year and that going to continue unless they become better tacklers.

          They gave up more than 300 yards rushing last week, four runs of more than 50 yards, in a (48-24) loss to West Holmes in Ohio Cardinal Conference play last Friday.

          Coach Jamie Masi says they haven’t been physical enough and that has to change.  “The biggest problem we are having right now is tackling.  I’ll be honest with you we are not very physical at times.  When you have to tackle some pretty good running backs, which is what we have seen, we are in trouble.  I think our kids are giving great effort and working very hard to get better.  We have a couple of hurdles we have to get over and the first one is tackling,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Once we get that soured up I think we are going to be better off.  We are in a bad spot, like a lot of teams, we don’t have a lot of depth.  We don’t have a lot of scout team guys to give you the look that you might see on a Friday night.  We are still adjusting to the speed.  You would hope that after four or five games we would have it down, but we are kind of hit and miss right now.  That is what we have to get better at.”

          Madison (2-3,0-2) travels to face rival Lexington (3-2,1-0) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.

          The Minutemen beat Mt. Vernon (34-15) in a non-conference game last week.  They have not allowed more than 17 points in a game this season.  Masi says the Minutemen really fly to the football.  “I think they do a great job of rallying to the ball.  All of their guys are relentless at pursuit.  It seems like they really understand their scheme.  They have been running that scheme for quite a while and they are very good at it.  The biggest thing that stands out is they have 11 hats going to the ball and when you are doing that a lot of good things are happening.  On the defense side of the ball they have been making play after play after play.  That defense is pretty good,” he said.

          Lexington’s offense has played better the last two games and Masi says they have some guys that can make big plays.  “I think they do a really good job getting the ball to their skilled players.  I think their running back is very good.  He is shifty and a physical kid.  Their quarterback Pfizenmayer does a really good job of running their offense.  He is a fast kid that I think doesn’t get the credit.  I think he can throw the ball very well.  They are doing some very neat things offensively.  Whether it is a run pass option read or simply the scheme they are running for that game.  They do a great job of executing.  They have guys on the perimeter that catch the ball and run very well.  When you put all of that with a line that they have that has been together for a while and is physical up front.  They have just got things rolling.  When they are clicking, look out, they are really good,” said Masi.

 

Published 9/27/16

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Madison Needs to Get Healthy

  

          Coming off a loss last week against unbeaten Wooster, the Madison Rams are trying to get healthy and get focused for an “OCC” game at West Holmes.

          Wooster blanked Madison (38-0) last week and Rams coach Jamie Masi says the Generals are just very good.  “They are one of the better teams we have seen in quite a while.  I think they are well coached.  I think they are exceptionally gifted.  They make very few mistakes.  They have things rolling right now.  They look pretty good,” he said.

         Masi says one of their goals this week is just to try and get healthy.  “We are pretty banged up.  We were a little banged up going into that one last week, so we are trying to get healthy.  We are trying to get guys ready to play in a couple of different spots.  That is always a little concerning.  I think we have kids that are working very hard.  Our coaching staff is trying to get everybody ready to go, but it is going to be a big challenge for us to get a “W” here,” he said.

          Madison (2-2,0-1) pays a visit to West Holmes (0-4,0-1,) who lost to Ashland (35-7) last Friday.  Masi says despite their record this is a petty good West Holmes football team.  “They are very similar.  They run the wing-T in their unbalanced.  They are very physical running backs.  They have a couple of different guys playing weekly.  I think they do a great job coaching the team.  I think the things they do out that set can drain on you throughout the night.  We expect a very physical game from them,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I think also the other thing is they are spreading the ball a little more than they have in the past.  I think 90 percent of their offense is similar to what they have done.  Defensively they are similar to what they have done in the past when coach Maltrich was the coach.  You just don’t know how they will line up to our guys, so we have to be ready for whatever.”

          Running the ball out of the wing-T is West Holmes bread and butter, and Masi says they are very good at blocking for their running backs.  “They are so good at pulling guards.  They wrapping so quick that they have got guys in your linebackers face and you are relying on your secondary to make plays.  Then once the secondary gets up there and starts stopping the run they are good at their quick passing game.  I think they are very good.  I know their record doesn’t indicate that, but they have played some really good football teams in an Ashland team that is playing well, they played Steubenville, the Big Red is always an extremely good football team, New Philly.  On week one they lost by a point to Triway.  They are a lot better than their record shows right now.  I am sure they are going to be excited.  We are their homecoming game.  It’s a chance for them to get into the win column.  So, we better be ready because they are very, very good,” said Masi.

 

Published 9/21/16

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Rams Host Very Good Wooster

  

          Madison plays host to Wooster this week in the opener for both schools in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

          After building a big first half lead last week, Madison had to rally on a late Tyrell Ajian touchdown to beat Toledo St. Francis (46-41) for their second win in a row.  Coach Jamie Masi says they are showing some improvement, but that has to continue.  “We have put some things together and feel pretty comfortable about some things, but we still have a lot of things we have to get better at, especially with it being Wooster this week,” he said.

          It’s important to get a good start in league play, but Masi says they want to focus one week at a time rather that trying to figure out if they are league contenders before any league games are played.  “We try not to look at the whole season at once and try not to look at the league all at the same time.  We are just looking at one opponent at a time.  So, without thinking about all of the different goals that we have set before the season started we feel it is really important to focus on who are current opponent is.  So, no matter if we are playing the best team in the league or someone that hasn’t won a game yet we want to go out with the same approach that we want to play our best game that we could possibly play and do the very best that we can,” said Masi.

          Wooster (3-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, blew out Mt. Vernon (44-8) last week.  Masi says the Generals are good all over the field.  “I think they do a lot of things well.  First of all I think they are extremely well coached.  I have a lot of respect for coach Haas and his staff.  They have some really good, talented athletes, whether if it’s some guys at wide receiver that create some mismatches for us or a really talented running back, that’s one of the best we have seen in a long time,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Defensively they just play some very sound football.  There are some things they can take away that we feel we do very well, so we will have to find a way to get the ball to some guys that can make some plays for us and hopefully we can score more than them.”

          Wooster running back Trey Mathis has been a monster over the first three weeks, he had 177 yards against Mt. Vernon, and Masi says they have to find a way to slow him, and the Wooster run game, down.  “Trey Mathis is a very talented kid.  He is 5’10” and about 210 pounds.  He runs extremely well and we have had trouble in the past containing him.  Last year he was a tough kid to bring down and plays very, very physical.  I think their quarterback is a kid that is capable of hurting us as well.  I think the very first thing that we will do is try and figure out how we are going to stop that running game.  Mathis does a good job running as well as two other players.  If we can try and make them one dimensional, that’s great, but then they have a great quarterback and some pretty good receivers as well,” said Masi.

          Madison (2-1) also put up a lot of points in a week two win over River Valley (49-21,) but Masi says they are still making too many mistakes.  “We have got to get better at some of the things we are doing.  We made some mistakes last week and we let a good opponent back into the game and we were lucky to get out of there with a “W.”  If we can minimize our mistakes, whether it is penalties or turnovers, if we can do that it is just going to be a grind it out game with these guys and that is what high school football is for,” he said.

 

Published 9/13/16

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Madison With Long Trip, Tough Challenge

  

          Madison faces a more than two hour bus ride on Friday night when they play Toledo St. Francis at Oregon Clay High School in non-conference action.

          The game was originally set for the Glass Bowl, but has been moved to Clay on Toledo’s southeast side.

          After being handled by Shelby (49-7) on week one, the Rams (1-1) responded to whip River Valley (49-21) last Friday night at home. 

          Coach Jamie Masi says there were some big plays that made the difference for them.  “Our kids came out and were excited to play.  They did a nice job.  I think our coaches put our guys in some good positions and let them play.  It was a very exciting night for us.  It was a tight ball game.  Right before half they had an opportunity to tie it up and we actually intercepted one.   Shamar Windham made a great play and returned it for a touchdown.  That was a pretty good turning point in the game.  Definitely a lot of things we improved on, but there are still a lot of things we have to get better at,” said Masi.

          Big plays often say who will win high school football games and Masi says they are certainly momentum changers.  “In that one particular case they had just made a very big play.  A 40 yard pass and they got down and it was Shamar again that made a tackle on the one yard line.  He made the touchdown saving tackle and on the very next play picks it off and returns it for a touchdown and we are up 28-14 as opposed to be tied at 21.  A little momentum goes a long way,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Not just in high school, but in college, pro, momentum goes a long way and turnovers say a lot.  We did a good job of taking care of the ball and got a couple of key turnovers and capitalized.  Hopefully we can do the same things this week.”

          St. Francis (0-2) has lost to Bedford Michigan (44-21) and Perrysburg (34-14) in their first two games.  Masi says the Knights have speed and they will have to fill those gaps on defense.  “They are so athletic.  They have good size up front.  They do a nice job of protecting the quarterback and open some nice holes for one of the best running backs we have seen in a while.  We are going to have our hands full with those guys.  They are very similar to what we have seen the last couple of weeks.  Aggressive defense, they have a couple of guys that are really big playmakers.  They have a kid that just makes play after play after play.  We will have our eyes on him at all times in trying to get that running game going again.  Hopefully, we can do that early,” said Masi.

 

Published 9/08/16

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Madison Has to Find Itself

  

          Madison didn’t play very well frankly last week and they know they have to get a lot better.

          Shelby pounded the Rams (49-7) last Thursday night at Skiles Field in Shelby and Madison really got handled at the point of attack and that can’t continue to happen.

          Coach Jamie Masi says they have to make less mistakes, and that includes the coaching staff, and they must be a more physical football team than they were last week.  “There are a couple of things.  One, we have to get a lot more physical.  Give Shelby credit they played with a nasty attitude.  I thought they were very well coached.  On the other hand I thought our kids were taken back by how physical they were.  We made a million mistakes coaching wise and we are going to try and get all of that fixed and try to get a little tougher on the field and see if we can bounce back,” he said.

          Now the old coaching cliché is you show your most improvement as a team between week one and week two and Masi says that must be the case for them because they have a lot of improving to do.  “Even back when I played high school football, a long time ago, that was the thing, everybody said your biggest improvement is going to be between weeks one and two.  25 plus years of coaching you realize that is a pretty true statement no matter how well you played week one.  We have a good opponent this week in River Valley that played really well.  We expect them to improve quite a bit, but we really expect ourselves to improve.  Like I tell the kids it is not how you start, it is how you finish.  So, we have an opportunity to make things right here,” said Masi.

          River Valley belted Upper Sandusky (48-12) last week and Masi saw them in person and says as the score shows the Vikings are a very good football team that played well.  “We got to go watch them in person because we played on a Thursday night.  Me and two of the coaches went up and watched them at River Valley against Upper Sandusky.  It’s a common opponent because we got to scrimmage Upper Sandusky.  I think River Valley is kind of like a well oiled machine,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They are playing very well.  They run a wing-T concept out of the shotgun.  They too are a pretty physical team.  They have some size with their running back.  Their quarterback is a junior and looked pretty good.  They are a solid defense.  They held the Upper Sandusky Rams to 12 points.  They pretty much pounded them, so we have our hands full.”

          Against a team that runs the wing-T it is easy to get fooled by fakes and Masi says they have to be solid with their keys.  “We rely on our secondary to help make plays in the running game and when you are playing a wing-T team you can’t get all focused on the action in the backfield you better pay attention to what is going on with the line.  I thought our kids had a nice practice (Monday) and they understand what we have to do.  Now we just have to transform the mental game to the physical game and come out ready to play Friday night,” he said.

 

Published 8/30/16

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Madison Has to Contain Shelby

  

          Madison travels to Shelby to open the season on Thursday night against the Whippets in non-conference play.

          It was been in the works for a number years to play this traditional non-conference game on Thursday night and now it is coming to fruition.

          Rams coach Jamie Masi says there has been some good and some bad this month, but he believes his kids are focused and ready to go for Thursday night against the Whippets.  “We’ve had ups and downs and some challenges, but I think our kids have responded to that very well and they seem to be focused and ready to go.  So, we are pretty excited about Thursday night,” he said.

          With the game on Thursday, Masi says it will be different, but they are excited to play under the spotlight of one of the few games in this part of the state.  “It is kind of weird situation for us because not only is it a Thursday night, but it will be the first day of school for our upperclassmen.  It will be a challenge for them to get up and get into school.  It will be a full day and the next thing you know they will be playing football that night.  So, it will be a little different,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “That being said I also think it is a great kickoff to the school year for them, a kickoff for North Central Ohio for football.  You have two pretty good teams going at it, at least I hope.  We will see how it works out.  We are really excited about it.”

          When it comes to Shelby, Masi knows what he is up against.  On offense, he says the Whippets have a lot of guys that can make plays.  “Their coach does a fantastic job.  Erik Will has those guys in the right spots all of the time.  Offensively they have a great quarterback, a very shifty running back, a couple of guys in the skilled spots.  A line that is just about as big as you see at the high school level averaging around 6’2”, 6’3”, 260, 265, some guys are as big as 285.  With that being said you have to find a way to compete against those guys.  They are a high powered, fast tempo offense that we have to be able to match-up with,” said Masi.

          When it comes to the Shelby defense, Masi says they are going to have some athletes there as well.  “On the defensive side again they are very big up front.  They have some linebackers that are extremely athletic.  In the secondary they have some pretty good players there as well.  I think all around they are very good even with their special teams from what we have seen and traditionally they are well coached, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us,” he said.

 

Published 8/23/16

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Rams Eager to Go

 

          Madison will likely again one of the better high school football teams in North Central Ohio and they are pumped up to get the season started in a little over three weeks against Shelby.

          That game with be played on Thursday night August 25 in Shelby.

          Rams coach Jamie Masi says the players came out with some enthusiasm on Monday, the first day of workouts.  “I thought it was exciting.  I thought the kids seemed to have a bit of a spark to them.  Everybody seemed to be flying around.  I think we have some really good players and hopefully we can get them in the right positions.  We started off pretty strong,” he said.

          Tyrell Ajian, committed to Kentucky to play college football, returns for his senior season as one of the better all purpose athletes around, as well as some other talented players.  Masi says they have some work to do to find some guys in the trenches.  “You always want to go into the season with high expectations.  We have some sports we have got to get figured out.  We have some spots up front on both sides of the ball where we have some new players, but those guys are working extremely hard.  They are explosive.  They might be the quickest group of kids that we have ever had.  Hopefully, we can find a way to use that to our advantage and we could be pretty good.  We will see how it goes.  It could be pretty exciting for us.”  Masi told Swankonsports.com that he is confident they will be ready due to the quality of their coaching staff.  “One thing that I need to mention is we have two really seasoned coaches up front, guys that really know their stuff.  Starting first with Matt Godsil, he has been an offensive line coach here, obviously a head coach here.  He has been around for 34 seasons now.  And another guy that has been around for quite a while is Steve Hill.  When we have two guys up front coaching and teaching the way they do I feel pretty comfortable and confident that our guys are going to be ready to play,” he said.

          Sean Conway, who retired two years ago as the Rams head coach, is back as an assistant and Masi says that is a big plus.  “I know when Sean (Conway) stepped away.  As a staff we weren’t sure who was going to step in.  Several of us thought, what is going to be the best thing?  Our goal was how do we keep this staff together?  Number one we all get along very well.  Consistency is a big deal in high school or even college football or beyond.  You learn how to work with other people and that has been big for us.  The staff is almost exactly the same as when Sean was here and now Sean is back.  He is coaching outside linebackers for us.  It is very pleasant coming to work knowing you have those guys that you can count on,” said Masi.

          Madison has a veteran staff with three assistant coaches that used to be head coaches, LeRoy Smith is another.  Masi says the first day pumps them up too.   “This morning we were trying to get everything figured out.  What guys needs his physical?  What guy needs a signature on this or that?  You get frustrated dealing with all of the duties of a head coach, but once you get to step on the field it is in your blood.  You have fun with the guys running around and all of the excitement.  I don’t know what else I could do with my life, but coach,” he said.

          Masi says his players have the right attitude for success and that makes his job a lot easier.  “There is not a negative attitude out here.  You have a guy here or there that makes a mistake and is hard on himself or something like that, but overall our kids just have this attitude that they are extremely proud to be here, they want to please, they want to do well.  When you have kids that are working that hard it is an easy job,” he said.

As far as Madison’s potential in the Ohio Cardinal Conference is concerned?  Masi didn’t want to talk about that.  “I don’t know much about the league to be honest.  I been coaching here for seems like forever now, but you just don’t know what everybody else has coming back.  There are a couple of changes as well with some coaches.  We are not going to worry at all about the league.  We are going to worry about Shelby and our trip over to their place week one.  I think that will be an extremely exciting night with kickoff on a Thursday night.  That will be kind of a premier game and it should be.  Our thoughts are on Shelby, not anybody else,” said Masi.

 

 

Published 8/01/16

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Kovach Shuts Down Madison

 

          Huron starter Kyle Kovach remains unscored upon in post season play as he scattered five hits and struck out eight as Huron downed Mansfield Madison (4-0) in the division two district semi final Thursday at Heidelberg University in Tiffin.

          The Tigers (16-7) will play Lexington (19-7) for the district title on Saturday afternoon.

          Huron coach Sam Hohler says his ace was spectacular again.  "Kyle has been a starting pitcher for us since he was a freshman.  There is a reason he has 26 career wins.  He has played in games like this in high school and summer baseball.  When he goes out and does things like that it is very, very special.  We have had a little trouble scoring runs the last few weeks.  For us to give him four runs is a big deal.  He went out and made it count.  He did a tremendous job, I couldn't be more proud of him," he said.
          Madison did have a runner on third base with one out in the second inning with the game still scoreless and couldn't execute the suicide squeeze.  Rams coach Doug Rickert he wanted to get the early lead.  "We had a runner on third base and one out there and we called for the squeeze and we didn't get it down.  I wanted to get a run.  Kovatch hasn't been scored on in the tournament.  When you get that run against them you don't know how they are going to handle it.  It gives us some confidence there.  That was big.  I mean it was a big part of the game, but we can't dwell on anything right now," he said.

          Kovach has a lot of gas on his fastball, but Hohler says he has worked hard on his breaking pitch, which was affective on Thursday.  "He has developed that.  When he was younger he just threw hard.  He has played on some pretty elite teams in the summer against some very good competition and he has learned how to throw some off speed pitches to kind of keep guys off of his tail.  When he can do that he is very hard to beat," he said.

         Rickert says Kovach didn't do anything that surprised them, he is just that good.  "He is good, we knew he was good, we saw him a couple of times, he is a real good pitcher.  The thing I like the most about him is his demeanor.  He is going to college at Malone, a good division two school.  He already has the mentality to pitch at the college level.  He did exactly what we thought he would do.  I started with the fastball early and got to the second time through the order he threw some very good curveballs.  There were a couple of times we were sitting curveball and we got a fastball and you can't do that with a guy throwing 87 MPH out there.  We told the kids to lay off the high heat, but it hard to do that, especially with two strikes and you get an umpire with a fairly big zone it makes it tougher," said Rickert.

          Huron scored all four of their runs in the fourth inning off Madison starter Michael Penney, highlighted an RBI double by Jared Hohler and run scoring single by ninth place hitter Riki Tanaka.  "We had to beat Columbian 1-0.  Last week, we had to beat Bellevue, and Bellevue is a terrific team, it took us to the seventh inning to squeak one in and then we had to throw one out at the plate to win the game.  Kyle has been used to pitching with very little support.  Our defense was solid again.  I don't think we made too many mistakes, if any at all.  We have kind of been waiting for our bats to break open, so it was nice to see that (Thursday,") said Hohler.

          Penney, who beat Port Clinton and Ontario this year, and won two tournament games last year for the Rams struck out seven and Rickert says he gave them a good effort.  "I thought he was really good, he was fantastic.  For three innings they couldn't touch him.  They come out and hit a couple of balls just out of our reach.  He did a good job earlier with guys on base of getting out of it.  The bottom line was Michael left three 0-2 pitches across the plate and they hit them and he doesn't normally do that.  He was upset with himself to put us in a hole.  With the pitch out we had a chance there and they still got the bunt down, we didn't get it out far enough.  Michael has had a great career for us.  We would have 19 wins if it wasn't for Michael and a chance to win the league," he told Swankonsports.com after the game, "These seniors have done a great job.  They go out of here with two conference championships, still a chance to win another one, four sectional championships, and a district championship.  We had to replace some really good players.  I thought some our younger kids did a good job and now we lose some really good seniors again this year."

          Huron plays Lexington on Saturday and will not be able to send Kovach to the hill for all seven again.  Hohler believes he will be able to contribute.  "He gets three innings.  He threw a lot of pitches (Thursday.)  I will say this.  Kyle is very competitive and he will do everything he can to try and get his arm ready to go for Saturday.  He is used to playing in this environment.  We have played here three years in a row.  He knows what it takes to come back on short rest, if he is needed.  We do have some other good pitchers.  We will have to wait and see how that all shakes out," he said.

          Lexington broke Norwalk's 12 game winning streak with a (3-2) win in other semi.  Hohler knows the Minutemen will be a big challenge.  "We did scrimmage Lexington a long time ago.  It was actually a nice day in March.  I know they have some tremendous athletes.  I know they play in a strong conference.  Just watching them a little bit out here on (Thursday) they are very formidable.  We will have to bring our "A" game to have a chance at beating them.  We will have to come out and give it a great effort to get by them," he said.

 

Published 5/20/16

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Madison Trims Orrville

 

          Madison kept their Ohio Cardinal Conference title hopes alive with a (4-3) win over Orrville on Monday night.

          They need Clear Fork to beat Wooster next Monday in order to share the title.  Wooster beat the Colts (11-1) on Monday.

          Rams coach Doug Rickert says they had to make some good plays to win the game.  "It was another one of those crazy "OCC" games.  There was a million different things that happened.  For our kids we made a couple of mistakes, but when we made those mistakes we didn't let them get to us and turn it into a big inning.  We actually made a couple of nice defensive plays to get us out of a couple of jams, including one in the last inning," he told Swankonsports.com after the win Monday, "They tried a suicide squeeze and we guessed right on a pitch out and we were able to get the kid in a run down.  We were able to get a strike out and another strike out to end the game.  They kids did a nice job.  Anytime you can go 12-2 in the "OCC" probably nine out of 10 times that wins the league, but right now we can only get a share."

          Rickert feels the game on Monday was good preparation for the district tournament on Thursday.  "What was good (Monday) was with Orrville being knocked out of the tournament they threw their number one pitcher.  So, we got to see Domer and he is a pretty good pitcher.  He is a really good ball player.  He had Wooster on the ropes until the last inning and he had Lexington on the ropes to the very last inning.  And it was the same thing (Monday) night.  They had the lead going to the bottom of the sixth.  We told our kids that it was tournament style baseball.  It is what we are getting ready for on Thursday.  Getting a come from behind victory was a big deal," he said.

          Madison (19-9), #3 in the final Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, #1 in our new Twitter poll, plays Huron (13-4) in the division two district semi-finals on Thursday afternoon at Heidelberg College in Tiffin.  Huron, the Sandusky Bay Conference leader, is led by outstanding pitcher Kyle Kovach.  Rickert says he has great stuff and is a tremendous competitor.  "Kovach will definitely throw.  He has 29 victories and I don't know if there are too many kids that throughout their careers have 29 pitching victories.  That is pretty impressive.  We got to see him throw.  Of course, he has thrown two shutouts in the tournament.  Both 1-0 victories.  He is as good as advertised.  We got to go watch him.  He has an upper 80's fastball and nice curveball and he is a competitor.  They were in the regional two years in a row in the division three and now they are in division two and they have a lot of those kids back.  So, it is going to be a really tough game for us," said Rickert.

 

Published 5/17/16

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Madison Edges Ontario for Sectional Title

 

          Madison scored three times in the fifth inning, spurred by a controversial play, and went on to trim Ontario (3-2) in a division two sectional title game on Thursday at Ram Field.

          Rams coach Doug Rickert says he knows how Ontario's players, coaches, and fans feel.  "It is one of those games, and I have been on the other side it, and they are hard to take.  It was a well played game.  There weren't very many mistakes at all.  There were some great defensive plays.  Fortunately for us we scored one more run," he said.

          The game was scoreless through four and half innings and then the craziness started. 

          Madison got a couple of guys on in their half of the fifth and with two out Cal Rickert hits a ball that Ontario shortstop Avery Fisher gets to and he to make the long throw to first.  Coach Rickert says it was a bag, bang play.  "Things went right for us.  We caught a break on a strikeout.  When (Doug) Shenberger struck out the ball bounced away from the catcher.  The number nine hitter drew a walk.  With the clutch hits sometimes you forget about the little things that got you there.  Stone popped out there and there are two outs and then all of the crazy stuff happens," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "Cal (Rickert) hits that ball on the nose for our first run.  I thought (Avery) Fisher made a great play.  They don't throw the ball to second base, the second basemen isn't covering, and then he has to throw the long one to first base, we slide, there is a catch and tag, and it's called safe.  That brings our best hitter Zane Harris to the plate and he smokes one up the middle.  Then we got a clutch hit Curtis French with two strikes and score three runs."

          Rickert says his first base coach said Cal appeared to be safe.  Ontario coach Dan Gorbett thought he was tagged out.  "It was a great game between two good programs.  Vredenburgh and Penney both pitched great games.  One play changed the whole game and it didn't go our way.  That's baseball," he said.

          Michael Penney got his seventh win, and second tournament win, of the season with the compete game effort for Madison.  Rickert says they have complete confidence in him.  "Michael has thrown a lot of big ballgames for us.  I thought in the Port Clinton  game he was amazing.  He threw 61 pitches in seven innings of work and (Thursday) night he was at 80 pitches in seven innings.  He handled some adversity there in the last inning with a couple of hits and a couple of balk calls.  He was able to settle in and get two big strikeouts and end of game on a ground out.  He has been there before.  He pitched a lot in the tournament last year.  He won a close game with Toledo Whitmer.  He came back and threw a heck of game in the district championship against Findlay.  So, he has been there, he has been through that, a 0-0 game in the late innings last year.  We feel pretty confident with him on the mound," said Rickert.

          Ontario's two runs came in the seventh when Penney was called for consecutive balks to plate two Warriors and trim he Madison advantage to one run.  However, Penney got the final three hitters out.  "He went out there and was fighting through it and striking out their four and five hitters, and then getting the ground ball.  Even the last out the throw is low, but Zane makes a great scoop and we move on," said Rickert.

          Madison will play either Northern Ohio League co-leader Bellevue or Sandusky Bay Conference leader Huron, who play Friday, in the district semis next Thursday at Heidelberg College in Tiffin.

 

Published 5/13/16

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Penney Shuts Out Port Clinton

 

          Michael Penney fired a two-hitter and Madison blanked Port Clinton (4-0) in a division two sectional semi-final at Ram Filed on Saturday afternoon.

          The Redskins (7-11) only advanced one player past first base in the seven innings and Madison coach Doug Rickert says Penney stuck to the game plan.  "He only threw 61 pitches, that's getting it done. He's got a really nasty slider and we threw three curve balls (Saturday,) that's it.  We told him when we got that lead to just stay on that outside corner and he was able to throw fastballs out there.  Our defense has been pretty good all year.  We tell our kids when we get a lead we are going to throw fastballs and they have to make plays and we did (Saturday,)" he said.

          Penney had only one walk and struck out five on the day.

          Madison was also flawless in the field and Rickert says they made plays all over the field.  "Our middle guys have been playing solid.  I thought Hunter Galbreath made a really nice play out here left field in the seventh.  Early in the game we knew they like to bunt a lot.  I thought Trenton (Mortimer) coming out of there and making the play and Michael (Penney) fielding a couple of bunts.  Those are things sometimes they are trying to make something happen if you just throw something away the wheels come off," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "I thought Jaycob Stone had a real good day defensively.  All of our kids.  Zane (Harris) made a nice catch over the fence and also had a real nice pick on a low throw by Stone.  Defensively we did the job and Michael is Michael.  He is going to give us a chance to win every time he is out there."

          Madison (16-9) scored a run in the first inning without the benefit of a hit when Jaycob Stone walked, was sacrificed to second, Zane Harris walked, and Curtis French was hit by a pitch to load the bases.  Dakota Gombosh brought the run home on a sacrifice fly.

          In the second, Nick Smith was hit by Port Clinton pitcher Drew Fodor and Trenton Mortimer singled and both would eventually score on a bunt by Stone. 

          The final run of the game came in the bottom on the third Gombosh singed, stole second, and scored on Hunter Galbreath's RBI single.

          Rickert says they took advantage of some opportunities.  "It was a little bit of everybody I thought.  We get the leadoff guy on, we get the sac bunt and we score in the first inning.  In the second we got guys on and Stone laid down just a beautiful squeeze bunt and we were able to get the two runs.  Then I thought we came out in the third inning there with Hunter Galbreath with the infield in he goes down 0-2 and gets a base hit to get the fourth run.  Trenton Mortimer got a big hit for us (Saturday.)  It was nice to see some of those guys at the bottom of the order come through for us.  You are going to have to have that in the tournament," said Rickert.

          Madison will host Ontario (9-9,) a (10-2) winner over Kenton on Saturday in Thursday's sectional final.

 

Published 5/07/16

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Madison Rips Wooster

 

          Madison drilled two home runs on the night and they hammered Wooster (12-5) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference softball game on Monday night.

          The Lady Rams (9-6,4-3) trail Clear Fork by two games in the "OCC" standings.  Coach Tim Niswander says they continue to hit the ball well, which is what they have doing over the last week.  "So far, so good, but we have a long stretch in front of us in the league though.  We have to keep our nose to the grindstone and keep getting better.  I think (Monday) night a little bit of the schedule we have been playing showed.  We have been scoring some runs.  We scored 16 runs up at Massillon on Friday night.  We came back (Monday) and hit a couple of home runs over at Wooster.  We really jumped on them early and took control of the game.  We pitched and played defense and had a 9-1 lead at one point," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night, "The kids did a nice job of continuing to play.  One of the things we have been stressing all year long is every single at bat needs to be a quality at bat.  They have really been taking that to heart.  We have been facing a lot of good pitching out of conference.  When we come back in conference it just helps you stay focused a little better.  Sometimes you are going to need to out hit your mistakes and sometimes you just score a bunch of runs and play well all of the way around.  I think (Monday) we out hit our mistakes a little bit.  Hopefully, down the road everything comes together for us."

          Niswander says the girls approach at the plate has been better and they are starting to understand the science of hitting.  "There are some things that we preach based on who we play.  I am not always a believer in taking a strike.  I am a believer in that is they are going to throw you a good pitch on the first pitch you have to attack it, but if they throw you a bad pitch you need to sit and wait and foul of some pitches with two strikes until you get something you can drive.  The other part of that is we want to have good balanced swings all of the time and we are trying to eliminate the lunging and the reaching and things like that, so we get good quality swings each time we get to the plate.  The other thing we try to preach is help each other out.  Some things that I have seen over the last five, six games is the kids are coming back after they make an out letting to kid on deck know and going back to the dugout letting the other kids know this is what she threw me, this is how she worked me and these the things we need to be looking for.  I think they are starting to take this thing a little more seriously.  I think they are starting to understand some of the things we are trying to get through to them," said Niswander.

          Madison plays Mansfield Senior, a (17-3) loser to Ashland Monday night, the next two days.  Niswander says they must treat this like any other league game.  "I have told my kids from day one when I took the job at Madison I am not worried about who is in the other dugout I am worried about the kids in green and white that get off the bus with me.  Senior High played us tough for four or five innings last year.  The played us tough a couple of years ago when we were really, really good.  Our kids don't see Senior High and think that is a win.  That is not how we approach that game.  That game is a conference game.  I have told them time and time again no matter who you are playing in the league who better show up with your "A" game or you are going to get beat.  The next two games and then West Holmes coming on Friday it is no different this week," he said.

 

Published 4/26/16

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Madison Answers the Call

 

          Madison faced a must win situation on Wednesday and they were up to the task as they downed Ashland (7-2) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference softball game.

          Coach Tim Niswander says for one of the first times this year the Lady Rams played like they are capable.  "It was a huge win.  We stubbed our toe over at Ashland on Tuesday night.  We did not play very well and we kind of left it where we don't have much of a margin for error from this point forward.  Wednesday was a really big game for us.  The kids came out and the finally played with some fire, played with some focus, and little bit of attitude and we started to look a little more like the team I expected to see," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "Our early season schedule with Akron Hoban, who is ranked, we got a spilt with Norwalk, who is a really good team.  Those games help us, but at the same time you have an opportunity to lose.  We play a really good schedule and we have our hands full the rest of the week too."

          After the loss to Ashland (8-5) on Monday, Niswander says they had a meeting on what they expected out of their season this spring and how to get there.  "We had a heart to heart conversation in the outfield while the baseball game was still going on.  We talked quite a while about things we need to do better and things that we expect from each other and holding each other accountable.  It was nice to see the kids come out and do really well (Wednesday) because when we got on the bus I wasn't really sure where we were going to go after Tuesday night.  The kids really did a nice job of stepping up, and owning it, and playing well, and playing for each other, and doing the things that we are asking them to do," said Niswander.

          Madison (5-4,3-3) trails Clear Fork by two games in the "OCC" standings and they might have to run the table.  They play Mansfield Senior in the conference series next week and Niswander says they know what they have to do.  "We got some help (Wednesday) night, Lexington beat Clear Fork.  We have an eye on the scoreboard.  The reality of it is we put ourselves in a position where somebody is going to have to help us, but we have to help ourselves.  We don't have the ability to lose many more games if at all if we are going to be a factor in the race.  It was nice to see that things got a little tighter," he said.

          Madison plays Sandusky Perkins in a Thursday doubleheader.  They play Massillon on Friday and have Shelby for two games on Saturday.

 

Published 4/21/16

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Madison Maintains Share of Lead

 

          Dakota Gombosch drove in three runs and the Madison Rams remained in a share of first place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference with a (5-0) win at Ashland on Tuesday.

          Wooster beat Mansfield Senior (10-0) to keep their share.  Clear Fork, Lexington, and West Holmes all have three losses and trail by two.

          Coach Doug Rickert says Ashland is a tough place to play and he is happy with the win.  "You are on the road playing a good Ashland team.  Ashland started out 2-4, but they have only played six games and I don't if we know how good they can be yet.  They have gotten a lot of their non-league games rained out.  They threw their number one, they threw (Logan) Brewer.  He has a live on and throws the ball pretty good.  Anytime you can beat them at their place, and beat their number one, it is a good win for us," he said.

          Madison's offense continues to mature and Rickert says they were able to get some clutch hits off Brewer on Tuesday night.  "We started out the first inning, Cal Rickert hit a double, (Dakota) Gombosch drove him in and we got the early lead 1-0.  Michael (Penny) didn't throw his best game, actually I thought it was the worst game he as thrown.  He gave up a hit and walked two in the first inning, but got out of  bases loaded jam. We were able to come back in the third inning and get a hit by (Jaycob) Stone.  We got a nice hit and run and Rickert got a base hit and made it first and third.  Then it was second and third and Gombosch came through with another hit." he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night, "That scored two and pushed it to 3-0.  We scored another run in the fifth.  We got a bunt down and Stone delivered to make it 4-0.  Then we got one more.  We hit the ball well with runners in scoring position.  We got bunts down and were able to move the baseball.  We moved the baseball a lot with two strikes (Tuesday) night."

          Madison likely plays the toughest schedule in the area and Rickert says that pays dividends when they face good pitching in "OCC" games.  "We have a lot guys that have played a lot of baseball and have seen some really good arms.  I don't think they are intimidated by what they see.  This weekend we saw some really good pitching playing Rochester Adams out of Michigan and Anthony Wayne.  We do this on the weekend so that when we come back and we get a guy like this we are not intimidated and we are ready to go.  Our kids see good pitching on the weekend and in the conference, so nothing really rattles them.  We just haven't been getting clutch hits.  We have been leaving a lot of guys.  It was a night (Tuesday) night that we were able to string some hits together," said Rickert.

          Madison (8-5,5-1), #4 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, plays at home against Ashland (2-5,2-5) on Wednesday.  Rickert says they have to be just as focused because Ashland will be looking for revenge.  "We talked about that.  We said we beat Wooster on a Wednesday night and they came back on Thursday and beat us.  We can't let our guard down in this league it's too good.  That is the hardest thin about playing in a league like this playing back to back against the same team is a lot of times you win that first game and get a lot of confidence, but you are concerned about getting over confident and that other team is hungry with one more shot at you.  I know they are going to be ready to play," he said.

 

Published 4/20/16

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Madison Takes "OCC" Lead

 

          Michael Penny out dueled Curtis Williamson as the only runs of the game came on a wind blown double as Madison got past Wooster (2-0) at Ram Field on Wednesday in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game.

          The win gives the Rams (4-3,3-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, sole possession of first place in the "OCC" heading into the second of back to back match ups between the two schools Thursday at Wooster.

          Madison coach Doug Rickert says it was a huge win for them against one of the real contenders.  "Anytime you beat them it's a big win.  They were undefeated in the league.  It was a tough night to score with the wind blowing in, but we did nice job, Penny was really awesome and we made some nice defensive plays behind him and pushed a couple runs across," he said.

          The only runs in the game came in the bottom of the fourth inning when the wind turned a Curtis French fly ball into a double platting two runs for Madison and Penny took over from there.

          He had 11 strikeouts and Rickert says he was able to throw all of his pitches for strikes.  "(Wednesday) night was a one those nights when we was really dominating.  He struck out 11 and his only walk was an intentional walk.  He kept the ball down and his control was on with all of his pitches.  He was a little shaky at the beginning.  Once he settled down he was almost unhitable," he said.

          Penny started the day with a 1.46 ERA.  He had beaten Clear Fork (5-1) in another key "OCC" game last week.

          Wooster (5-4,3-1), owns "OCC" win over Lexington, twice, and Ashland.  They play the Arrows on Friday in a make-up from last week's rain out.

         Rickert says another win over the Generals on the Thursday puts them in pretty good position.  "We play two of the league favorites right off the bat," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night after the win over Wooster, "We were fortunate enough to get two wins against Clear Fork and turn around an play Wooster and right now we are 3-0 against two of the league favorites.  If we can get them (Thursday) that gives us a two game lead over both of those guys, so yes it is big."

 

Published 4/14/16

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Madison With Dramatic Win

 

         Madison sophomore Cal Rickert was born to be a baseball player.  Even his name tells us that.  He is named in honor of hall of famer Cal Ripken and is the son of Madison baseball coach Doug Rickert.

          He may have gotten the biggest hit of his career Wednesday night.  It was his walk off home run in the bottom half of the ninth inning that gave the Rams a (4-2) win over Clear Fork (4-4,2-2) in Ohio Cardinal Conference action.

          Coach Doug Rickert says it was another great game between two solid baseball teams.  "It was a great game.  Their was a lot of excitement.  There was a lot of opportunities for Clear Fork.  We dogged some bullets and got out of some jams.  We had some guys on base, in scoring position, and they got their way out of it.  It was a well pitched game by both teams.  It was a great game all around," he said.

          Madison (3-3,2-0) had won at Clear Fork (5-1) on Tuesday.

          Coach Rickert says he believes his team has a lot of character and they don't get too high or too low and they were ready to seize the opportunity.  "Neither team should hang their heads it was such a good ball game.  For us we have great team chemistry.  The other thing I think we have is we have a bunch of kids that believe and fight.  What is really weird about this team even though it is early.  We talk a lot about character and we talk a lot about doing the right things and playing the game right.  We don't hang our heads.  We don't get discouraged when things don't go our way.  It's our whole team," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "It is something the leaders on our team have shown our young kids about the way they are supposed to behave and act.  (Wednesday) night there we are in the ninth inning and we plunk the first two kids.  They have first and second and nobody out.  They lay down a bunt and we make a nice play to just get an out.  Then we turn a double play and we end up winning it in the bottom half.  The kids have been like that all year."

          Cal is the team's second basemen and his dad says he hasn't been swinging the bat the way he feels he is capable.  He says he put in the extra work and Wednesday night it paid off.  "He has a great work ethic.  He hasn't been hitting the ball like he wants to hit the ball.  He puts a lot of pressure on himself to be a good player.  The last few days he has come in at seven o'clock in the morning and swung the bat.  He gets himself up.  I told the kids (Wednesday) night that hard work pays off.  It takes a lot for a young kid to do that to get up at 6:30 in the morning and go to school and swing.  He had an at bat earlier where he grounded out in a situation and he got one more chance.  We always tell them that you are going to get other chances.  For him he was able to hit it a ton," said Rickert.

 

Published 4/07/16

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Penny Leads Madison Past Clear Fork

  

          Michael Penny scattered five hits and struck out 10 in going the distance as Mansfield Madison downed Clear Fork (5-1) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball game on Tuesday in the valley.

          Penny stuck out the side in the bottom of the first and coach Doug Rickert says he had a good breaking pitch to go with his fastball on Tuesday.  "He has been a kid really all of his life that has been able to throw the curveball at anytime.  We feel confident in it.  I think he threw it three times on 3-2 counts and got outs every time.  I think early in the game he was a little pumped up and his ball was up.  I felt coach Harris did a good job of going out there and calming him down a little bit to get him to work the ball down," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "I think we get a lot out of our catcher.  Our catcher is underrated.  Trenton Mortimer does a great job behind the plate of handling our pitchers really well.  He gets down low.  He keeps that ball down low and does a nice job blocking pitches."

          The Colts (4-3,2-1) only run came in the third when Penny misplayed a ball hit back to him allowing Ricky Bartrum to score. 

          Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab says they weren't really very patient at the plate.  "Michael pitched a great game.  We knew he was one of the top pitchers, if not the top pitcher in the league.  He showed it (Tuesday.)  We didn't show a lot of  discipline though.  We made him look really good.  He's a good pitcher, but we made him look really good," he said.

          Madison (2-3,1-0) took a (3-0) lead in the top of the third off Clear Fork starter Shane Klenk.  After the Rams loaded the bases Curtis French produced an RBI single, a second run scored on a force play, and then DH Doug Shenbeger drove in the third with a single.

          After the third, no more runners crossed home plate until Shenberger second bases loaded single of the day in the seventh off of reliever Mitch Dulin.  The final run came when Dulin hit Mortimer with pitch.

          Rickert says it took a while for them to adjust, but they got some key hits.  "We have been hitting the ball a lot better, but this is a big contrast to what we saw in Tennessee.  We were seeing a lot of 85, 86 MPH fastballs.  We see a kid that was throwing 70 and I knew it was going to be an adjustment period for us for a while.  I though Doug Shenberger got a big hit for us a couple of times.  He was up twice in a situation where he got a big hit.  That is big for him.  It is the first time he DHed for us.  It was his first varsity experience.  There were some big plays.  Logan Daniels comes off the bench and gets a big hit for us.  We are getting there.  We are a pretty good defensive team I think and if we continue to throw strikes we will be alright," said Rickert.

          It was Madison's first game in Ohio this year and Rickert says it was a big win against a pretty good Clear Fork team.  "Anytime you play these guys and get a win on the road it is a big deal.  Rusty always does a good job with his kids.  His kids are going to fight, they are going to claw.  They have a real deep pitching staff this year and they have some really good sticks in the lineup.  Luckily we were able to keep (Thomas) Staab off the bases for the most part.  We hit him once and he had a single.  Thank God Clark hit a couple of major league pop ups.  That was big for us because he is a heck of a baseball player," said Rickert.

 

Published 4/06/16

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Madison Wins Opener

 

          Madison finally got on the field Wednesday and the Lady Rams downed Fremont Ross (8-4) to open the season with a win.

          Coach Tim Niswander says they really did a good job Wednesday with all of the elements of the game.  "We got rained out Monday and with West Holmes being out of town we didn't have conference games, so we moved the Fremont game from later in the year, so we could get some games in.  We had the opportunity to go down an watch Ashland play Clear Fork and (Wednesday) night we finally had a chance to get out on the field and play one that counted," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "Fremont Ross swings the bat really well.  We have a couple of kids not playing the first couple of games, so we had some young kids fill in for them.  We didn't have any seniors on the field (Wednesday) and the kids really stepped up and hit the ball and played some solid defense.  The runs we gave up where on home rums and you really can't do much when a kid hits the ball 230 feet.  Defensively when they put the ball in play we made plays.  I was very happy with the way we played."

          Defense is sometimes a forgotten element of the game, however, Niswander says they realize its importance.  He says they just want plays to make regular plays.  "Half of the battle is to try and get kids to believe because they think they have to make all of these spectacular plays and they have to do things that are little out of their realm.  We tell them it doesn't do any good to try make a double play if we don't get the first out.  Let's make an out on every ball that is put in play.  If we get one out we are happy with it.  Anything else is a bonus.  I think once they understand where you are coming from and they understand that is a pretty solid philosophy things come together pretty quickly," said Niswander.

          Madison (1-0) is supposed to play Bucyrus (1-1) on Thursday, they were rained out on Monday, and it looks like they might be again.  The Lady Rams play defending Sandusky Bay Conference champion Edison on Monday right before rival Clear Fork.  "Edison was purposely put where they were.  We want to play them the day before Clear Fork because they are very similar teams.  We want see a lot of speed and they play a lot of small ball like Clear Fork does.  That is part of the push this year to beef up the schedule.  We play Perkins, and Edison, and Fremont Ross is a division one program.  It was done on purpose an hopefully we get a good weather night and prepares us for the conference season with Clear Fork back to back ," said Niswander.

 

Published 3/31/16

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Madison Looking for Big Year

 

          Due to injures it wasn't a typical Madison year in girls' softball, but this season could be a lot different for the Lady Rams.

          Coach Tim Niswander says they clearly have all of the elements that make up a good team and now it is about doing it on the field.  "Last year we had a ton of injuries and that is going help us this year because we have nine kids back that have some appreciable varsity time.  A lot of those kids a year ago were freshmen and obviously now as sophomores we are expecting more things out of them.  We have experience pretty much everywhere.  We are looking to fill one hole.  We have good, solid pitching.  We have two kids that threw over 75 innings for us last year.  It is nice to have the luxury of having two quality arms.  Not everybody has that luxury," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "I think we have some good sticks up and down the order and some solid team speed.  So far in scrimmages this year we have looked pretty good.  As long as we can stay healthy and we continue to do the things that we have been doing I think we have a chance to compete with anybody on our schedule.  We have bumped up the level of competition on our schedule as well, so hopefully that prepares us for the "OCC," which year in and year out is one the better softball leagues in the State of Ohio.  We are looking to be competitive all across the board and hopefully make a good tournament run this year."

          Madison has decided to go out an really beef up their non-conference schedule.  Niswander says they want to get tested early in the season too.  "Last year we pushed the schedule up a little bit and we kicked it up again some more this year.  I told the kids we want to see good arms.  We want to see good pitching.  We want to see kids that can catch it and throw it and then they are going to push us when they are at the plate.  If you don't see those things when you run into good teams you are over matched.  Last year, we thought our schedule we pretty good, but it was back loaded in the non conference part.  We saw some really, really good teams at the end.  Our kids made comments that it sure would have been nice to see those teams earlier and it would help us prepare more for what we would see through the conference.  We moved some things around and picked up some schools like Akron Hoban and Massillon.  We are division one this year, so you have to prepare for everything as far as the tournament is concerned.  We are trying to cover our bases as far as that goes," said Niswander.

          The talent is there for a really good season, but Niswander says to realize their goals they must do the little things right.  "We kind of have a theme every year that we talk about.  Our theme for this year and we put it on the back of the t-shirts that we gave the kids is 'The consequences of not doing the little things make you realize that there aren't any little things.'  So, we have to account for everything that can happen, every single thing that might crop up.  We may only see it once a year, but we want to make sure when that once a year happens we are prepared for it," he said.

          Madison starts the season Monday at Bucyrus of the Northern 10 Athletic Conference.  Their first league games are April 4 and 5 against Clear Fork, probably their biggest "OCC" rival outside of Lexington.

 

Published 3/24/16

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Madison Wants to Build on Tradition

 

          Madison advanced to the division one regional tournament last year and they return some key personnel form that team, but they lost some too.

          Coach Doug Rickert says they will have to have some kids fill in the grabs that's for sure, but he has seen some good things as the Rams prepare to open the season.  "I think we are a ways away from knowing how good we could be.  We lost a lot of talent.  We lost eight seniors last year and every one those kids contributed.  So, when you lose eight kids and every one of them is was playing or doing something for you whether they were pitching, hitting, fielding or DHing that is a lot to replace.  We have had a couple of scrimmages and we did improve from the first scrimmage to the second.  We have to continue to improve and then we get thrown into a heck of a fire when we go down to Tennessee and see one of the top teams in the State of Tennessee.  So, we will gave to learn quick," said Rickert.

          There are some kids that return in Madison uniforms that have already proven to be very good players at the varsity level.  Rickert says they key is finding guys that can play the other positions on the diamond.  "I think we are going to hit the baseball.  We are going to swing the bats pretty well.  We are excited to have a couple of pitchers back that threw a lot for us last year in Michael Penny and Curtis French.  We get back a division athlete in Zane Harris for his senior year to go and hit the baseball.  We get back a decent nucleus.  We get back Dakota Gombosh that started last year in centerfield.  We get back Cal Rickert that played second base for us.  We get back Jacob Stone that played multiple positions last year.  I think for the most part the kids that we get back are pretty good baseball players.  So, I think defensively we are still going to be pretty good.  Our top end pitching is pretty good.  I don't know how deep we are.  We have some young kids that are going to have to step up and hit the baseball," said Rickert.

          Madison has at least had a share of the last two Ohio Cardinal Conference titles and they have won more than any other team.  Rickert says they know they can win, but they also know it puts a bulls eye on them too.  "We tell our kids that everybody wants to beat Madison.  It has been like this since I have been coaching everybody wants a shot at us.  We have won the league the last two years, shared it last year with Lexington, we won it outright two years ago.  Everyone wants a piece of us and we know that.  It means a lot to put on the uniform at Madison.  It should mean a lot.  We have been able to win a lot of games and we have been able to put a lot of kids into college to play baseball.  It also means you are going to play an extraordinary schedule, better than anyone around here and it is not going to be easy," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "It is not going to be easy coming out of the gate.  We play Perrysburg.  We play Mentor and we play Massillon Perry on Saturday and Sunday.  We start off our league play with a Clear Fork team that finished third in our league last year and a lot of people are picking to win it this year.  So, tradition means a lot, but it also means they have to work a lot harder than anyone else.  They have to expect a lot out of everybody else.  Their effort has to be as good if not better than everybody else."

 

Published 3/22/16

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Lexington Downs Madison; Plays Sandusky

 

          Senior guard Joey Zahn scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half and Lexington beat "OCC" rival Madison (58-46) in the division two district semi-finals on Wednesday night at Galion High School.

          The Minutemen (23-2) never trailed in the game, but coach Scott Hamilton says the Rams gave them all they wanted.  "Timmy always has his guys prepared and they always play so stinkin' tough.  We knew it was going to be 32 minutes of a battle.  We got started and we were pounding it inside and that got us a lead early.  We got a way from that ins the second quarter and I'm not really sure why," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "The guys were believing the game plan that they couldn't defend us.  The pressure did ramp up a little bit in the second quarter.  We weren't getting back and our transition was a little slow.  We were really focusing on a couple of guys and we left some guys open and they got easy buckets in their half court.  They didn't shoot the ball really well, but they were getting to the rim way too easy.  At halftime we remind the guys of the game plan that we had and that we wanted to keep pounding it inside."

          Madison (15-10) didn't shoot it real well and coach Tim Mergel says they made some defensive mistakes that allowed the Minutemen to get some easy shots.  "I thought our kids played hard.  There were just some really fundamental mistakes.  We lost Zahn a couple of times, which hurt us.  There were some inopportune turnovers at some times.  I thought we battled.  I didn't think they beat us up on the glass too bad.  There were a couple of times we let them get some easy post entries that kind of got us," he said.

          Jonah Yaussy scored on three straight possessions in the first quarter, all on lay ins close to the hoop to give his team a 11 point lead (17-6) with 37 seconds left.

          Madison cut the Lexington lead to seven at the half (28-21,) but Big Lex outscored them (8-4) in the first four minutes of the third quarter.  "I thought we were okay coming in at half down seven.  I told the kids that first three minutes of the third were important and we couldn't quite string possessions together.  Things were flowing pretty good in the second.  They are a good team.  Joey Zahn kind of runs that club.  The progression he has made from his junior to his senior year and his ability to lead I think was the difference in the game.  He gets them in their offense, he runs the floor for them, he doesn't panic.  He doesn't force shots.  I think that is the difference," said Mergel.

          Zahn, in his fourth year for the varsity, added seven assists on the night.  Hamilton aggress that his leadership was key.  "He went through a district semi as a freshman, as a sophomore, and a junior last year, which we were in control of all of the way to the end.  I don't think there was any way possible that Joey Zahn was going to let us lose this game.  He did the things that we need him to do.  When he was open he was taking advantage of it.  When he was being well defended he was finding the open man to shoot the ball.  That is our leader right there.  Him and Yaussy have been our two big guys all year long.  We have a such a great supporting cast," said Hamilton.

          Yaussy added 16 for the Minutemen.  Tyrell Ajian had 15 and Billy Buckley 14 for Madison.

          Lexington plays Northern Ohio League co-leader Sandusky (19-3) for the district title on Saturday afternoon at Galion.  Hamilton knows they will have to play better.  "I told the guys after the game that I'm sure we played our best game over the last two, so we have that going for us.  The problem is we have to start playing our best basketball.  We are just tickled right now that we are playing on Saturday," he said.

 

Published 3/02/16

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Ball Pressure and Rebounding are Keys for Madison

 

          Madison will be looking to pull the upset and knock off the top seed in the district and a team that has beaten them twice this year as they face Lexington in the division two district semi finals on Wednesday night at Galion High School.

          The Rams (15-9) beat Sandusky Perkins (59-44) last Friday in the sectional final at Ashland High School and coach Tim Mergel says they need to carry that momentum into Wednesday night.  "Anytime you play well you want to kind of build off that and hopefully that is what we do.  Lexington presents another set of challenges for us.  They have different personnel and they are a different type basketball team than Perkins and one that we are obviously very well aware of," he said.

          Lexington (22-2), #1 in the final Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, has been the best team in North Central Ohio pretty much all season.  Mergel says they have kids that know what to do when the pressure is on.  "They have good senior leadership.  They have guys that have been around for a while.  We played them two pretty close games except for the second half of the first game.  We have been right in striking distance through three quarters and then their senior leadership sort of takes over.  That is one thing I have noticed they never get rattled and they hold their poise.  We are hoping with tournament basketball something crazy happens," he said.

          A height advantage will be in the hands of the Minutemen and they have given Madison some problems in the paint this year.  Mergel says they must make it difficult for Lexington to throw the ball inside.  "I think you start with the ball pressure.  Teams are going to get some inside looks against us just because of the way we play.  We have to minimize that as much as we can by trying to disrupt what they are trying to do and it starts with ball pressure.  If we can do that and not let them get in the flow of the game it going to be better for us," he said.

          Last week, Madison was able to cause some turnovers and Mergel says they need to be able to do that again on Wednesday.  "It is no secret that Lexington beats people up on the glass.  We have the ability to force turnovers and take away from their number of shots taken, which gives them less of a chance to get offensive rebounds.  Along with the pressure we have to be able to rebound the basketball and make a concerted effort to do that on Wednesday night.  Those two things I think are pretty big keys," he said.

          It's fair to say that Madison is one of the better defensive teams in the area, but rebounding has been a different story.  Mergel says they have to compete on the glass to have a chance  "We are pretty good defensively.  We set a school record last year giving up 49 points a game and we are not far off that pace this year.  We are on 51.3.  So, we get stops, but it is that shot off the rim that really gets us some times," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "Here at Madison we are always used to being undersized that is why we have to work so hard.  Wednesday we are going to probably have to work harder than we ever have to get a win."

          If the game come down to the fourth quarter, like a lot of district games do, Mergel thinks they will be ready.  "I think we have been through some situations with the veteran guys we have in Tyrell (Ajian) and Billy (Buckley) in some close tournament basketball games.  With Senior High two years ago we took them down to the wire in the sectional final.  We go to Otsego last year and Billy was able to play against a strong Findlay team.  I think our schedule this year has prepared us.  We had 14 road games and only eight home games.  That has been geared to get us ready for this moment.  If it is close in the fourth quarter I think our guys are prepared," said Mergel.

 

Published 3/02/16

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Madison has Got to Rebound

 

          Madison takes on Sandusky Perkins in second round division two tournament game at Ashland High School on Friday night.

          In a grind it out sort of game the Rams (14-9) downed Norwalk (45-39) on Tuesday to advance in the tournament.  Outscoring Norwalk (15-7) in the second quarter Madison tied the game and coach Tim Mergel says they were able to break free a little in the third.  "We knew that there was a possibility for them to kind of get a ball control game was going to be there.  We new as a group we were going to need to be pretty disciplined.  I told the kids that we just needed to be disciplined enough to make that one run.  We were able to make that run.  We went on a 9-0 run in the middle of the third.  Anytime you can do that against a team that is trying to do a little ball control it is gong to put them in a tough spot.  So, I am proud of our kids for staying tough," he said.

          Perkins (15-7) was the runner up to Edison in the Sandusky Bay Conference this season.  Due to some injures they have been forced to play some young kids.  Mergel says those kids can play and their lineup is kind like his.  "They are a young group.  I really didn't understand how young they were until I started watching them a little more.  They are a young group that I think is playing beyond their years.  They have really gotten some guys that I don't know if they have necessarily counted on, but they have had to at this point and they have really improved.  They have nice kid inside, about a 6'5'" kid.  I think they are pretty similar to us," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "They have a couple of kids that can shoot it.  They have one kid that can shoot, they have one kid that can kind of take over a ballgame, and they have a little bit of size inside.  It is an interesting match-up for us, but it is one that I think we match-up well as far as personnel."

          It is a game of match-ups.  Mergel thinks Perkins might have some trouble guarding Tyrell Ajian and Billy Buckley, but the Pirates are going to be tough to deal with on the glass.  "I think we are a little more athletic at some positions.  I think we can pressure them a little bit into some things that maybe they aren't comfortable with.  If we are able to apply some ball pressure and get then out of rhythm I think that will be a key factor for us.  The flip side to that is if we can get them out rhythm and they can play the game instead of being in a system the shots are going to go up and we are going to have to rebound the basketball.  With their athletic ability inside and our inability sometimes to rebound the basketball it's going to put us in a tough situation as far as giving up second and third opportunities," said Mergel.

 

Published 2/26/16

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Madison Ready for Anything From Norwalk

 

          Madison faces Norwalk in the first round of the division two post season tournament on Tuesday night at Ashland High School.

          The Rams posted two wins on the final weekend of the regular season beating Orrville (54-53) in an "OCC" game on Friday and downing Willard (55-49) in non-conference play on Saturday.

          Coach Tim Mergel says it may not have been pleasing to the eye, but they were both good wins for the Rams.  "It wasn't the most prettiest ways to win both games this weekend, but I thought it was a much needed way to win.  We founds some ways to scratch some points together.  We found a way to get some stops.  It wasn't the prettiest, but I thought some good tournament preparation for this week," he said.

          With the kind of regular season schedule the Rams (13-9) played, Mergel things they are ready for any kind of pace or tempo that the game is played Tuesday night.  "We are kind of an indifferent team when it comes to pace.  We are prepared for anything because we see such a wide variety of teams on our schedule.  We see teams that are ultra athletic and want to kind of get up and down the floor with you and some teams that want to try and slow it down.  We are comfortable doing it both ways.  What was encouraging is we jumped out of the gates down seven or eight both nights, but we didn't panic and just stuck with the plan.  We were in some great situations where we could shoot it," said Mergel.

          Madison beat Norwalk (56-49) in late December.  Mergel says they have to be ready for about anything from the Truckers.  "That's the thing you don't know what to expect.  You have got a team that started out the year 6-1 or 7-1 and now they are 11-11.  I think it is a team right now that is trying to find its identity.  Coach Gray is going to come up with a great game plan, there is no doubt in my mind," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "A point of emphasis for them is to stop our key players.  You may see a diamond and one, you may see a triangle and two.  Then again you never know what he thinks is best.  He can throw everything at you, so you may see a diamond press out of them.  We have to be prepared for anything he throws at us.  With the type of schedule we have played this year I am pretty comfortable with that."

          Norwalk took Northern Ohio League co-champ Ontario to the end last week before losing (43-39) and Mergel knows it could be that kind of game when they play.  "We are have definitely prepared our guys for that.  We have talked about different scenarios and things they might try to do.  We are definitely going to be prepared.  We aren't going to change a whole lot of what we do defensively.  If we get into that slow tempo kind of game we are built for that.  We are built for possession basketball and getting in the passing lanes and trying to get some instant points off turnovers.  The thing for us is things have to stay consistent for us on the defensive end and we have to continue to do what we do and disrupt what they do offensively," said Mergel.

 

Published 2/23/16

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Madison Ends Regular Season With Two

 

          Madison is a basketball team that has beaten Ontario this year, they have beaten Mansfield Senior this year, but they still feel a little empty.

          They certainly can get filled up with a good run in the division two tournament this year.

          The Rams lost to rival Mansfield Senior (72-59) last Friday.  Coach Tim Mergel says they were affected more by the Tygers pressure than they were the first time they played when they beat them in overtime.  "I just thought Senior High's pressure was more of a factor this time around.  They had a much better effort.  It was kind of like the Senior High of old to where guys where flying around.  Give our guys credit they stuck with it.  We started to make them pay for it at the end, but it was a little bit too late.  Once again I credit our kids.  We fought the entire game.  We got it down to since digits with two minutes left, we just couldn't finish," said Mergel.

          Madison (11-9,8-5) plays at home against Orrville (5-15,3-10) on Friday night in Ohio Cardinal Conference action.  It will be the last conference game for Orrville, who is leaving after this year.  Mergel knows they will get a good effort from the Red Riders.  "Orrville if you look at their record is probably one of the more underestimated teams in the state.  They just beat a good Northwestern team the other night.  In this conference with the kind of being a smaller school.  It is unfortunate with them leaving the conference," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "I always thought they gave us some great games, but it is what it is.  Their record just indicates the kind of competition they play week in and week out in the conference.  We are definitely not overlooking them.  We know they can compete with anyone."

          Willard (6-14) plays at Madison in a non-conference game on Saturday night.  Mergel knows they must contain Conner Robinson.  "I had the opportunity to coach Conner for three or four summers a while back and he is just a tough, tough kid.  You can't say it any better when you say he goes, they go.  We definitely have to limit his touches, but he is such a good basketball player he has seen about every different defense that you could throw at him.  We just hope we can limit his touches and not let him have that career night and not allowing that to happen with the other guys on the floor as well," he said.

          The Rams open tournament play against Norwalk next Tuesday at Ashland High School.  Mergel says a couple wins this weekend would help their confidence.  "We definitely want to get on some momentum, but it is hard with the kids.  You try to tell the kids to focus on the task in front.  With the tournament draw the kids see the path that is out in front of them and it is tough to get that focus back.  The kids know what is front of them.  They know Friday night.  We finish up with two home games.  It is definitely going to be a plus for us to finish off the season right at home the way we want.  We get Friday and Saturday out of the way and then start getting ready for Norwalk on Tuesday," said Mergel.

 

Published 2/19/16

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Madison has Mansfield Senior on its Mind

 

          Madison can help Lexington by knocking Mansfield Senior out of the Ohio Cardinal Conference race, but the Rams aren't worried about that... they just want to beat the Tygers for the second time this season.

          They are coming off a (60-46) win over West Holmes, who has only won once this year, on Friday.  Coach Tim Mergel thought they had pretty good focus and execution.  "We started out well and then hit sort of a bad spot there, but you have to give West Holmes credit and I thought they played extremely hard.  Anytime you go down to West Holmes it is a tough place to play, but I thought I was pretty pleased with our guys effort and execution.  Anytime you face a team like that you kind of question your kids and what you might get out of them.  I was very, very satisfied with how the group played," he said.

          Madison (11-8,8-4) will be at Mansfield Senior (10-7,9-3) on Friday night.  Mergel says this a Mansfield Senior team that plays like it always has.  "I think this a typical Mansfield Senior team.  I think there are a lot of similarities when you look at this year and years past.  Maybe they don't have that guy that shoots from the perimeter, but they have a couple of guys that can knock it down.  When you look at what they do it is pretty similar to years past.  They rebound a ton and the past couple of games they have been trapping a little more," said Mergel.

          Being able to handle the Tygers without double teaming them is a key.  Mergel says they were able to do that the first time and that will be big again on Friday.  "I thought that was one our main strengths the last time we played them is we were able to guard one on one.  They weren't able to break us down as easy and have two guys guarding one and our rotations stayed solid," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "Usually our first rotation, rotation and a half our pretty good against Mansfield Senior, but with their ball penetration and quickness they are able to get to those second and third breakdowns, which kill you not just from that shot standpoint, but that offensive rebound standpoint."

          Madison beat the Tygers at their place (68-64) in overtime a month ago.

          A loss would likely eliminate Mansfield Senior from the "OCC" title hunt.  However, Mergel says they aren't thinking about that, they are thinking about winning.  "We are not looking to do anybody any favors.  We are kind of looking out for ourselves. When it is Madison-Mansfield Senior you can take whatever conference records there are and who is in the race and who is not and throw them out the window.  When you get a Madison-Mansfield game it is all about that game.  You kind of throw the conference out of this thing because I'll be honest with you I don't think any kid cares they just care who they are staring across from on Friday night," said Mergel.

 

Published 2/10/16

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Madison Wants to Build Momentum

 

          Madison is now a long shot to win the Ohio Cardinal Conference, trailing Lexington and Wooster by two games, but they can still have a good season.

          They play at West Holmes on Friday night in a game they are expected to win.

          The Rams lost to Wooster (68-54) in an "OCC" game on Saturday night.  Coach Tim Mergel says it was another game where they just couldn't get that big play when they needed it most.  "We started out kind of behind the eight ball and got down 10 early and were down nine at half.  I think with 45 seconds left we cut it down to one and before the third quarter was over it was an 8-0 run by Wooster.  They hit a three and we had an unfortunate turnover that led to an intentional foul an they knock down two free throws and a they knock down another one at the buzzer.  We went from being down one going to fourth hopefully to staring at an eight point deficit," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "We couldn't quit get over that hump.  They are in first place for a reason.  I thought they played a great game.  We changed up their style a little bit and they were still able to defeat us based on their effort."

          With four regular season games to play over the last three weeks, Mergel says their goal is to win them all and see what happens.  "I think we are in the mind frame now that we just want to win these last four whether it is for the conference or for the tournament.  We have four games coming up that we have a shot to win.  It would be nice to go into the tournament with a four game winning streak and see how it goes from there," he said.

          Mergel says the goal is to build some momentum here at the end of the regular season.  He says he believes they are playing well.  "I thought on Friday we played an extremely good ball game and extremely efficient for us.  We had good spells against Wooster.  Like I said you have to credit Wooster for the pressure they brought on us, not only in the full court, which I thought we did better with, but in the half court where they kind of caused some problems.  It was a tough loss, but it was good preparation going into the stretch run," he said.

          Madison (10-8,7-4) plays at West Holmes (1-15,0-9) on Friday night.  The Rams were (52-30) winners in their first meeting.  Mergel says they don't want to be a season maker for the Knights.  "We have been there.  My first couple of years here we struggled.  When you get later in the year and you are going through struggles you are looking for that one win that you can kind of hang your hat on as far as a signature win.  I am sure that is what West Holmes is doing and we are doing our best not be that signature win.  We have to come in preparation wise Monday through Thursday just like we always do and then travel down to a tough place to play," said Mergel.

 

Published 2/02/16

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it's the Final Hurdle For Madison

 

          Madison is a good team working on becoming a better team and like a lot of teams it is consistency that is standing in their way.

          The Rams (9-7,6-3) stand two games behind Ohio Cardinal Conference leader Lexington with two league games to play this weekend, at Clear Fork on Friday and at home with Wooster on Saturday.

          Coach Tim Megrel says they have improved this season, but they still aren't in top form every night.  "We have battled the inconsistency bug for a while.  It is our job as coaches, and my job as the head coach, to get our guys ready to play each and every night.  Some nights it looks like we are taking a step forward and some nights we don't look as crisp.  That is basketball.  There is little margin for error in our conference and our non-conference schedule.  We have to be prepared each and every night and this weekend is no different," he said.

          They have win a win over Mansfield Senior (68-64) this year, so that shows what they can do against a quality opponent.  However, Mergel says sometimes they just come up a play or two short.  "We had to deal with some issues at the beginning of the season that we needed to get ironed out.  Then we ran into some tough games that were some learning experiences for the kids.  At this point we are still hoping to compete for a conference title, even though we are a couple of games back.  It is always a goal to end the season on a high note and be playing your best basketball by season's end and that's still our goal and that's what we are preaching to the kids," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "The kids are still believing that.  We know we are a pretty good basketball team and on any given night we can stick around with anyone.  It's kind of getting over that hump and being consistent.  If we had a magic wand it would be fantastic.  You take Saturday night's game against Lexington, we get down early, we cut it to three, then it's eight, and we cut it back down to four.  We just couldn't get over that hump and that is what we are trying to get too."

          Madison beat Clear Fork (55-33) in early December, but Mergel says he has seen a lot of improvement in the Colts (3-10,1-7) this year.  "I think last year we played one of our better games at Clear Fork that we have played in a long time in that gym.  For some reason we just don't play well over there and they obviously play much better at home.  Watching them on film, and comparing them to when we played them the first time they are a lot better.  Steve has done a nice job of being patient with his young group.  They have learned and they have progressed," he said.

          On the other hand, Wooster (10-4,7-2) beat up the Rams (79-60) in their first meeting.  Merget says they have to be patient and handle the ball.  "We like to think we have the kind of team that can hang around anyone.  With Wooster you have to be able to handle the pressure.  They are going to throw athletes at you, they are going to foul and hack you.  They are going to try and steal the ball, they are going to be in passing lanes.  You have to do your job and be patient and be strong with the ball and not let that tempo dictate what you want to do," he said.

 

Published 1/29/16

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Lexington Downs Madison; Leads "OCC"

 

          Lexington held off Mansfield Madison (54-42) on Saturday night and they continue to lead the Ohio Cardinal Conference standings.

          They lead Mansfield Senior, who beat Orrville (69-42) Saturday night, and Wooster, who didn't play, by a game.  Madison drops two back.

          Joey Zahn led the Minutemen with 19 points and Jonah Yaussy added 10 for the Minutemen.  And Lexington, one of the deepest teams in the area, also got 10 off the bench from Dana Shoulders Jr.

          "Dana is naturally just a scorer, so we knew when he got in there he was going to be looking for his shot, but what we wanted him to focus on was the defensive side.  Everyday in practice we tell him that and he is getting to be a better and better defender.  After the first quarter we knew that Yaussy was a problem for them, they couldn't hold back, but when he got those fouls, we just had to set him down.  We have Conner Baughman coming off the bench.  Traevin (Harrison) gave us some minutes in there when we were trying to get Zahn a rest.  When you see that many fouls you know you have been in a battle.  This was a great win the get over here," said Lexington coach Scott Hamilton.

         Madison (9-7.6-3) got a game high 23 from Tyrell Ajian, but no one else was in double figures.  Rams coach Tim Megrel admits the Minutemen had more depth.  "I think that is the difference in the game.  You look at them and their go to guys I think were in double figures, but the Shoulders kid off the bench was the "X" factor.  He is hit a couple of jumpers, he made a transition layup, he got a post up where he knocked one in.  The difference in the game was 12 and he had 10.  Without a doubt that is an area of concern for us, but that's what makes Lexington fourth ranked in the state,  They have different guys step up each night and that's what we are going to strive to do," he said.

          Lexington (16-1,8-1), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, took an (11-2) lead out of the gate Saturday night, but Rams closed the half with an 8-2 run to trim the Lex lead to (26-22) at the half.  Madison cut it to three (30-27) on an Ajian basket with 6:33 left in the third quarter, but Zahn responded with back to back threes to expand the lead to nine to (36-27) with 5:04 left in the quarter. 

          Hamilton says they were able to make clutch plays in key satiations.  "We knew they played some half court games.  We knew they played some transition games.  We weren't sure which way they were going to try and go with us.  We told the guys we felt comfortable either way.  We wanted the guys to know that we wanted to dictate the tempo that we wanted .  When we got a change in possession or a quick rebound we wanted to run the floor.  We wanted to get out.  If we didn't get what we wanted we wanted to value every possession and we pulled it out and ran something and got a good look.  Through the 32 minutes there were probably a couple of shots we would like to have back.  Overall the guys are confident in their shooting ability.  We tell them if you are on floor you have to be a threat," said Hamilton.

`        Mergel says they were able to be aggressive, especially in the second quarter when the outscored the Minutemen (15-12,) but not as much in the second half.  "You have to give Lex credit they are pretty good and they are long and it hard to find an opening there.  We cut back into the lead there with Yaussy and Stover on the bench.  That cut down some of their length inside, which gave us some dribble drive lanes and we were able to attack.  The officiating was pretty loose in the first half and we took advantage taking it to the basket.  It seemed like tightened up in the second half," he said.

 

Published 1/23/16

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Madison Facing Another Tough Weekend

 

          Madison has worked itself back into the Ohio Cardinal Conference race trailing conference leader Lexington by just a game.

          They play Big Lex at home on Saturday, but first they have to be concerned with a trip to Ashland on Friday to play the much improved Arrows.

          Last Friday, they edged arch rival Mansfield Senior (68-64) in overtime and coach Tim Megrel says that gave them a chance to play a roll in the second half of the season.  "It is something we talked about in practice Thursday with the guys.  In all fairness it was a big game not only from being Madison-Mansfield Senior, but with them being undefeated in the league and us with two losses if we knock them off its puts everybody with one loss with a lot of basketball left.  By getting them at least if gives us a higher percentage of winning the league.  It puts us right back in the thick of things with Ashland beating Wooster," said Mergel.

          Wins over the Tygers are always great for Madison, but Mergel says he was even more impressed with the (63-48) win over Orrville on Saturday night.  "Anytime you beat a Mansfield Senior you like to think you are playing pretty well, but what was more impressive we what we were able to do the next night at Orrville.  I know our guys were tied, they were beat up a little bit, they were sore.  The way we executed against Orrville was one of our finest performances all year.  Coming off a tough weekend the weekend before I was proud of the way the kids bounced back.  The grit they showed, showed me a lot as a coach," he said.

          Madison (8-6,5-2) beat Ashland (6-7,4-3) by the score of (58-42) in early December.  Mergel says this is a different Ashland team they will be playing, a better one.  "There is no question they are better.  We got them early.  They had a bunch of kids that were coming into new roles compared to what they were used to the year before.  Of course, the Denbow kid wasn't playing for them, he was out with mono.  I knew it was only a matter of time for them until they hit their stride," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "Unfortunately for us it is this time.  I think we are playing pretty good and I think Ashland is playing pretty well.  It will be a fun game to coach.  As a fan and a player I think it is going to be a pretty neat experience."

          Ashland beat talented Wooster (68-50) on Saturday night.

          Mergel says he has encouraged his kids to not be thinking too much ahead to playing Lexington (14-1,6-1), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division.  "You don't want to fall into looking towards the top.  As coaches and fans and players we all look towards the top team and that of course is Lexington. We have to take care of the business that is in front of first.  We know what we are going to get with Lex with Yaussey and Zahn and they have a freshman that is playing out of his mind right now.  We definitely have take care business Friday night first, but we know what is front of us on Saturday," he said.

 

Published 1/20/16

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Madison Plays Rival Tygers

 

          If Madison is to be part of the Ohio Cardinal Conference race this winter they must beat the arch rival Mansfield Senior Tygers when they play Friday night at Madison.

         Madison lost a tough one to Mansfield St. Peter's (49-47) last Saturday and another one to Mt. Vernon (55-51) on Wednesday, both in non-conference play.  Coach Tim Mergel says they didn't play with intensity Wednesday night.  "I didn't think either team played particularly well and you can attribute that to maybe the snow day and not being able to get in the gym.  I think we lacked a little bit of urgency.  Still I think our kids battled to the end.  You can tell that by the score, but there are definitely things that we have to clean up," he said.

          With Mansfield Senior up next, Mergel says there is no time for pouting.  "We are looking to bounce back after a couple of tough losses.  As a coach you want to see the same fire and passion from a kid when they win and when they lose.  For our kids it is about bouncing back getting right back in the thick of the "OCC" race.  We have a chance to knock off a first place team in Mansfield Senior, not that you need any added incentive when you play Mansfield.  I think this puts us right back in the thick of things, so it is a huge game for us on Friday," he said.

          Madison (6-6,3-2) plays host to Mansfield Senior (6-3,5-0) in conference action on Friday night.  Mergel says the strategy is the same as it always is against the Tygers.  "Like I have said before, even when I played against them there is not a lot of preparation involved, there is not a lot of simulation involved as far as their pressure and what they bring to the table, you can't simulate that is practice," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "You have to protect the basketball, you have to limit your turnovers, and you have to rebound the basketball.  It is not the first shot that will get you against them, it is the second, third, and fourth.  You have to limit their chances after they put that first shot up.  If you can do that and protect the basketball you have a shot."

          It is a mental exercise when you play against the Tygers and Mergel says they believe they can win this game.  "We have had some success with them the last couple of years.  I know the win loss record doesn't show it, but we took them down to the wire in a tournament game a couple of years ago, of course we split with them last year.  I don't think there is any question our kids believe we can beat them it is just the point of execution.  It is a Madison-Mansfield Senior game, but it is a typical "OCC" game.  We have some people in Lexington pulling for us, and some people in Wooster pulling for us to knock of Senior High for the ranks us the unbeaten in the "OCC."   We are going to be our best to prepare to do that," said Mergel.

 

Published 1/15/16

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Controversy at St. Peter's

 

          If there were video replay in boys' basketball in Ohio there would have been an extra session at the Franciscan Activity Center on Saturday night, but that is not case.

          Nick Smith's rebound basket was ruled after the buzzer, but video of the play shows that the ball was out of his hand before the horn nevertheless Mansfield St. Peter's held on to beat Mansfield Madison (49-47) in a non-conference boys' basketball game on Saturday night.

          "It's a bad call.  I guess it's human error.  It looked like it was through the net when the buzzer went off.  I give our kids credit.  We didn't play our best basketball game, I guess you can attribute a little of that to St. Pete's.  We looked a little tired and didn't make some shots, but I'll tell you the will at the end to cut it back at the end and then to have the rug pulled out from under them it's a tough pill to swallow.  I fell for my kids deeply.  I feel so bad for them.  It's unbelievable," said Madison coach Tim Mergel.

          Without the benefit of seeing any replay St. Peter's coach Joe Jakubick told Swankonsports.com after the game it was a tough call for the officials.  "It was a bang, bang play.  I'll be honest, I thought I heard the horn, but I wasn't looking at the clock.  It is so loud in here.  I thought with seven seconds and Ajian shooting it and dribble the length of the court.  I thought we did good job of making him weave a little bit.  His shot was way off balance.  I could tell it was going to be long.  At least from my vantage point.  I can't say one way or the other with a lot of confidence.  The ref is in position to make that call and he is in perfect position and he made it right away," said Jakubick.

          Despite being saddled with foul trouble all night forcing him to set for large portions of the second and third quarters Madison's Tyrell Ajian led the Rams with 15 points.  Mergel says he was not the only one on the bench.  "When it rains it pours.  We didn't catch any breaks as far as fouls.  I'm not saying we don't foul, we foul, but when you have Ajian with three in the first half, and Buckley with two, Cal Rickert with three in the first half, Nick Smith with two.  I thought about looking in my book to see if I had any JV kids that didn't have a uniform on.  My kids battled with lineups and things like that I couldn't be more proud of them," he said.

          Mason Campbell had 16 points and Tyson Kent added 14 for the Spartans.

          St. Peter's held a (48-40) lead with 1:15 to play after two free throws by Kent.  However, Jacob Kohler scored with 1:04 to play and the Rams stole the inbounds pass and Billy Buckley drained a three pointer to cut the lead to (48-45) with :56 left.  Another Kohler basket with :24 left cut the Spartans led to (48-47).  Madison had a chance take the lead after they rebounded a Ryan Payne missed free throw, but Elijah Cobb stole the ball at half court and was fouled with :07 remaining.  Cobb made the first free throw to increase the lead to (49-47,) but missed the second, which led to the final play.

          St. Peter's went into a spread, four corners look, with about four minutes to play and Jakubick thought they executed pretty well.  "I thought we did really well, I mean we ended up getting an eight point lead.  I think we kind of melted against the full court pressure.  It was just making decisions.  There are several things that we could have done differently and we talked about it in the locker room.  Mason, if can't get it in, then call time out.  Elijah, even when he made a great steal, you don't have to take that shot, you can dribble the clock out.  It is decisions like that that we have to be better at.  I am proud, our kids battled and it reminded me of the Ontario game all over again.  As I told our kids that night, we have to play 32 minutes and every play matters, fortunately this one went our way," said Jakubick.

          Mergel said they had some opportunities in the game that they didn't take advantage of.  "I think we are a little tired.  (Friday) night was the first night we had been home in a month, so we have been on the road a lot.  We went to Massillon and played in the classic, in the NOL/OCC, and it caught up with us a little bit.  It is disappointing because we can beat them off the dribble and get to the basket, we just failed to do so.  We settled for some outside shots, but once again we played extremely hard," he said.

 

Published 1/09/16

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Madison on the Rise

 

          After beating two solid teams last week in the "OCC/NOL" challenge, the Madison Rams appear to be heading in the right direction.

          They downed Ontario (59-53) last Tuesday and then beat Norwalk (56-49) the next night.

          Coach Tim Mergel says his team in starting to settle into their roles, and that is a good thing.  "We knew going into the season we had a chance to be pretty good.  There were some things starting off that were unfortunate at the beginning of the year and us getting pretty late in the game as far as rotations go.  We are starting to get settled in is a nice feeling.  As any coach will tell you there is always a chance you could be better and I believe that.  I am proud of my guys for the way they played over break.  We will definitely take some quality wins over teams like Norwalk and Ontario," he said.

          Coming up on Friday night, the Rams (5-4,2-2) are at home for West Holmes (1-8,0-4) as they return to Ohio Cardinal Conference action.  West Holmes does not appear to be having a good year based on their record, but Mergel says he isn't fooled.  "I can tell you they are very well coached.  The first year coach (Keith) Troyer came into the league they won a league title.  Last year, we were able to spilt with them.  They do what they do and they do it well.  They have some disciplined guys.  They are kind of young, but watching them on film, an being able to watch them live, they are a disciplined group.  They do things the right way.  The play the game the right way.  Their record doesn't reflect the way I think they have played.  It just takes a win over a team like ours to turn their season around.  We are going to do our best not to do that and try to play our game versus trying to get into their tempo," Mergel said.

          Madison will be at Mansfield St. Peter's (7-2) for an interesting non-conference game on Saturday night.  Mergel says the Spartans personnel is a lot like his own.  "Just on going off of what they had last year obviously they have a couple of scorers in the Jakubick kid and the Campbell kid.  I really haven't watch them due to the fact that we have a conference game coming up on Friday," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "Like every coach I watch the scores and I think they were on TV when they beat Sandusky St. Mary's, so I had a chance to look at them a little bit.  Just based on what they have coming back it is going to be an interesting match-up for us.  They are kind of like us, they have a couple of kids that can score and they are undersized.  I think match-up wise it will be one of our better match-ups.  They have a couple of kids that can fill it up so we will have to be prepared."

 

Published 1/05/16

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Madison Takes Down Ontario

 

          Deion Miller scored all 11 of his points in the fourth quarter, including three of three form behind the three point line, and Mansfield Madison turned a three-point deficit to start the final quarter into a (59-53) win over Ontario on the first night of the "OCC/NOL" Challenge at Lexington High School Tuesday night.

          Rams coach Tim Mergel says his guys showed what they could do against a very good basketball team.  "We are a good basketball team. We just haven't showed it.  I know that is a little cliché to say, but we have kids that know the game.  We have kids that work pretty hard, but it takes games like this to win for us to understand we can be pretty good," he said.

          Madison trailed (47-43) with less than five minutes left before Miller hit three threes in as many possessions to give the Rams a (52-47) advantage.  "Deion made some big shots.  We were able to get him open off some screens and some penetration.  To come off the bench like when he was a starter before was huge for us.  To come in with the confidence to knock them down there wasn't any bigger shots in the game," said Mergel.

          Ontario played without the services of leading scorer Andrew Rathburn and coach Joe Balogh says they needed some other kids to step up and that didn't happen.  "We just needed some other guys to step up and play.  Trey Jordan was really good.  Jackson Todd was really good, but we needed other guys to step up and we didn't do a very good job of that.  We had our chances.  We had it at 47-43 and we didn't extend it out," he said.

          Tyrell Ajian led Madison scores with 19 and Balogh added they didn't do a good enough job of keeping the ball away from him.  "Tyrell (Ajian) is a tough match and he kind of controlled the basketball game.  We were hoping we could get it out of his hands a little bit more," he told Swankonsports.com after the game, "The front of our press was pretty good, but the back of our press wasn't very good.  We gave up too many layups at the back end of our press, so that made it difficult for us to get back in it because you can't give up layups.  Then Miller hit some big threes in the fourth that were key in their runs."

          Ontario guard Trey Jordan scored 17 of his game high 26 points in the first half as the Warriors led (27-26) at the break, but Mergel thought they made things tougher on him in the second two quarters.  "In the first half the Jordon kid killed us, so we faced guard him in the second half, which I thought was the difference.  Cal Rickert and Austin Hallabrin did a great job.  We pride ourselves on our half court defense and (Tuesday) night wasn't any different.  We had to put some stops together.  We came out flat the start the third, but we picked it up," said Mergel.

          Balogh has been happy with how hard his kids have played this year, but that wasn't necessarily the case Tuesday night.  "I just don't think our effort and energy was there from all five positions (Tuesday) night.  A lot of 50/50 rebounds we didn't get and lose basketball we didn't get.  in transition we get deflected from behind, we don't take care of it.  Those are plays that come back and haunt you, especially in a close game.  Madison made those plays and we didn't," said Balogh.

          Ontario (7-2), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, plays Lexington (9-0), #1 in that poll, and a (55-34) winner over Norwalk Tuesday night, on Wednesday at Lexington.  "We just have got to come back and bounce back.  We play a really good team (Wednesday) night," said Balogh.

          Madison (4-4) plays Norwalk (6-2) inn the first game on Wednesday.

 

Published 12/30/15

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Madison Plays Tough Schedule by Design

 

          Coming off spiting games in the Governor's Cup in Stark County, the Madison Rams will play two more games against very good teams next week in the "OCC/NOL" Challenge.

          On Monday they beat Massillon Washington (60-56) and then lost a tough one to Massillon Tuslaw (41-37) on Tuesday.  Coach Tim Mergel says he was pretty happy with what they did in both games.  "It was a good week for us as far as progression.  We are still a little inconsistent, but you look at Massillon Washington, a team that is ultra athletic and we were leading b 12, 14 points towards the end of the game and we kind of did some undisciplined things and where it got closer at the end and we were able to hang on," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "We go the next night and face a huge Tuslaw team that is 6'10", 6'7" and 6'5".  I felt we played our game plan to perfection.  We held the 6'10 guy to two points, but the got hot from the outside.  I think at one point one kid hit four straight threes.  That is kind of what we were giving up.  You have to pick you poison, you have to give up the inside or the outside.  We took away the inside and they hurt us with some big shots."

          Next week, the Rams (3-4) will play Ontario (7-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, and Norwalk (5-1), #5 in that poll, in the "OCC/NOL" Challenge.  Mergel they will play two disciplined teams that will be a big test.  "With those two teams you are going to get great coached basketball teams with Steve Gray (of Norwalk) and Joe (Balogh of Ontario).  Those schools have been able to develop an identity.  Joe has been around so long and his teams consistently win and with coach Gray they have a state title under their belts and they have some tradition there.  It is going to be interesting for our guys.  Ontario bring a little different play set than Norwalk does, but they are both very disciplined basketball teams and it is going to be a great test for us," said Mergel.

          Madison has played a tough schedule and will continue too and Mergel believes that is going to make them better.  "You look at our schedule and we have been kind of road warriors the last couple of weeks and we have faced the good completion, which Massillon Washington being a D-one school and Tulsaw, who was undefeated, and we took them down to the wire.  Now we have an Ontario team that has been beat once and a Norwalk team that has only been beat once.  I think this is going to get us ready.  We have played some inconsistent games, which is expected due to the level of competition we are playing, but I think we taking steps to get better," he said.

 

Published 12/24/15

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Rams Have to be Better Decision Makers

 

          Madison lost it's first Ohio Cardinal Conference game of the season last Friday to Lexington and they have to get right back on the beam on Tuesday night when they travel to Wooster to play the Generals.

          They trailed (25-23) at the half, but Madison didn't make many shots in the second half and Lexington handled them (66-41) in "OCC" play.  Madison coach Tim Mergel says they didn't take advantage of their chances to score in either half.  "In the first half we didn't play our best basketball.  Lexington left the door open a couple of time in the first half and we just didn't take advantage of it.  Anytime you play a good team like that and don't take advantage of opportunities sooner or later it is going to come back and bite you.  We just weren't able to answer runs and stop runs when we needed too.  The result was what it was and now we need to get better from it," he said.

          There were open shots that were not converted by the Rams, but Mergel says they also didn't take good shots at times.  "There were definitely some open looks that we didn't knock down, but there were also some opportunities for us offensively that we didn't take advantage of.  We got a little stagnate offensively.  They threw some pressure at us and once we broke that pressure we didn't attack.  Once we got in the half court we kind of stood a little bit.  For our guys it was maybe learning to play in the moment a little bit.  Once again it was a new learning experience for us.  We have to continue to get better.  We played a good first 16 minutes.  We need to put out 32 minutes," he said.

          Madison (2-2,2-1) plays at "OCC" co-leader Wooster (2-1,2-0) in a conference game on Tuesday night.  With a new coach in Michael Snowbarger and some new personnel, Mergel says he expects the Generals to pressure them all over the court.  "It is a little bit different than it has been years past.  The Daughertys and the O'Briens that they have had, the 6'7", 6'8" kids are no longer there.  They are playing a different style with a new coach.  They will pressure you at any time.  They can full court trap, they can trap you in the half court, they can trap the first pass, they can run someone at the ball handler," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "They are going to throw a variety of pressure situations at you.  You have to be able to handle the basketball.  If you take care of the basketball and limit your transition turnovers you are going to have a chance to stay in the ball game for a little bit.  The key is not turning the ball over and letting those turnovers turn into layups."

          When they break the pressure Mergel says they want to attack, but they have to know how to do it.  "You have to attack, but you also have to understand what is a good attack and what is not.  We will take any layup we can get and we preach attacking the rim, but you have to convert those things.  The goal when you see pressure is not necessarily the turnover, but rather a quick unwanted shot or a transition three or a goofy pull up jump shot.  We have to understand when to convert.  It all comes down to taking care of the basketball and taking advantage of the best opportunity we can," he said.

 

Published 12/15/15

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Big One in the "OCC"; Madison against Lex

 

          Two teams that fashion themselves as contenders in the Ohio Cardinal Conference play on Friday night as the Madison Rams travel to Lexington to lock horns with the Minutemen.

          Madison (2-1,2-0) is coming off a pretty impressive (58-42) win over defending "OCC" champ Ashland last week.  Coach Time Mergel says they definitely got better.  "It definitely helped our moral a little bit coming off a first game "OCC" win against Clear Fork, bouncing back from Shelby with that one, and then getting some guys back, and seeing some progression, and beating a good Ashland team.  We are taking steps in the right direction, but every week brings a new challenge and this one is no different," he said.

          After being out due to disciplinary reasons for the first two games, Billy Buckley and Jacob Koehler returned against Ashland and Mergel says both make a big difference for them.  "It gives us a little bit of added depth.  Billy Buckley is going to be a four year letter winner.  You look at his stat line, his offensive numbers, and he is a 13 to 15 point guy, and he certainly capable doing more, but I'm telling you, he is a worth about 15 extra points defensively," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "He did a heck of a job on the Brewer kid last week.  The Brewer kid had 17 against Sandusky, and with Buckley on him, he was only able to get six against us.  He is just very valuable for us.  Koehler comes in and has nine rebounds.  One of the keys we talk about every week is rebounding and he does that for us."

          Lexington (3-0,1-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, is coming off two big wins last week over Clear Fork (85-52) and Willard (63-36) in non-league play.  Mergel says their biggest strength is they have no weaknesses.  "Their size is the first thing that sticks out.  When you talk about the Munro kid and the Yaussy kid, the Hogsette kid, they are just big.  Their guard play is strong with Vore and Zahn and Nickoli.  There is not really a weakness that you can exploit.  They have solid areas all of the way around.  We are just going to try our best on Friday night to try and scrap some buckets across the board and hold them down as much as possible.  I think they are putting up like 75 a game," said Mergel.

          To get win on Friday night, Mergel says they have go to avoid the scoring draughts than have plagued them in past by continuing to attack when they have the ball.  "For us is about consistency and we have been able to do that.  These last couple of games we have been able to stay away from that bad quarter and away from teams putting runs up on us.  Once again it is about being consistent.  Keep attacking at all times and stay away from runs by Lex," he said.

 

Published 12/09/15

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Rams Beat Colts in "OCC" Play

 

          Tyrell Ajian scored seven his game high 18 points in the first quarter as Madison took an (18-8) lead and went on to beat the Clear Fork Colts (53-33) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game at Madison on Tuesday night.

          The Colts shot just over 30 percent for the game and Madison coach Tim Mergel thought they did a solid job of forcing Clear Fork to take some tough shots.  "That is usually what we try to hang our hats on defensive pressure and forcing teams into some uncomfortable situations.  We were unable to do that Friday night against Shelby because we just turned the ball over too much.  (Tuesday) night we were able to get them into a half court and we were able to push their offense out a little bit and force them into some tougher, contested shots," said Mergel.

          Clear Fork has just one senior and three juniors on their roster, the rest are sophomores and talented point guard A.J. Blubaugh is just a freshman.  Clear Fork coach Steven Bechtel was concerned a little by jitters, but with 5:19 left in the first quarter the game was tied at seven after a three from the right corner by Blubaugh.  However, the Colts would score only one point over the next eight minutes.  "I thought we got out there and we handled their pressure right away, their full court press.  We got some easy baskets.  I think they ended the quarter on like a 9-0 run and that kind of set us back a little bit.  But, I thought in the second quarter we still kind of just hung around.  The kids did a great job with that," said Bechtel.

          Madison shot well from the outside, making six three pointers on the night, two each from Austin Hallabrin, Deion Miller and Kyle Jackson.  Mergel thought they were able to get their feet under them.  "With the scrimmage schedule we play, the athletic teams we play, I'm talking the Sanduskys and the Perrysburgs and then you open up with a team like Shelby, it's nothing against Clear Fork, but it is just a totally different style of play.  We were used to playing fast, fast, fast, fast, and then here we kind of got slowed down and it looked like it.  Our shots we got our feet underneath us and we got squared up.  Fortunate for us we were able to knock some in," he said.

          Miller chipped with 13 and Nick Smith added nine for the Rams.  Sophomore Chance Barnett led Clear Fork with 10.

          With their youth, Clear Fork is probably going to see a lot of full and half court pressure and Bechtel thought they did a pretty decent job handling the ball against the Rams.  "I thought we handled the ball fairly well.  With a young team we are going to have some of those mistakes that everybody kind of groans about, but we have to remember freshman, sophomore, and we are going to have those times.  We have been really patient, we have been really positive with them," he told Swankonsports.com after the game, "We were pleased about how we came out defensively as well.  Obviously with Tyrell they have a great player there and some of their other guys really stepped up and hit some shots for them."

          Madison (1-1,1-0) plays defending "OCC" champion Ashland on Friday night and Mergel says going into that game they need to play better defense and get on the boards.  "Our on the ball defense we have go to get that cleaned up.  We had too many ticky tack hand check fouls.  For being undersized we don't rebound the ball nearly as well as we should or could.  Rebounding has to catch up with us, especially as we get longer into the "OCC," he said.

          Clear Fork (0-1,0-1) returns home to host Lexington is league action

 

Published 12/01/15

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Madison Opens With Shelby

 

          It's the traditional non-conference opener for both schools on Friday night as the Madison Rams visit Shelby to match-up with the Whippets.

          Both teams want to be a factor in their conference races with the Rams in the Ohio Cardinal Conference and the Whippets in the Northern Ohio League.

          This a different kind of year for boys' basketball with Thanksgiving right before the opening night of the season.  Madison coach Tim Mergel says that is just something that you have to deal with.  "I don't know if it's a concern because everyone is in the same boat kind of getting around that holiday.  It is going to be a challenge because at least for me it is the first time we have had to deal with it in preparing for a game the day after Thanksgiving.  Shelby is in the same boat we are and we just have to do what we can on our side to get our kids prepared during the holiday.  It is going to be a challenge, but everyone is in the same boat that is playing Friday night," he said.

          Mergel says he has been happy with the effort he has seen from his kids this year.  He just wishes they had more of their offense and defense in before the first game.  "I am happy with the effort from that standpoint.  I think the kids are playing hard and giving me everything they have so far.  As a coach you always want a couple of extra days, or even a week, or two weeks for that first game of preparation, but once again everyone is in the same boat to be where we want to be as far as x's and o's stuff," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "That is what the long season is for to continue to work harder and hope to continue to work to get better every day.  In the first game you are always go to have the first game jitters.  You are going to have people that aren't on the same page.  Staying mentally tough in that first game I think is the biggest challenge."

          Shelby comes into the game with a great deal of experience coming back from a team made it to the division two district semis last season.  Mergel says his sis an outstanding team with some very good guards.   "I think it is going to be an up and down game.  When you look at what Shelby is bringing to the table.  They like to pressure you everywhere.  They can trap at any spot.  They like to run and jump teams.  Personnel wise they are pretty impressive.  They are pretty guard heavy, but they have guards that can play the game.  The Schneider kid, a kid I have seen for a couple of years, can shoot it and put it on the floor.  You have the Hipp kid that is a three year letter winner now being a junior.  Brady Hill is back.  You throw in Armstrong and the Kehres kid that lit us up last year in JV.  They have a pretty solid unit that they are going to put on the floor on Friday night, so it is going to be a challenge for us," said Mergel.

          Shelby is going to bring the press and Mergel says they are going to have to handle it like they did last year.  "You never have enough ball handlers or enough bodies against a team that is going to pressure for 32 minutes.  I thought last year we did a pretty good job of handling their pressure and were able to make the extra pass to get the layup.  I think it is going to have to be a blueprint from last year, but they have a lot of guys returning and those guys are going to be better," he said.

 

Published 11/24/15

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Madison Wants to Run More

 

          Madison played some pretty good defense last season.  They still want to do that, but in more of a full court style.

          They started out last season as one of the better big school boys' basketball teams in North Central Ohio, but slumped a little with the injury to Tyrell Aijan.  Coach Tim Mergel says that forced them to play some other guys last year and that is going to be a benefit this year.  "I think it is definitely a plus in our favor if we do stay healthy.  Across the board with a lot of teams there just isn't much depth.  There aren't the numbers in sports like there were back in the old days.  Anytime you lose a player of Tyrell's caliber like we did last year if is go to hurt you.  You look on the flip side of that we were able to get some guys so varsity minutes that wouldn't have got those minutes.  It was tough for us to lose Tyrell lat year, but I think it is going to benefit us a little more this year with guys getting so more minutes based on that injury.  You never want to see a kid get hurt, especially a kid of that kind of magnitude and character.  He is back and healthy now.  He had a great football season and we are looking forward to a big year from him," said Mergel.

          With Ajian not around as much last year, Mergel says of the other players were given other roles and he says that has made them better players.  "You look at guys like Austin Hallabrin, he gets a spot and he is kind of a defensive specialist and Tyrell goes down and his role expands where he is playing more minutes and we are counting on his to score a little bit and he gets more comfortable shooting the basketball.  Cal Rickert, who was a freshman, was able to come up and get some varsity minutes, and Kyle Jackson was well," he told Swankonsports.com, "Just those underclassmen getting those minutes and having those guys come back.  There is no substitute for experience and I think the experience those guys gained will be invaluable.  I think we are going to be in position to win some games this year and being out there last year is going to help."

          Of course, Mergel says he doesn't mind having a healthy Ajian back in the lineup because he can do some things that a lot of other players can't do.  "He has a skill set that I like to say is uncoachable and that is a good thing because a lot of things he can do you can't coach.  He does things that other kids can't do and there is a reason why he is a division one athlete.  He has that ability.  Last year was very unfortunate for him with the injury and only getting to play 10 or 11 games with us.  I thought he was off to a really strong start.  Tyrell would be the first to tell you that he wouldn't be able to do those things without the surrounding cast that includes Billy Buckley and Austin Hallabrin and Nick Smith and we have a big kid Jacob Koehler coming up from the JV's.  I am excited by Tyrell and I am really excited by the group we are going to put around him," he said.

          Madison opens the season the day after Thanksgiving against Shelby, on the road, in non-conference play.  Their first "OCC" game is December 1, when they host Clear Fork.

          Now, as far as tempo is concerned, Mergel says this year they want opponents to guard them in the full court.  "I think when you look at our team and we do have some athletes.  I don't think we are extremely deep as a unit, but I think we can get there with some experience and playing some tougher teams in scrimmages.  You look at last year and we set a school record.  We give up 43.4 points a game, which is the Madison record, but we only scored 43.0.  So, you have to look to change that a little bit.  With us we have so athletes and I think we need to force the tempo a little bit.  With those athletes like Tyrell and Bill Buckley and Deion Miller.  To be honest with you Tyrell is probably one of the hardest guards in the area, if not the state, to guard in transition, so why not get him our in transition.  So, we are going to do some things to push the tempo a little bit.  We also have to be smart with a 22 game season we have to keep our guys fresh," said Mergel.

 

Published 11/16/15

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Madison Must have Emotion

 

          Madison is going to need a lot of things to go right if they are to get a piece of the Ohio Cardinal Conference title or make the playoffs, but still a win over Mansfield Senior is going to go in every players scrapbook.

          Last week, the Rams fell out of a share of the "OCC" lead when Ashland outscored them (19-0) in the fourth quarter and beat them (36-14) in league play.

          Coach Jamie Masi they didn't make the plays they needed to in crunch time and Ashland did.  "I think it was a good game all of the way up to the fourth quarter.  The score at the end of the third quarter was 17-14.  Those guys are playing very well and give Scott Valentine and the players at Ashland a lot of credit because we were unable to execute some things toward the end of the game to put ourselves in position to win.  We really struggled running the ball to be honest.  Once we got to be one dimensional they had a nice pass rush and we just struggled.  Give them some credit and unfortunately we fell short," he said.

          Madison (5-4,4-2) plays at arch rival Mansfield Senior (7-2,5-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, on Friday night in the annual "Battle of Mansfield."

         Masi says the Tygers have a running game that is very difficult to stop and produces big plays.  "They have two very good running backs between the Vickers kid and Brian Benson, both are extremely talented, extremely fast, explosive is a very good word for their run game.  I think they do a nice job up front blocking.  A player like their quarterback that can take pressure on you with the pass game.  They do a lot of really good things.  We will do our best to control their run game and keep an eye on a couple of guys as far as throwing the ball," said Masi.

          A real difference for the Tygers has been the play of their defense over the second half of the season and Masi says they do a real nice job of setting the edge.  "I think they are really well coached.  I think they are very sound in what they do.  No matter what formation you give them they really play fast football.  They are extremely athletic and they are not afraid to get up in your face at the wide receiver spot and force you to do some things that maybe you aren't used to doing.  As far as running the ball, the three or four guys that they put up front are really aggressive," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "I think they do a nice job from their nose all of the way out.  If we run vertically, obviously, we are in good shape, but they put you in position where it is hard to get around those guys.  We will see how we do, but they are pretty talented."

          Rivalry games can be about emotion and Masi says they have to be the ones that play harder and they must be opportunistic.  "This is one of the biggest rivalries out there.  We are going to have to play with a lot of emotion and play inspired football.  When the opportunities are there we have to take advantage of them, a turnover, a change of possession on downs.  We have to get the momentum running our way," he said.

 

Published 10/28/15

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Madison Right Where They Want to be

 

          A three game winning streak has put Madison into a four way tie for first place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference with Wooster, Mansfield Senior, and Ashland.

          They play at Ashland on Friday night in one of the area's biggest games.

          Last week, the Rams got five TD passes from Tresten Vail, four of them to Tyrell Ajian and toasted the Orrville Red Riders (49-14) in an "OCC" game.  Coach Jamie Masi says they went out and executed and they are very excited to be in first place.  "We are pretty excited about it.  We felt like Orrville was a good team that had been making some mistakes.  We also felt we had some pretty good players on our team and if we came out and executed we could have a pretty good night and we did.  We are in a good spot and we are excited about it and we can't get too focused on the spot we are in.  We better be focused on a really good Ashland team and that's where we are at right now," he said.

          Madison (5-3,4-1) is at Ashland (7-1,4-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division.  Masi says the Arrows are running the ball more this year than in the past and they are doing it well.  "They are doing a nice job.  I think in the four games that we have scouted them about 45 percent of their game is to run it, four or five percent is a a screen game, and the other 50 percent is passing the ball.  I have a ton of respect for Scott Valentine and his staff and they things they do.  They are very balanced right now and that is going to be a big challenge for us," he said.

          Ashland beat Clear Fork (44-12) last week to move into the first place tie too.  Masi says they are a team that very aggressive on defense.  "They are just hard nosed kids that fly to the football.  I think again I have a lot respect for their defensive staff.  They teach sound, fundamental things and their kids respond.  It will be a big challenge like I said on both sides of the ball.  Hopefully we can get going and things will go well for us, we'll see," he said.

          When it comes to keys to winning the game, Masi says it begins by not turning the ball over.  "As always the number one key is we have to take care of the football.  We can not have turnovers.  First of all if we can win the turnover battle we will have a shot at winning the game.  The next part of it is to just take care of the little things.  We have to block well, we have to tackle in the open field.  These guys are very skilled and we can't let the quarterback have all day to throw the ball.  We have to shut down their run and hopefully we can make them one dimensional," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "If we can take away the run I think we have some athletes in the secondary that have done a nice job of tackling in the open field and defending the pass.  So, if we can get a good pass rush and also defend the run I think we will be in good shape.  On the offensive side of the ball we just have to patient and take what they are giving us and execute."

 

Published 10/20/15

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Madison Expects a Good Orrville

 

          Madison has put together a two game winning streak and they are right in the thick of the Ohio Cardinal Conference race, just a game behind Wooster with three to play.

          They host Orrville is an "OCC" game on Friday night.

          Coach Jamie Masi says this is a better football team than it was at the beginning the season because they are limiting turnovers.  "I think we have kind taken care of the football.  Right now, we are doing a nice job of holding onto the ball when we are running it and we are not throwing interceptions.  We have a few mistakes here and there, but noting too critical.  At the beginning of the season our turnover ratio was just terrible.  I think we were even 10-5 after the first four games.  Now that we have a better handle on that and really focusing on taking care of the ball we are playing better football," said Masi.

          Madison has explosive skilled players all over the field and they can score a lot of points if they hold onto the ball.  "We have been explosive all year.  It's just at times we have gotten down inside the red zone and made mistakes.  Turnovers kill you whether it is high school football, college football, or the pros, that's the name of the game take care of the ball and you have a chance to win.  I like our offense right now it seems to be clicking for us and we are playing pretty good ball on the defensive side as well," he said.

          Madison (4-3,3-1) is at home for Orrville (2-5,1-3) in "OCC" action on Friday night.  Orrville lost (54-25) to Ashland last week, but it was (28-25) late in the third quarter.  Masi says this is a football team that plays with great effort and is really improving.  "They are a dangerous football team.  I mean against Ashland they got right back into it.  I think it was maybe a four point game at one point and they were down, so there is no quit in these guys.  They are a good football team they have just made some mistakes," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "Against Lexington it was the same situation, I think Lexington got up 21-0 and they turned it around and tied the game up at 28-28.  We have our hands full, we understand that.  We can't at any point think that these guys are done because they will give us their best effort and we are going to have to do our best job as well."

          With Ashland and Mansfield Senior, two other one loss "OCC" teams remaining on the schedule, Masi warns they better not take this week off.  "Anytime you go into an "OCC" game and think you have it won you are going to be in for a long night.  You never know, is this team not playing well because of turnovers?  Or maybe they have a guy here and there that wasn't playing due to injury.  If they have three of four kids come back from injury and you underestimate how good they are it could definitely be an upset.  I don't know if it would be an upset either way, they are always talented and they are always capable.  It just can we do they right things at the right time and how do they play," said Masi.

 

Published 10/16/15

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Madison Wants to Maintain

 

          Madison broke out and played a complete football game last week and now they must maintain that intensity and execution this week.

          The Rams destroyed rival Lexington (59-10) last week and coach Jamie Masi says they were really ready to play.  "I thought the kids came out very inspired.  Really understood our game plan and they were excited to play football.  From start to finish I thought they gave great effort and obviously it was a big win for us," he said.

          Madison had 465 yards of total offense and scored four touchdowns in the second quarter alone and led (45-3) at halftime.  Masi says it was because of their preparation during the week.  "We had momentum from the moment we stepped on the field to be honest.  I think was as focused as I have seen our kids play in a long time and maybe ever since I have been here.  Their attitude and preparation, I think it really shined through on Friday," he said.

          Lexington came into that game unbeaten and Masi admits there was a little bit of that hey what about us mentality from their standpoint.  "I think that was probably pretty true that there was a chip on our shoulder, but I think if we don't go into every game from here on our with a chip on your shoulder you are going to struggle because the "OCC" is very talented.  There are a lot of very good teams.  We are in spot were we are 3-3 for this week and we still feel like we have something to prove." he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "I think we finally put together four quarters of pretty good football and know it is like can we do it again?  We are still trying to take it one day at a time and try not to get too excited before the game.  I think the kids feel like they have some goals ahead of them and some of them are very achievable.  So, it starts on (Monday) and we will just keep working."

          Madison (3-3,2-1) plays at Clear Fork (2-4,0-3) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play this week.  Masi says despite their conference record the Colts are dangerous.  He says they are very hard to prepare for.  "I think they do a good job of moving the ball.  I think they play some solid defense and then all of the sudden they have a breakdown or they will be moving the ball and have a turnover.  I think coach Carroll does a nice job of giving you a million different things to try and prepare for and makes it very challenging on us because they were a different team when they played Lexington, they were a different team when they played Mansfield Senior, they were a different team when they played Wooster," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "They are a different team every single week, so we have to think what team are they going to be like when we see them?  If they can take care of the small mistakes they are making they can be a very good football team.  They are a dangerous football team in our eyes, so we are going to do our best to be ready for them."

 

Published 10/06/15

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Execution the key for Madison

 

          After losing to streaking Wooster last week, the Madison Rams must find a way to beat the undefeated Lexington Minutemen on Friday night in Ohio Cardinal Conference action.

          Wooster held the Rams to 230 yards and just one score last week in a (20-7) win at Follis Field.  Madison coach Jamie Masi says Wooster is athletic and they were able to contain them for most of the night.  "Give Wooster credit they had a fantastic front four against us and their linebackers flew to the ball.  We struggled in the passing game because of some pretty good athletes they have.  I thought they were a very, very good football team," he said.

          Turnovers hurt the Rams again.  They had four last week and Masi says they have to stop during that and just have better overall execution than they have had over the first half of the season.  "It comes down to a couple of basic things.  Number one, we have to take care of the football.  We did have a couple of critical turnovers," he told Swnakonsports.com on Tuesday, "Number two, just the overall execution of this play or that play goes a long way.  I think we are doing a good job of continuing to get better.  I think we ran into a buzz saw over there at Wooster.  We have another big challenge in front of us this Friday with Lexington.  We will do everything we can to prepare the kids to play well."

          Lexington (5-0,2-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, pays a visit to Madison (2-3,1-1) on Friday night.  Masi says like most undefeated teams the Minutemen do a lot of things well.  "They play great team defense.  They do a really good job of keeping everything in front of them and being sound.  On the offensive side they have some playmakers.  Their quarterback is a really, really good player.  I think they have some guys on the edge that catch the ball.  They have some guys that can run.  They have an offensive line that can get the job done.  It's going to be challenging for us." said Masi.

          Big Lex pounded Clear Fork (27-7) last week and Joey Vore, the quarterback, took part in all of their scores, including two field goals.  Masi knows they are going to have to something about him.  "He can definitely put the ball on the money, but the ability to get on the edge, whether it is a zone read or just the ability for him to get outside and run he is pretty affective.  The offense goes through him and that will be our challenge Friday to see if we can stop him and slow him down," he said.

 

Published 9/30/15

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Madison Facing Tough One at Wooster

 

          Madison has really excited its fan base with how good they could be this year, but they have also disappointed them with some spotty play at times.

          So, is the state of a 2-2 football team.  This one, however, has a tremendous up side, because they are one of the more athletic teams in this area.

          The Rams pretty much had their way with West Holmes (42-21) last week in a game that wasn't really that close.  Coach Jamie Masi says they executed well on both sides of the ball.  "I thought the kids played very, very well.  We gave up a couple of late scores with our JV kids out there really late.  They weren't very well prepared and that is on the coaches, that's my fault for not having those guys, really prepared for the game plan.  I thought the varsity team did an excellent job defensively.  On the offensive side we did a good job of executing the game plan.  It was a fun night and now on to Wooster," he said.

          They had over 400 yards of offense last week.  Sophomore Tyrell Ajian ran for 119 yards on only eight carries and scored three times.  Plus, Masi says he is not their only weapon.  "He scored five times, but they called a couple back on him.  He is doing a fantastic job and I think it is our job to find different ways of getting him the football, but with all that he does we still have some other guys that have been playing really well," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "I think we threw the ball to Logan Childer's spot five or six times, we had five or six completions.  Billy Buckley played very, very well.  I think he had six or seven completions.  There were some other guys here and there.  I thought Gavin Ward ran the ball extremely well.  You put all of those guys around Tresten Vail, our quarterback, and he is able to get the ball to the open guys.  He has done a nice job."

          Madison (2-2,1-0) plays at Wooster (3-1,1-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, in a conference game on Friday night.  The Generals are coming off a big win at Ashland (21-7) last week. 

          Masi says the Wooster defense is really good, especially up front.  "What was really impressive was their ability to get to the quarterback with only three or four guys at times.  They didn't sell out and blitz, blitz, blitz.  They were able to get pressure on the Ashland quarterback with just their front four and play some coverage, so that's concerning to us obviously.  We think their front is pretty good.  They have linebackers that do a great job of tackling in the open field and in the secondary they are very, very skilled.  They pose a lot of different challenges for us and we have to find ways to get the ball to kids that can make plays for us," said Masi.

          Wooster ran for 146 yards against a very good Ashland defense.  Masi says they can run a lot of kids in there.  "On the offensive side they do a nice job with their run game.  They run a bunch of different formations, different personnel groupings.  Coach Haas is doing a really good job of coaching the kids and the kids over there are playing extremely well," he said.

 

Published 9/24/15

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Madison Must clean up Turnovers

 

          Madison has the ability to make big plays, but they keep giving the ball to the other guys and they have to stop doing that.

          They have 10 turnovers in three weeks and that is too many.

          Last week, Mt. Vernon beat them (38-19) in a game in which Madison scored the first two touchdowns.  Madison coach Jamie Masi says the Yellow Jackets made them pay for their mistakes.  "We concerned about their speed and their ability to make plays.  I was talking with the staff right before the game about how in the second quarter they had exploded the first week and the second week.  So, we were concerned about that and sure enough we made some mistakes and they capitalized in the second quarter.  Suddenly we went from being up 12-0 to down 19-12 before we got out of that second quarter.  They were explosive, but I thought we played well at times, but we made too many mistakes and they capitalized on those," said Masi.

          The Rams (1-2,0-0) are at home for West Holmes (1-2,0-0) in the Ohio Cardinal Conference opener for both schools on Friday night.  Holmes is coming off a (14-0) loss to Coshocton.  However, Masi says this a team with the potential to turn it on, just like last year.  "Last year they had a rough start and then they went 6-1 in conference and did very well.  We are aware of their ability to make plays and score.  We think they have some good running backs as well as really good up front and they way they run their offense," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "I really expect them to emphasize their run.  We are aware of their ability to dominate the time of possession and kind keep the ball away from some of our playmakers.  Our goal is to come out and play penalty free and hopefully mistake free and take advantage of the time we have the ball.  Defensively they have played well at times too."

          Masi knows West Holmes is going to try and play keep away from them they can't make it easy for them by turning the ball like they have been doing.  "They do a nice job of if you adjust this way they will run the same play, but tweak it and instead of pulling the guard they will pull the tackle.  They do a very good job of coaching throughout the week and on Friday night their kids just come out and execute.  The biggest problem for us so far this season is we have been losing the turnover battle.  Right now I think we are losing 10-5.  I think if we can take care of that that is just one less thing we have to worry about.  They have some really good running backs that run really, really hard that we will be charged with stopping, so we will see how we do," he said.

 

Published 9/18/15

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Madison Faces Explosive Mt. Vernon

 

          Madison took a step in the right direction with a win last week at River Valley and now they must do the same as they host the Mt. Vernon Yellow Jackets in their final non-conference game.

          The Rams (1-1) downed River Valley (21-6) last week to even their record.  Coach Jamie Masi liked their approach.  "I thought the kids did a great job all week long practicing hard.  They understood the game plan and went out on Friday and did a real nice job of executing," he said.

          It was a much better performance on defense for the Rams.  Masi says it was just better attention to detail than in the previous week versus Shelby.  "I thought the kids really knew what we were trying to do.  We were really worried about a couple of playmakers that River Valley had.  They guys did a nice job.  It was nothing too magical or special the kids just came out and took care of the little details and seemed to do pretty well," he said.

          Mt. Vernon (2-0) has a new head coach in former Loudonville boss Justin Todd and they have scored some points in beating Marion Harding (55-19) and Newark (48-22) in their first two games.  Masi says the Jackets can light it up.  "Justin Todd I think is doing a great job.  He has those guys in the win column and have done very, very well the last two weeks.  They have put up a ton of points.  So, you talk about River Valley being explosive, well these guys are probably even more explosive," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "They pose a lot of different challenges to our defense.  So, we have to get to work right away.  Hopefully, we can keep those guys out of the end zone.  Defensively, they are very similar to what we saw as well.  We are just going to keep plugging away and hopefully we can do a nice job."

          Masi says they are taking a bend don't break philosophy on defense and hope to be able to win the field position game.  "That was our philosophy last week.  If you were watching the game you probably thought we were giving up play after play after play, but nothing behind us.  Didn't give up the big play and made them work for it.  When they got in the red zone we were able to buckle down.  Last week, I thought we did a nice job in the kicking game.  Curtis French has done a really nice job punting the ball and with kickoffs and things like that.  We were winning the field position battle and that is a huge part of it for us.  If we can do that again this week we will have a good chance of winning," said Masi.

 

Published 9/08/15

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Madison Working on Their Stuff

 

          Madison did not perform the way it wanted to on week one in a loss to the Shelby Whippets and they know they have to execute their stuff much better if they are going to win this week against River Valley.

           Shelby made the last three scores of the game and they bottled up a potentially explosive Madison offense in a (20-6) win over the Rams last week.

          Madison travels to River Valley this week for a game against the Vikings, but Rams coach Jamie Masi says this week in practice their emphasis has been on what they are trying to do.  "We are going to concentrate on ourselves more than River Valley.  We are going to have the same schemes and all of that.  We are going to try and focus on the little things and the improvement that we need to make.  It's an old cliché about teams getting better between week one and week two, bit it's true one.  So, we are just emphasizing the little things, fundamentals, learning our keys, making sure we are getting to the ball defensively and executing on offensive side," said Masi.

          Like a lot teams, Madison is trying to work in some new players and Masi says after their first experience he hopes things slow down a little bit for those kids.  "We are still trying to find our identity.  On Friday night things go really, really fast, especially for first year varsity guys.  Hopefully they will slow down by the end of this week and this Friday they will be a little more accustomed to that atmosphere.  We are just taking one day at a time and we not panicking we are just going to get better at every position," he said.

          River Valley (1-0) looked very strong in opening night win (32-7) against Upper Sandusky last week.

          Masi says they are a typical spread team that is also very aggressive on defense.   "They are a heck of a football team to be honest.  They are normally a playoff contender.  They take pride in everything they do.  As far as what they do offensively and defensively they are nothing out of the ordinary they play good sound football.  Watching them they have good speed at key positions.  Their quarterback does a nice job of being patient and getting the ball to their guys out in space," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "They run a pretty wide open offense and they also do some things with an unbalanced look, sets that you don't see a lot of.  The majority  of their offense is a spread.  On defense they run a 3-3 and they kind of turn guys loose on defense and run to the ball and they do a really nice job."

 

Published 9/02/15

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Madison Has to Mature

 

          Madison has some inexperience at spots on their team and it showed in their opening night loss to Shelby.

          They say the most improvement a team will make during a season is between week one and week two and Madison needs to get better as they travel to River Valley to meet a very good Vikings team on Friday night.

          Madison coach Jami Masi said last week their goal was to contain Shelby quarterback Brennan Armstrong and they did not do that very well on Friday night.  "First of all Shelby did a real nice job with their quarterback running the ball.  I think he ran it 31 times for 225 yards.  I thought they were physical on both sides of the ball, especially at the line of scrimmage.  I give coach Will and his staff a ton of credit, they did a great job," he said.

          Plus, Shelby's defense pretty much shut down a potentially explosive Madison offense.  Masi says they weren't surprised and Shelby ran exactly what they thought they would on defense.  "They ran exactly what we practiced the last two weeks.  They did not do anything out of the ordinary.  They were just very sound," he told Swankonsports.com, "We had a few mistakes that really hurt us.  I think we punted on the first drive and then the second drive we scored.  We only had 10 total drives, we had two turnovers, just critical penalties that we were worried about going in.  They will kill drives and just overall we did not overcome that.  Again I don't want to take anything away from Shelby because they did a great job of corralling our ball carriers and winning at the line of scrimmage."

          Shelby limited Madison to only 175 total yards and the Rams were not able to get the ball very often to Tyrell Ajian.

          Plus, Masi said the Whippets did a very good job of keeping the ball out of their hands.  "They did a great job of controlling the clock.  I think we only had 34, 35 total plays for the night.  We had a situation where they had an on sides kick and I thought we did a real good job of covering the ball and doing everything right and unfortunately it just popped out on us.  They got some momentum and got one score right after the other.  So, instead of being a 7-6 game it becomes 20-6 real quick.  After that I thought our defense really settled down.  They still go their yards, but we kept them out of the end zone, we just couldn't get anything going offensively," said Masi.

          Madison travels to River Valley (1-0) on Friday night.  The Vikings belted Upper Sandusky (32-7) last week.  Masi admits they are going to have to show a lot of growth this week.  "We played a lot of guys that it was there first time on a field on a Friday night and unfortunately that showed.  Between now and next week hopefully there will be a growth.  There will be an understanding of the speed of the game and you won't see so many wide eyed guys out there.  We have to improve a whole bunch this week," he said.

 

Published 8/31/15

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Madison Must Keep the Ball and Contain Armstrong

 

          Madison hosts Shelby in likely the most talked about game in North Central Ohio on the first week of the season on Friday night at Madison.

          Coach Jamie Masi, the former defensive coordinator, has been promoted to head coach and he says the Rams are ready to go.  "We have got some guys we have been trying to figure out the last three or four weeks here.  The guys seem to be fitting in pretty well.  We have had a couple us injuries, but in general I think our guys are ready to play," he said.

          With Shelby quarterback Brennan Armstrong and Madison's athletic Tyrell Ajian there will likely be some scouts around and a lot of media.  Masi doesn't believe focus will be an issue, but containing Armstrong certainly will.  "I don't think that is going to be an issue for either team.  There are a couple of really special athletes playing in the game.  We are aware of their quarterback Brennan Armstrong is a very, very talented player and we are going to be our best to, I guess, corral him and keep him in check if we can," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "Tyrell Ajian on the other side of the ball we are pretty excited about the kind of athlete he is.  It is going to be a lot more than just those two guys.  The game is fought and won in the trenches and we understand that I'm sure coach Will does as well.  We are going to come out with the mindset of being as focused as possible and taking care of the task at hand."

          The thing about Armstrong, according to Masi, is he can do so many things and is surrounded by some talented guys too.  "He's got a great arm and he has really good receivers around him.  When you talk about his athleticism and the things he can do running the ball they have a couple of running backs that look really good on film.  You don't want to get too focused on one guy, but you better be able to contain Armstrong or he will kill you all night long," he said.

          If they are going to win, Masi says they can't make big mistakes that lead to points for the Whippets and they can not allow Armstrong to run all over them.  "We have to take care of the ball.  We can't have critical penalties.  Those are things in general that going into every week are going to be important.  When you are playing against a team as good as Shelby, and we feel they are a very, very good football team, It's the best team we have seen since 2010 when they beat us 40-20.  When you go against those guys, and you look at the overall picture, you can not have critical mistakes, you can not turn the ball over and you can not have critical penalties.  With those two things being said the next thing is we have go to contain their quarterback.  We can not let him run the ball on us consistently.  He is probably going to get some plays here and there.  He is probably going to be able to scramble.  We have go to contain him.  On the other side of the ball we have to be able to control the ball and move it up and down the field and put it in the end zone," said Masi.

 

Published 8/28/15

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Madison Working on Being Ready For the Opener

 

          Madison plays host to Shelby in a non-conference opener that has quite a bit of anticipation mainly because of the presence of two of the better athletes in the region in Tyrell Ajian of Madison and Brennan Armstrong of Shelby, both highly recruited.

            Rams coach Jamie Masi says they need to get healthy if they are going to be at full strength a week from Friday.  "The kids are playing really well and things are heading in a positive direction.  We are a little banged up right now, so have some guys that may not play in this last jamboree that we have this Friday.  Hopefully we will get back on the healthy track and we will be playing some pretty good football," he said.

          High school teams have about four weeks to in camp to get ready for the season and Masi says they spend most of it trying to get better at what they do.  He does admit they have been thinking about Shelby.  "We are working quite a bit on our own stuff on a regular basis.  However, we did have a chance to see Shelby scrimmage Sandusky Perkins and got an idea of what to expect from them.  So, we are sprinkling in different periods of our practice where it might be a Shelby period for this or a Shelby period for that, whether it is offense, defense, or special teams.  Everyday we tend to sprinkle a little more in.  We are still trying to be ready for this scrimmage we have on Friday.  In general our focus has been since the very first day of two a days, Shelby.  So, we will continue to work on that and hopefully we will be ready when the Whippets come to town," said Masi.

          Madison faces Columbus West in their final scrimmage on Friday.

          Masi says there is always going to be a little bit of suspense associated with the opener due to the way things are done.  "I don't think people really understand what happens in a scrimmage.  Two coaches will get on the phone and be very, very honest.  Hey, these are the things we are going to work on Friday.  These are the formations and the plays and this is how we are going to try and block your defense.  We are very open with each other because you are trying to practice, you are trying to get better.  Sometimes when you go into that first game you aren't really sure what to expect," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "Coach Will, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, and his staff at Shelby.  We have an agreement to switch film and we do have scouts to watch them in their games.  In general, you go out and spend a lot of time on yourself, on your base techniques, whether it is offense or defense, you are trying to make sure you are fundamentally sound.  Overall, I think we are just worried about ourselves and I think that is the way we have to approach things."

 

Published 8/19/15

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Madison With a Little Change

 

          Madison has a new head coach, a guy that has been on their staff, and other than that their isn't much changes, especially in philosophy.

          Jamie Masi was the defensive coordinator at Madison, but he moved into the head coaching role when Sean Conway stepped aside last winter.  So, Masi already knows the kids and their should be very little transition.  "We have a lot of new names, a lot of new faces and new challenges.  Our staff, though, has stayed almost the exact same.  I think we lost one coach and brought one new guy in.  They relationships with kids have already be established.  My relationship with the other coaches has pretty much been established before this season.  This is my sixth year here at Madison.  It has been a pretty good start for us, I guess, and we are pretty excited about this season," he said.

          Madison (7-4) was a division three playoff team last year and finished third in the Ohio Cardinal Conference, a game behind co-winners Wooster and West Holmes.  Masi was they have some talent again this year and more than that they play to work hard at their craft.  "We lost some really good athletes out of a really good senior class last year.  They were in the playoffs their senior year and also as sophomores.  When we look at the kids that we have out on the field right there isn't a lot of change.  They work extremely hard.  When Sean Conway came in and set the tone about what everybody should be expecting our kids have kind of fallen in line and work really hard.  We are going into the season with kids that understand what kind of work ethic we have to have.  In my point of view we can only get better each and every day," he said.

          One thing is for sure that Rams will have one of the more athletic players in the region in Tyrell Ajian on flanks.  Masi says he believes they are going to get him the ball where he can do some things.  "He is extremely talented.  The nice thing is he is surrounded by a lot of other kids that are talented as well.  I think LeRoy Smith, our offensive coordinator, and Matt Godsil, and the other guys on the offensive side of the ball do a really good job of taking what the offense will give you.  I think this year we are going to see everything from teams trying to take Tyrell away.  He can make plays for us.  We have a nice offensive line that is jelling and playing really well right now.  I think our quarterbacks are working hard to play the best they can," said Masi.

          Madison, it seems, has always been a run first kind of team and Masi says that isn't going to change.  "We are going to run the ball.  We are not going to go out and throw a million passes.  We do have some players that are some pretty good playmakers at wide out.  We will throw it too.  I was the defensive coordinator here for a number of years and believe me I enjoyed being on the opposite side of the ball when our offense was able to just grind it out.  When you have that time of possession it limits the touches the other team gets and that's smart football," he told Swankonsports.com, "When we can come out and throw the ball and make some plays we are going to do that, but we have a run first mentality and I think that is a good thing.  We have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder.  Kids here at Madison feel like they can get nasty down in the trenches and we are proud of that and feeling that we can go out Friday and run the ball.  We'll see how it goes.  If we are forced to throw the ball we will throw the ball."

 

Published 8/12/15

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Madison With a New Volleyball Coach and New Players

 

          Madison is likely the most traditional volleyball power in North Central Ohio among the larger schools, but the Lady Rams will have their third varsity head coach in four years after Brian Votaw resigned this summer.

          Former West Holmes player Mandy Glessner, who was going to be the JV coach, has now stepped into the top spot.  "I grew up down in Millersburg, so I played volleyball at West Holmes for current coach Jim Park.  I played on the 2002 and 2003 teams and we were state runners-up those two years.  I became an assistant coach over at Norwayne High School under my dad Jim Glessner for three seasons.  I did some scouting and learned the ins and outs of the game while I was in college.  Then I started coaching a couple of club teams then I got the job at Mapleton High School where I was a teacher and coach for five years.  A job opened up at Madison last year," she told Swankonsports.com. " I was teaching high school math and then a seventh grade position opened up, so I took that as I was trying to get my foot in the door.  Then I helped out last year in the post season after our junior high season was done.  This season I was going to be the JV coach and then the former coach stepped down and I just stepped right in and became the varsity coach."

          Glessner says a plus to her taking the job only a couple of months before the season is the players know her a little bit.  "I taught a few of them last year in class and I have two more them this year.  They were familiar with me seeing me around school and helping out in the post season last year," she said.

          One always thinks of the Lady Rams as one the top programs in the area, but Glessner admits that there are a lot of question marks about this season.  "I think it still too early to tell.  I mean we only have two returning lettermen this season, so everybody coming in is pretty new to the program.  One of our returners is a senior and she has had now three varsity coaches in the last four years.  Anytime you have a new coach you have new programs being instilled and there hasn't been a solid program for the last four years.  So, I don't even know what to expect this season.  The girls have really been working hard, but there are so many new faces, so many new girls to varsity volleyball that we are just going to have to learn how to handle pressure situations and play as a team," said Glessner.

          Madison opens the season at home against Hilliard Davidson on August 22.  They play their first Ohio Cardinal Conference match at Ashland on September 1.

          Glessner knows they are going to have to be very good if they expect to compete in the "OCC" this fall.  "This is a very tough league.  This is my 12th year of coaching, so I have been around the game for a long time and the "OCC" is one of the hardest leagues for volleyball because there is Lexington, Orrville, West Holmes and Madison and they are traditionally very good programs.  So, every game we play is the most important game.  We can't look past anybody in the league," she said.

 

Published 8/04/15

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Madison Loses in Regional Semi-final

 

          Nick Lankard limited Madison to just two hits and Toledo St. Francis edged the Rams (4-1) in the division one regional semi-final at Bowling Green State University on Thursday.

          After giving up three runs in the top of the seventh, Madison brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the inning, but came up short.

          Coach Doug Rickert says his kids gave it all they had.  "You are not going to win a lot of ballgames with two hits, but we sure scraped.  Even in the last inning we weren't dead.  We told them we have been there before.  We were there against Whitmer and we were in the seventh inning against St. John's and scored three.  We didn't feel bad about it, the kid is a heck of a pitcher.  He is 15-1 for a reason.  He spots the ball extremely well.  He doesn't throw a lot of breaking stuff.  We knew that going in, but he's inside, he's outside.  He makes it tough to hit and we didn't square a lot of balls up," he told Swankonsports.com com after the game, "In the last inning Zane (Harris) hits a bullet, but it's right at them, right or left five feet it's a double.  Cal (Rickert) hits a ball right at the second baseman hard.  The kid is a heck of an athlete.  Early in the game he make a great play on Keen's ball.  They have eight seniors and they played really good defense."

          Senior Alec Keen limited the Knights to one run through six, but ran out of gas in the seventh.  John Williams gave St. Francis the lead with a one out single to right.  They scored two more on passed balls when Michael Penny was on the mound.  "I can't say enough about Keen's effort.  He was fantastic.  We knew he was starting to tire.  We said we were going to give him one more batter and the one batter we gave him got the biggest hit to right field.  Akerman probably throws that guy nine times out of 10, but the ball just slipped out of his hand for whatever reason.  Huge play if he throws him out.  He is a terrific kid, he has had a terrific career.  Michael Penny was struggling a little bit with that mound, it had a big hole in it, and struggled to get comfortable there and we had a couple of passed balls," said Rickert.

          Madison (18-13) shared the Ohio Cardinal Conference title with Lexington and beat three teams seeded higher than them in Toledo Whitmer, Toledo St. John's and Findlay in the tournament.  "Our seniors gave us a heck of an effort all of their life.  They play a lot of baseball.  We aren't happy with it.  We thought we were going to win it.  We sure battled with some of the best teams in the state throughout this tournament," added Rickert.

          He said the senior class is what Madison baseball is all about.  "We have won a conference champion, we have won a district championship.  They are winners.  You don't have to win the whole thing to be winners.  They show up and work everyday and it's all you can ask for.  Our practices these kids work, they don't goof around.  When it's raining they are inside hitting.  They do everything they are supposed to do and hopefully our young kids see that because that is what it takes.  We have some good kids coming back," he said.

 

Published 5/29/15

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Madison Headed Northwest... Again

 

          Madison was co-champion of the Ohio Cardinal Conference this spring and if they beat Toledo St. Francis on Thursday you can almost call them the best team to in Toledo too.

          They have already beaten Whitmer and St. John's in tournament play.  They also beat Findlay (19-7) in the division one district final (3-1) on Saturday.

          The Rams (18-12) will play St. Francis (21-7) in the regional semi-finals on Thursday at 5 PM at Bowling Green State University.

          Madison was only the ninth seed in the division one district tournament and all three of their tournament wins could be considered upsets.  Coach Doug Rickert, in his 17th year, says the players are excited, but they must remain focused.  "I think we are going to be just as hungry.  We have to take it one game at a time.  You get to this point some times and kids start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and you don't want them talking about we want to get the state, we want to get to the state.  We want to get there, but you have to tone it down a notch and do the things that got you there.  That is what we as a coaching staff have to make sure that we do," he said.

          There are a number of strong big school baseball programs in Northwest Ohio and Rickert says they have had play very well just to reach this level.  "I don't know if people realize what we have done here.  It is pretty impressive.  You know, 15 hours on a bus in eight days and knocking off the people we have knocked off.  I would say we feel pretty good.  St John's and Whitmer were very good baseball teams.  St. John's won the "TRAC" (Tuesday) night.  We went through some pretty good pitching that Findlay had.  We are excited.  (St. Francis) is a veteran club, they start eight seniors.  They were in the regional two years ago and I know their goal at the beginning of the year was to get to the state tournament, so we have our work cut out for us," said Rickert.

          Madison has not played a home game since May 13.  Rickert says getting on the bus for Bowling Green Thursday will not be new to the players.  "I took them to Canton on the Tuesday before and played a scrimmage there.  Drove back home and had a short practice on Wednesday, played Thursday, and went back up and played Saturday.  So, we are not afraid of the situation.  They kind of know what I am going to put them through.  They expect it, they like it.  They like playing with other teams.  Hopefully, that will condition us to get another "W," he said.

          As far as St. Francis is concerned this is a different kind of team than St. John's, who had a lot of power, and Findlay, who relied on its pitching.  Rickert says St. Francis will play some small ball and try to use their speed.  "Overall I think they are the smartest baseball team that we will play.  I think they are a team without a major superstar, but I think it is a team that plays very well together.  They run a lot.  They like to put pressure on you.  They like to bunt a lot.  There is not a kid in the lineup that won't lay a bunt down.  They will squeeze when they get the opportunity.  They will double steal.  They will try a lot of things to put pressure on you," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "What we can't do is allow that to affect us and then not throw strikes.  We can't worry about base runners so much that we start to do things wrong because that is what they are hoping for.  We have to continue to play our game and throw strikes.  When we have thrown strikes we have won baseball games and that is the key for this game.  we have to continue to throw strikes and make them hit three or four balls in a row."

 

Published 5/27/15

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Madison Breaks Through

 

          Alec Keen had a two out, two run triple in the top of the 11th to drive in the winning runs, and Madison pitching held Findlay to only six hits and the Rams beat the Trojans (3-1) in the division one district final Saturday at Mercy Field in Toledo.

          Coach Doug Rickert believes the Ohio Cardinal Conference co-champions are playing their best baseball at the right time of the year.  "I think that is something we have talked about, talked about, and talked about, we wanted to be great at the end of the year.  We had that slip up against Lexington and Shelby where we probably had our worse week of the year.  To give these kids credit we told them there was a lot to play for and we were able to back our way into a conference championship.  We weren't afraid to go up into that Toledo district and a lot people that it was crazy, you know, you are going to have to drive.  I don't think people realize what these kids have accomplished to drive two and half hours on a bus three times, twice in three days, and the beat the type of teams we have beaten.  Toledo Whitmer, who was 17-5, a state ranked team in St. John's, and the number two seed with 19 wins in Findlay.  The way we won all three games was just really incredible," said Rickert.

          Starting pitcher Michael Penny went nine innings, allowing only one run on five hits, walking one and striking out 12.  "This my 17th year of coaching and that was definitely one of the best pitching performances I have ever seen.  Then to have Alec Keen, a senior, who really hasn't thrown that much for us, he has had a closing role, and started a few games here and there.  He just had a fantastic game and is playing like a senior.  He comes into the game there in the 10th inning and strikes out all three guys, that was pretty special.  I felt really good about him on the mound and all we had to do was score and we could win the thing," said Rickert.

          With the game tied 1-1 going to the 11th Curtis French singled to lead off the inning and Austen Lambert singled him to third.  Then with two out Keen had the big blow with the triple to drive in two

          Rickert says their pitching kept them in it and they remained patient and finally came through at the plate.  "People probably don't realize that Findlay has two of the best pitchers in the district, both left-handed, both throw hard, both have nasty curve balls.  We got Curlis for six and the Stillings kid for five.  Both of them were number one style pitchers.  I don't think we will see a lot better pitching.  We could see a kid throw a better game, but these two kids were absolutely amazing.  We went into it thinking we were the better hitting team, but pitching can neutralize it.  We hit the ball hard.  We hit some long fly ball outs.  We had some opportunities to score and we just had to stay the course.  Our two pitchers I can't say enough they struck 15 in 11 innings.  They have up six hits in 11 innings.  The defense was good.  When you can go out there and play that well defensively for that many innings and not really make a mistake.  It's tough to call pitches for 11 innings in a game like that, it was a little nerve racking," said Rickert.

          Despite being one of the more consistent baseball programs in North Central Ohio this was Madison's first district title since 2002.  Rickert says after some agonizing losses this one felt really good.  "I told the kids in my first four years of coaching we made the regional finals three times and you think boy this is easy.  Then it took 13 years for us to get back.  When you are a small division one like us it does make it tough.  I guess the way we lost district final and district final you feel like the Marv Levy of baseball.  We had lost nine times in the district final by a run and that's rough, that's tough to swallow," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "We were in one of these games in a regional final one year when we lost 2-1 in 13 innings for a chance to go to the state.  We were visitors and all it took was for them to scratch one over and the game would be over.  These kids are gusty and it is everybody, everybody contributes.  We keep telling them that it hasn't been one guy.  Alec Keen probably had the game of his life (Saturday) with two hits and had the big triple and the way he pitched and played defense, but takes a little bit of everybody, everybody made a play, everybody did something.  We are going to have to do that to beat St. Francis De Sales."

          Madison (18-12) will play Toledo St. Francis in the regional semi-final next Thursday at Bowling Green State University.

 

Published 5/24/15

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Madison Wins Another "OCC"

 

          It looked like maybe it wasn't going to happen 10 days ago, but the Madison Rams have accomplished a goal.  They have won a share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball title.

          Monday, Wooster beat Lexington (4-0) and both Rams and Minutemen finished with 11-3 conference records.

          Lexington beat Madison in back to back games and took a one game lead in the standings on May 7, but Rams coach Doug Rickert told his players it wasn't over yet.  "We told the kids after we lost those two games that the season wasn't over yet and if we took care of business good things could happen.  We would have to beat Ashland twice, and they were a team that beat Lex once.  It wasn't over, we had a bad week.  We lost three games that week and we had to turn around and get our heads right and make it a good week and we were able to win twice and win a sectional championship.  We thought if we did that we would still have a really good chance to win the league.  It worked out well for us," he said.

          Madison won the league outright in 2014 and many thought they would win again this year.  Rickert says he is proud of his kids for battling back.  "I think we have got some kids that will tell you that we have underachieved somewhat based on that fact that we went into this year as the defending champs.  We felt it was our league to lose.  We were sailing along there pretty well.  I thought when we were at Clear Fork and we came from behind and got that one that was one we needed to get.  I knew Lexington had a very good club and we didn't expect to lose two games to those guys.  To give them credit they played better baseball than we did those days.  We just had a bad week and we did a lot of things wrong.  We didn't throw strikes, we made a couple of bad plays, and we left base runners on base.  Then you have to wait a week and it's difficult.  One thing that is different than football is you get to come out and play the next day, but we had to wait a week to play.  I give our kids a lot of credit," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night, "We had a good intra squad on that Saturday.  We told the kids that if they stayed the course they would still be league champs and we had really good shot to make a tournament run.  We had two solid games against Ashland and a really good game against Whitmer."

          Madison (16-11) plays Toledo St. John's (23-3) at Mercy Field in Toledo in the division one district semi-finals on Thursday.  Rickert says they are the underdog, but he is not about to sell out his kids.  "It's not going to be easy.  We went into this thing as an underdog against Whitmer and now we have another top seeded team in St. John's.  We told the kids that we had nothing to lose and we were going into this thing in a good spot.  I don't think Whitmer respected us much and I don't think St. John's respects us.  They are 23-3, they won another game (Monday) night when they run ruled Fremont Ross.  They have three division one prospects on their team and they are pretty good, but we feel pretty good about our team.  If we play well we can beat anybody," said Rickert.

 

Published 5/19/15

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Madison Stays Close

 

          Madison needs to keep winning if they are going to have a chance to repeat as Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball champion.  They did just that on Tuesday.

          They scored six runs early and went on to beat the Ashland Arrows (8-3) in an "OCC" game at Madison on Tuesday.

          They fell a game behind Lexington after losing two to the Minutemen last week.  Coach Doug Rickert says they knew it was win or go home in terms of the league.  "We put our backs to the wall last week with the week of bad baseball that we had.  We had to come out here (Tuesday) night and we had to have somebody else step up on the mound.  We have the tournament on Thursday.  We threw Curtis French and he threw a really good baseball game and we were able to jump out to the lead and hang on," he said.

          The temperature was in the lower 50's with a strong wind on Tuesday.  Those conditions don't usually lead to a lot of offense, but Rickert says they were able to get things going early.  "We hit the ball pretty well down through the lineup.  We had eight doubles (Tuesday) night and it has been a long time since Madison has had eight doubles in a baseball game.  We stayed there with six runs for a while and they were able to get two.  I thought it was important for us when we had two outs and nobody on then we got a double and a hit batter and we got a hit to score another run with two outs.  We were able to push another run across and I thought it was important to keep adding to that lead," said Rickert.

          Rickert says good teams are ones that do things with two outs.  He says they have done some of that this year, but they need to do more.  "We say the same thing when we pitch.  We really talk about not allowing the two out walk, the two out hit batter.  You know, the kid steals second, you get a passed ball, and you get a bloop hit and all of the sudden it is a run," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "Offensively and defensively it works the same.  We really tell our guys that the inning is not over that is why they give you three outs.  We have done it a few times this year, we just haven't done it enough."

          To have any chance to win a piece of the conference title Madison likely has to beat Ashland again on Wednesday.

          Madison (14-11,10-3) plays at Toledo Whitmer in a first round tournament game in division one on Thursday.  Rickert says he knows Whitmer is going to be a big challenge to them.  "They are a pretty solid baseball team.  They are a really good defensive team.  They have a really good catcher.  They have a really good pitcher that we will go against.  I don't think they are an extremely deep hitting team, but they do score runs.  There are five games this year when they have run ruled teams and they have had a lot of one run, two run wins.  Defensively they are really solid and they throw the ball well.  They have been a clutch hitting team.  They play a really good schedule up there as well.  They won't be surprised by anything we throw at them," he said.

 

Published 5/13/15

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Madison Prepared for the Tournament

 

          Mansfield Madison plays host to the Galion Lady Tigers in a division two sectional semi-final game on Tuesday afternoon.

          They beat Mansfield Senior (10-6) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference softball game on Monday.

          Coach Tim Niswander thinks they are ready to be competitive in the tournament for a couple of reasons.  First, they have played tough competition the last week and have done really well.  "I definitely think we have become more consistent and we are getting better and better and there are two things that have caused that.  Number one, a week ago we played down in Columbus and we played Delaware Hayes, who is 20-2 and they were ranked in division one. We played Jonathan Alder, who was the division two state runner up and we came back and played Lexington.  So, we saw four really, really good pitchers right in a row.  That certainly helps playing that type of competition and our kids hung right with all four of those teams," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "Three of those games I thought we probably could have won if we are a little bit more experienced.  It was good for the kids to get in that situation and get to see that they aren't as far away as maybe they thought they were and they are capable of playing at that level."

          Plus, Niswander says they are now into a grove in terms of who is playing and where they are playing on the diamond.  "The other part of it is we started to get more healthy and kids have had a chance to settle into some positions.  Early in the season we were moving some kids around to fill holes and we felt were duct taping everything.  We still have two kids that are out and we are probably not going to get back this year.  Alexis Lee and Paige Carper are both most likely out for the season, but we have had some young kids that have stepped up and filled in for them pretty capably and I think they are getting more and more comfortable right now," he said.

          Madison (9-14) beat Galion (3-15) a couple weeks ago (3-1) and Niswander says both sides are familiar with each other.  "It was a good game.  I think it was probably when we were just starting to come out of our shell offensively.  It was the first night we started to put the bat on the ball consistently with authority.  We hit a lot of at 'em balls, but it was nice to start hitting the ball square.  We were also without McKenzie Mullins, who is our number one pitcher, she is back now.  We were a little bit of a different team two weeks ago than we are today.  It was nice to get over there and get a look at them before we have them in the tournament, so we are a little bit familiar with them, but the other side of that is they are familiar with us now too," he said.

          Madison reached the regional tournament two years ago and has enjoyed more tournament success in recent years than has Galion and Niswander hopes that gives them a little edge on Tuesday.  "I think it might be a little bit.  I know Galion won their last two games last week and I am sure they have a little bit of momentum.  I think especially the two seniors and the junior that played for us two years ago when we made the long run in the tournament.  I think they have the idea of what to expect a little bit.  They understand the mindset that we have to go in with and every play is that much more important because there is very little margin for error and if you make too many mistakes you are going to get knocked out it really doesn't matter who you are playing.  I think that experience is going to help us a little bit," said Niswander.

 

Published 5/12/15

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Madison Hopes to Get Healthy

 

          There has been some inconsistency in the Madison Lady Rams softball team early in the season and that had led to four losses in their previous five games before Thursday.

          Madison beat Galion (3-1) and coach Tim Niswander says they did a lot of things better.  "It certainly did a lot of my sanity that's for sure.  And the kids it really picked them up.  The bus ride home was phenomenal.  They were really excited and having a good time.  It's a lot more fun, obviously, when you win than when you don't.  It was a big night and it started as a little bit of a downer.  We thought we were going to get back McKenzie Mullins back (Thursday) night and unfortunately that didn't happen.  She is probably out now until Saturday.  But, Kaylee Thomas to her credit went out and threw a whale of a game.  The biggest thing that I was excited about is the kids played really, really solid defense behind her.  We finally started to look like the team I expected this year," said Niswander.

          They got good pitching, but Niswander they also played some very good defense because they had better focus.  "We turned a couple of double plays.  Chase Carper had a great night at third base, started three different double plays.  You talk about the weather, our rightfielder Jackie Leedy looked a little bit like the "Abominable Snowman" (Wednesday) night and (Thursday) night with all of the clothes she had on.  She did a great job of making some plays out there as well.  It is not a matter of if we can't play good, solid defense it is more of an issue of focus.  For whatever reason (Thursday) night we got everything together.  We started hitting the ball more than we have in the past.  We hit the ball hard, even our outs were loud and that was very encouraging," said Niswander.

          Madison (5-6) plays Plymouth (12-4) in the "MVD" tournament in Ashland on Friday and that begins a stretch where they play everyday except Sunday for the next eight days, if the weather holds up.  Niswander hopes they can get healthy and be able to put some things together.  "The more you can get out in play the more consistent you are going to be.  It has been both a blessing and curse so far.  We have had so many injuries and we have lost games and that has given kids a chance to get a little bit better.  The curse part of it is you can't be very consistent when you are playing, and then you sit for three days, and you play, and you sit for three days.  We are getting everybody back and it's Saturday," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday night, "It would be the first night we played with our entire varsity team together.  We have a lot of games on the schedule for the next 10 days.  It would be nice to get everybody together for the first time this season, get some games in, and see what we can really do."

 

Published 4/24/15

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Five in the Seventh Gives Madison win over Clear Fork

 

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Doug Rickert

 

          Dakota Gombosch and Josh Smith both hit home runs in a five run seventh inning as Madison rallied to beat Clear Fork (7-4) in a huge Ohio Cardinal Conference game for both sides on Wednesday evening in the valley.

          Entering the final frame Madison players started chanting from their first base dugout trying to encourage their teammates.  Coach Doug Rickert says they still felt positive entering that seventh inning.  "We kept saying this is what good teams do.  Good teams will come back and win this game.  The lefty kept us off balance, we were out in front all day long.  We just couldn't stay back.  Our pitching wasn't great at the beginning.  We stayed in the game.  They had the bases loaded and one out and we got out of that inning, a second and third, a first an third, so our pitching kept us in it long enough to give us a chance," said Rickert.

          Trailing (4-2) Dakota Gombosch belted a solo homer over the left field fence to reduce the deficit to only one.  After Clear Fork reliever Lane Belcher walked Zane Harris, Josh Smith unloaded a bomb over the centerfield fence to give the Rams the lead.  After Kyle Galco and Alec Keen both reached base, pitcher Michael Penny bunted them over and Cal Rickert delivered a two run single. 

          Rickert says the blast by Gombosch really game them energy.  "I told Dakota Gombosch he did a great job there.  He had three appearances there where he was lost at the plate and he didn't let it affect him.  We always talk about the next pitch, you know, the next pitch.  You are always going to get back up and if you don't get down on yourself there is going to be a time.  That home run really sparked us there and of course Josh Smith hits a two-run homer," Rickert told Swankonsports.com after the win, "We get two guys on and Michael Penny, who hasn't batted all year gets a bunt down and Cal Rickert gets the big hit there to drive in two more.  Making it 7-4 was a lot easier."

          Harris hit a solo homer in the top of the first inning, but the Colts (8-4,4-3) tied it up in their half on an RBI single by Ben Sprang off Madison starter Curtis French.  The Rams tallied for a run in the second on an RBI hit by Cal Rickert.  Clear Fork scored twice in the bottom of the second on an RBI single by Nick Schoonyan and sacrifice fly by Ben Snyder.  They made it (4-2) on Andrew Thomas' RBI single in the fourth.

          Last year's conference pitcher of the year Michael Penny relieved French in the fourth and he went the final four innings allowing three hits.  He retired eight of the last nine batters he faced.  "Penny has struggled.  He has had a rough year.  He is 1-5 this year after being the "OCC" pitcher of the year last year.  He has had some problems.  (Wednesday) night he stepped up for us and did a fantastic job," said Rickert.

          To return to his form of a year ago, Rickert says he has to get ahead in the count and trust his fastball more.  "He has to throw more strikes.  He didn't work hard enough in the off season and he knows that now.  He has got to get back to working and he has got the throw more first pitch strikes and trust his fastball.  He has lived and died with his curve ball a lot.  (Wednesday) he had more faith in his fastball and was able to keep it down," he said.

          Madison (9-8,6-1) shares the "OCC" lead with Lexington.  Rickert says it will be an exciting race to the end.  "We still have Orrville left next week and then we still have Ashland and Lexington.  It's going to go right down the wire, everybody is still in it for sure," he said.

 

Published 4/23/15

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Madison Wins Third Straight

 

          Madison is the defending Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball champion and they are starting to show signs that they are going to be tough to unseat from that position.

          After a rough start, which included seven losses in their first nine games, Madison has won their last three games, including wins over West Holmes (6-1) on Tuesday and (5-1) on Wednesday in "OCC" play.

          Coach Doug Rickert says they are starting to turn it around.   "We haven't played really good baseball at times.  We told the kids that the season is kind of divided up into thirds and the first third of the season we were bad.  We talked about the fact that we were realistically 2-7 the first third of the season and now we will see how the next third goes.  We are 3-0 in that third now beating Massillon Perry 7-1 and beating West Holmes 6-1 and 5-1.  Our pitching has been really good the last three ball games so has our defense," he said.

          The Rams (5-7,3-1) pitching staff has given up only three runs in the last three games.  Rickert says they have started to throw more strikes and make teams score runs by hitting the ball.  "We weren't throwing enough strikes early.  The competition we have played is as good as any we'll see.  We went to Tennessee and played three really good teams down there.  We came back and played a really good Wooster team.  We got a win against Senior High.  This past weekend we played Perrysburg and Mentor and Mt. Vernon and Massillon Perry," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday evening, "Our schedule has been tough and a lot of kids have had to throw.  We have lost some tough games and a lot of it was because we weren't throwing enough strikes and we weren't playing good enough defensively because of our pitching and it's time to put that together."

          Madison plays host to Wooster (5-1,4-1), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in large school division, in another big "OCC" game on Friday.

          Rickert says after that shaky start his team is starting believe in itself again.  "That is one thing you worry about when you play the competition that we play.  It can also do some really good things for you.  A few years back we were 9-2 when we went up to Cleveland and played St. Ignatius, St Ed's, Strongsville and Mentor.  We came back 0-4 and that team never recovered from that.  They lost a lot of confidence.  We have seen a lot of good pitching early in the year.  We have played some teams that had already played a lot of games down in Tennessee.  There were a couple down there that we kind of threw away at the end of the ball game.  I thought we played a lot better.  We got beat by Perrysburg 6-3 but it was a well played game.  We played a very good game against Massillon Perry.  I think we are starting to get some confidence.  We are still feeling some things out, but our pitching is starting to come alive," said Rickert.

 

Published 4/16/15

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Lady Rams Take "OCC" Opener

 

          Madison battled through some adversity and came away with an (7-6) win over Wooster in their Ohio Cardinal Conference girls' softball opener on Tuesday afternoon.

          Coach Tim Niswander says they have had to rely on their depth and those players came up big when they had to.  "It was a big win for us.  We did not play terribly well.  We gave up five unearned runs on two errors.  Right now, we are missing a couple of kids with an injury and a suspension.  We are trying to get through the week with that.  We will get one of those kids back Thursday and the other one we are expecting to get back next week.  So, we are down a couple of people right now," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night, "We have a little bit of depth and our JV kids have come up and stepped up and have done a nice job.  Everybody has kind of picked up the slack a little bit.  Wooster is never and easy place to play and they are always a sold softball team, so were happy to go over there and get a win."

          What impressed the coach the most was the way his team was able to battle back.  He said they made some mistakes, but they didn't allow those errors to keep them down.  "We made some mistakes in the field, but to those kids credit the ones that stepped up at the plate and got big hits were those same kids.  Our kids did a nice job of keeping their nose to the grindstone and persevering and kept battling and kept battling and things went our way.  We are going to have to be ready to play again on Wednesday because I'm sure Wooster will be ready to play as well," he said.

          Madison (2-0,1-0) will host Wooster (0-1,0-1) at their place in the re-match on Wednesday afternoon.  Niswander says they have to be ready to play again and sort of forget about the successes of Tuesday.  "That is a big deal, especially when you have a young team and we are pretty young.  We are stating three freshmen and three sophomores.  To have those kids be able to have a short memory and put the innings behind them and keep plugging away is a credit to them.  They did a great job," he said.

 

Published 4/01/15

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Girls' Basketball Players to Showcase Talents

 

          Wednesday night, girls' basketball players of all ages will get an opportunity to show what they can do to fans and college coaches with Shelby Rotary NCO Girls' All-Star Basketball Classic at Shelby High School.

          Kyle Fenner of Colonel Crawford and Eric Mitchell of New London are the coaches in the senior game, which includes two ten player teams.

          Fenner has done this before, so she knows what to expect.  "This will be the second time coaching the all-star game.  I believe in 2000 I coached the all-star game over in Ashland, so this will be my second time," she said.

          She will coach team black, which will include: Anna Hintz of South Central, Deijah Swihart of Clear Fork, Gabby Stephens of Shelby, Shelby Stamm of Bellevue, Ellie Richmond of Wynford, Hannah Adams of Willard, Sydnie Carpenter of Ashland, Mekaila Grose of Mansfield Madison, Ta-Sharra Jeffries of Sandusky and Emily Wagner of Sandusky Perkins.

          A real key to this format is to get everyone into the game with a chance to showcase there skills.  "It's not really hard we will have ten kids and we will probably put them in groups of five and let them play for four or five minutes then we will substitute.  We will approach it that way and let them get up and down the floor and show their skills.  If it's a game at the end we will probably go with the five or six best kids that we feel can win the game for us," said Fenner.

          Some of the players might know where they are going to college, but some may not.  Fenner says this is their chance to impress.  "There are going to be a good portion of college coaches there that night.  They have done a great job of getting college coaches there.  It will a great chance for these kids to show their skills off to not only the area, but also some college coaches that will be there," she said.

          On team white will be Carly Santoro of Bellevue, Valesha Province of Tiffin Columbian, Shelby White of Ashland, Jeryn Reese of Mansfield Senior, Morgan Bailey of Clear Fork, Hunter Feltner of Willard, Alexis Smith of Mansfield Madison, Makayla Cook of Norwalk, Megan Flaherty of Bucyrus and Samantha Reer of Norwalk St. Paul.  The coach of the team will be Eric Mitchell of New London.

          There is also an underclassmen game on Wednesday night, a first due to a change in OHSAA rules and Clear Fork coach Heidi Roush is one the coaches in that game. 

          She was an MVP in an all-star game as a player, but this will be her first as a coach.  "It is my first time coaching anything like this.  There are some stipulations as to who can coach the younger kids.  You couldn't have one of your own players on the team.  I think that is how they kind of stumbled on me.  I'm really looking forward to it.  I think it will be a lot of fun," she told Swankonsports.com.

          Her team members are:  Renee Stimpert of Crestview, Abigail Fogle of Upper Sandusky, Sarah Ogden of Wynford, Gabbi Baldridge of Willard, Ashley Painley of Norwalk St. Paul, Shelby Kin of Carey, Maggie King of Willard, Jisselle Thomas of Norwalk, Paige Leitz of Monroeville and Leah Bouillon of New Riegel.

          She says she will judge playing time by performance during the game.  "With you know you have talented kids, they wouldn't be on the team other wise.  I think for the most part you just go with who is playing well.  Get everyone in there and let them show their skills," said Roush.

          There are only a couple of practices before them game and Roush says the players sort of have to get used to each other.  "There are some larger schools and I know those players and what they are capable of and there are some players that I haven't seen before and I only know their stat lines checking on then throughout the season in the paper.  I think it will be a little bit of a challenge for the kids knowing each other.  Some of them will have played against each other in summer league, some during the season and then there are kids they really don't know each other," said Roush.

          Playing for team black in the underclassmen game are Seina Adachi of Seneca East, Sydney Wentling of Carey, Kamryn Troike of Fostoria St. Wendelin, Payton Shays of New London, Kelci Simms of Bucyrus, Jenna Strayer of Bellevue, Sydney Holderman of Riverdale, Emily Yeager of Mansfield St. Peter's, Jackie Garrett of Shelby and Alexus Burkhart of Colonel Crawford.  They will be coached by Jon Dawson of Willard.

          Roush thinks it is pretty cool that underclassmen get to participate too.  "In this sport most of the time you are going to end with a loss and it can be so disheartening.  Now, these younger kids are going to get a chance to play again this season and pump them up and get them ready for next season," she said.

          There will be a halftime three point shooting contest among girls in district 6.  Some boys will be there for dunk contest as well.

          The underclassmen game starts at 6 PM, with the senior game at about 7:45.  Tickets for the game are $6 for adults, $3 for seniors, and free for 18 and under who donate a gently used or new children's book to the Shelby Rotary's "Big Red Book Shelf."

 

Published 3/23/15

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Madison Thinking Big

 

          Madison was Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball champion last season and this year they have to potential to be even better.

          Coach Doug Rickert says they have looked pretty good in the preseason and he thinks this can be an excellent season for the Rams.  "I think it will be a better year.  We return a lot of position players.  We had some kids graduate that were pretty good players, but we think we have some kids that can step in there.  I think we are deeper than we were last year.  We lost some pretty good pitchers, but we've had some guys step up and are throwing the ball really well.  In our first scrimmage (Monday) night against Sandusky Perkins I thought we looked really well.  We played excellent defense and we threw the ball well.  We hit the ball better than we have really ever hit the ball this early in the year.  So, I think it can be a better year than last year," said Rickert.

          Like at any level pitching is the key in high school baseball.  Rickert says they will have a really good number one and some other guys who can get batters out.  "We get back Michael Penny, who was conference pitcher of the year last year.  We have a lefthander Josh Smith, who was our three last year.  He has really blossomed this year.  He is throwing the ball with great velocity, his curve ball looks better, his change up looks good.  We have guys like Alec Keen, who that have thrown the ball for us in the past, that can play shortstop and can come in and throw.  We have some young kids that can throw the baseball.  We have a young man that came over here from Mansfield Senior High.  He has 13 games to sit because of the transfer rule, but he looks sharp and is working really hard," he said.

          Madison has had some pretty good lineups over the years, but Rickert says this year they have some depth with some guys that can really tear the cover off the ball.  "We honestly think this is one of the better hitting teams we have had.  Five years ago we had a team that hit 39 home runs, but we are never going to do that again with the bats we have.  We will hit some long balls and we will drive the ball hard and hit the gaps hard.  We have some young kids that are going to have to step up, but I think they are in a situation where they don't have to do everything because we have so much around them," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We have some good talent.  We have a D1 commit in Zane Harris.  Hunter Ackerman has committed to Case.  Josh Smith has committed to Ashland.  And Galco committed to Heidelberg.  When you have four kids committed to college, you should have a good baseball team."

          Madison certainly can defend the "OCC" title, but Rickert knows it won't be easy because there are a lot of good teams they will have to play.  "I think Wooster is the first that jumps out to you.  They have the player of the year back in Daugherty.  They have Lally, who pitched a gem against a state championship team in Massillon Jackson.  West Holmes is much improved this year.  I think they have a good coach over there in Bill Pim.  Lex still has guys like Even Lee that can carry them.  Ashland is going to be improved.  Every night somebody can beat somebody.  You have an Orrville team that went to the state finals last year," he said.

 

Published 3/18/15

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Madison Wants to Get Out and Go

 

          Madison matches up with Findlay in the division one boys' basketball tournament on Friday night at Otsego High School. 

          A win will give the Rams a sectional title.

          With no semi-final in their part of the bracket, Madison coach Tim Mergel says it has been kind of a normal week for them.  "For us it is nothing to get your kids out of whack, with the weather they have been out of whack with the practice schedule.  It gives us that whole week of separation, so we don't have to change a whole a lot.  The only thing will be the two hour bus ride," he said.

          With the game being played at Otsego, which is located Tontogany in northwest Wood County, it will be a long bus ride for the Madison team.  Mergel hopes that won't be that much of a factor.  "There is going to be a game before us so it will kind of be similar to a JV and a varsity game.  We will still go through our prep work as far as what we do before a game.  It should be a fun night and we get a chance to see the team that we would play is we move on past Friday," he said.

          Mergel describes Findlay as a physical and fundamental basketball team.  "They are an extremely physical and strong team.  Coach Rucki has been at Findlay for 16 years.  When I first started coaching I was at Mansfield Senior with Greg Collins and we got a chance to play them in district final.  I was just very, very impressed with how they ran their stuff.  Here we are years latter and I am still impressed with how they do things.  They are a very disciplined group, they play the game hard and they play it the right way," he told Swankpnsports.com on Tuesday, "By Findlay's standards it is a down year for them, but they play in such a tough conference that they are still a very good basketball team.  We definitely have to be prepared for the sets they bring at us and just their physicalness."

          He has always believed that the Ohio Cardinal Conference has prepared them well for the postseason and this year is no different.  Mergel says Findlay kind of reminds him of Wooster.  "That is what is great about our conference is our conference brings a little bit of difference in each basketball club.  We have some athletic teams, we have some strong teams.  I would compare Findlay to a Wooster type.  I don't think they have a Daugherty type player that Wooster has.  They are a Wooster type team, but a little bit stronger at each position.  What I mean about that is their physical strength.  I was very impressed Findlay's guys with their overall strength.  If you would compare them with one team in our conference I would say a Wooster type." he said.

          To earn the win Friday night, Mergel says they must handle the rock and they want to be able to score in transition.  "We have to take care of the basketball.  We have done a pretty poor job of that the last couple of games.  We were fortunate to win one of those.  If we value our possessions and don't take the dumb shots or the rushed shots.  I think defensively we will be fine.  I think we will limit their good looks.  It is not the first shot that concerns me against Findlay it is the offensive rebounding opportunities that they will have being so strong an physical.  We are going to have to check out bodies.  I think we can use our athleticism to get up and down the court.  We have to push the tempo a little bit due to the fact that they are so big and strong it is going to be difficult to get in the lane have those scoring opportunities," said Mergel.

 

Published 3/04/15

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Madison faces Willard, Ashland

 

          Madison closes the regular season this week with games against Willard on Wednesday and Ohio Cardinal Conference champion Ashland on Friday, both on the road.

          The Willard game was originally set for last Saturday, but had to be postponed.  Rams coach Tim Megrel says his goal was to get it back on the schedule.  "This time of year with the weather and tournaments on the horizon it is kind of tough to find certain days, but the coaches and athletic directors and kids from our schools all want to play games.  They put 22 games in for a reason and we try are hardest to get them in.  Any games we can get in now before tournament time I think is beneficial." said Mergel.

          Although they lost last Friday at Orrville (50-45), Mergel still believes this is a team that is getting better every time they hit the floor.  "We have kind of had a tale of two seasons and we have came together as a group the last two or three weeks.  Any progression we can make in getting better as a team up until out March 6 date with Findlay we are definitely going to try and take advantage of," he said.

          It's the last week of the regular season, but Mergel says his kids are still excited to play basketball.  "Our kids believe we are a better basketball team than we were three, four weeks ago.  Practices are still enthusiastic.  At this time of the season you have to knock practice time down a little bit, but we are still in there to work.  Our kids are still having fun and the coaching staff is having fun and this is an exciting time of year," he said.

          The Rams travel to Willard (10-10) on Wednesday night for a non-league game and Mergel says the guard oriented Flashes can do a lot of things.  "They are one of the better match ups for us as far as personnel.  We don't bring a lot of height to the table and they don't either.  As far as defending the other guys both of the teams are dangerous.  We have to guard Ebert and Robinson, two guys that are putting up more than 15 points a game.  They are guys that can out up points in a hurry for them.  They are a better match-up for us than some of our conference opponents, but they are a scary match-up," said Mergel.

          When Madison (11-9,6-7) arrives at Ashland (19-1,13-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball poll in the large school division, the Arrows will have a 19 game win streak in hand.  Mergel says they must be at the very top of their game to compete with the Arrows.  "We are going to have to play our best basketball of the year, no question.  They are a very, very finely tuned machine over there.  They understand what they are about and what their strengths are.  They have very few weaknesses, but whatever weakness you find on a scouting report you have to try and exploit.  I think the thing with them is Ashland keys off their hot starts.  When they start out of the gate quick it is hard to dig yourself out of that hole, so we have to try and keep it as close as we can," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We can't back down from it being senior night over there on their home court.  I know they have won their outright "OCC" championship, but I can't remember the last time a team went undefeated.  They are playing for a lot over there and I'm sure their kids know what's at stake and our kids obviously know as well."

 

Published 2/25/15

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Rams Doing Good Things

 

          Madison has won three of its last four games and they are building some momentum heading into the postseason tournament, which starts in a couple of weeks.

          They beat West Holmes (43-39) last Friday in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game and coach Tim Mergel says they are they in a good place right now.  "I can't complain about the direction we are going and how much our group has grown as a team an individually as players.  We are taking steps forward and as a coach I can't ask for much more.  Every coaches uses the phrase that you want to be playing your best basketball by the time the tournament starts and we are heading in that direction," he said.

          After a midseason injury to leading scorer Tyrell Ajian the Rams have had other kids step into different roles and Mergel says they believe they can be successful.  "These guys are a pleasure to be around in practice.  They all get along well.  We did have to change out identity a little bit.  We had a couple of guys in Billy Buckely and Tyrell Ajian that could kind of create on their own," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "Of course, with Tyrell going down we had to change the way we do things and that's where guys roles increased and they understood they had to give a little more as far as the offensive end goes.  They have bought in and they have been a pleasure to watch as we have been playing some pretty good basketball."

          Madison (11-8,6-6) plays at Orrville (8-10.4-8) in an "OCC" game on Friday night.  Orrville won the first match-up (41-35) and Mergel says they want to prove they are better now.  "Coach Slaughter does a good job over there.  Their kids play with an insistent will.  They are very patient, disciplined, tough basketball team.  They are a great team to have in our conference because they always bring some size and they have a lot of strength.  I think we are a much different basketball team than the first time we played them.  It is good to play these conference teams a second time around, especially with the situation we were in coming off an injury to a key player.  It is going to be an interesting battle in gauging our team and how much we have improved since the first time," said Mergel.

          They travel to meet Willard (9-10) of the Northern Ohio League in a non-conference game on Saturday night.  Mergel says for once they are going to be the taller team.  "We haven't been able to say that much.  We are going to go there and it is always a tough environment to play there.  Coach Long does a good job with his guys.  They play as hard as any team that I have seen this year and with being undersized they have to do that.  Last year was a battle with them at our place and they ended up getting us.  We look forward to playing these types of teams heading into the tournament," he said.

 

Published 2/19/15

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Madison Must Control the Tempo

 

          Madison is starting to get back on track and they hope to be able to continue that trend when they visit West Holmes for an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.

          Last week, they rallied in the second half to beat Wooster (41-36) in an "OCC" game.  Their second win in their last three conference games.  Coach Tim Mergel says he is proud of his players efforts.  "It's exciting, and it's a rewarding thing to see that hard work is paying off and they good start wasn't a fluke and we just sort of hit a bump in the road here.  We have gotten a little better in every facet of the game.  It just exciting to see the progression of the kids," he said.

          Madison (10-8,5-6) will be at West Holmes (6-13,2-9) on Friday night for an "OCC" game.  It might be a down year for the Knights, but Mergel says wins down there are never easy.  "They are a challenge every year that you play them.  The job that coach Troyer has done in first year taking them to a conference championship and then this year they are on the cuff of being a double digit win team," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "They are a very disciplined team, they do things the right way, they don't take bad shots.  They get down and they guard you defensively, so it is kind of a battle of wills.  With coach Troyer's kids against my kids it is always fun and exciting."

          Tempo of play could be a big factor in this game.  Mergel says they want to get their fast break in gear and make the Knights try to guard them in the open floor.  "We would like to get up and down the floor against West Holmes each and every time we play them because I think we have a little bit more speed and of course they are a little bit stronger than we are.  Coach Troyer and those guys are very disciplined and they do a good job of controlling tempo.  If they can get you in the half court that is where they are going to beat you.  Unfortunately for us the last time we played them they were able to dictate that pace and kind of keep our speed neutralized," he said.

          It is true that Madison wants to West Holmes to be a little uncomfortable and Mergel says competing in the boards is going to be big for the too.  "You have to pressure passing lanes and you have to hope for some steals.  The flip side of the that is you have to force them into some unwanted shots if possible and that's by speeding them up.  If you can get them spread out and get them to take that quick shot that is the goal.  Rebounding is always a key for us.  If we can get them to the one and done and get the ball out get the outlet and get up the floor and beat their bigs up the floor that is always a goal for us.  The last time we played them I can remember one possession in particular they got six offensive rebounds.  When you give up six offensive rebounds you are in for a long night," said Mergel.

 

Published 2/11/15

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Madison Wants to Get Down the Floor

 

          Madison will be at a sizeable height disadvantage when they host Wooster in an Ohio Cardinal Conference boys' basketball game on Friday night.

          The Rams broke a four game losing streak with a win at Clear Fork (62-52) last Friday night and then lost a tough one to Lexington (58-45) on Saturday in Ohio Cardinal Conference play last weekend.

          Still trying to rebound from a the loss of leading scorer Tyrell Aijan to injury, coach Tim Mergel feels they are making steps in the right direction.  "I definitely think we are making some progression as far as offensively.  We had some guys step up and hit some shots against Clear Fork and that was do to our ball movement.  I thought we played a pretty solid game all around on Saturday night, we were just unable to knock down some open looks in the second half.  Obviously Lexington was able to capitalize on their open looks," said Mergel.

          One thing that Mergel would like to see his team do better is run the floor and look for some easy hoops.  "Our transition offense isn't quite where it needs to be.  As undersized as we are we really have to force the ball up the court as quick as we can get it there and maybe beat the other team's bigs up the floor.  We are still searching for that transition offense identity.  We have to rebound the ball better each and every week," he said.

          Madison (9-8,4-6) plays host to Wooster (9-6,6-4), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball poll in the large school division, in an "OCC" game on Friday night.  The Generals are paced by their big guy Cam Daugherty and Mergel says he is important in every aspect of their team.  "He is such a big part of everything they do.  He is their go to guy on offense whenever they need a bucket the ball is in his hands.  He makes it very difficult for the other team to score inside," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "We have to do our best to neutralize him and limit his touches offensively, rebounding wise and not let him block our shots, which lead to transition buckets for them.  He is a great player and I have had a great time coaching against him, I won't be sad to see him go, but he has been a pleasure to coach against."

          Having already commented that he would like to see the fast break work a little better, Mergel emphasizes that is going to be really important on Friday night.  "We have some athletes that can run and get up and down the floor and we have some guys that make pretty good decisions with the basketball.  Being able to get their defense to move from side to side I think is going to be a big key.  Defensively we have to keep on par for what we have been doing by limiting Daugherty's touches and closing out on guys like Schilling and Wharton," he said.

 

Published 2/06/15

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Madison Lady Rams Looking for Consistency

 

          The Madison Lady Rams girls' basketball team has went some trials and tribulations this season, many of them off floor and beyond the control of the players themselves, now they are just trying to work on their game.

          Former coach Brian Carr was dismissed early in the season due to some legal issues and has been replaced by Brian Davis. 

          Davis says they need to be more consistent if they are going to start winning more games.  "We have to continue to handle the ups and downs of the game.  The times comes when we are going to get some spells where we are losing our balance on the floor and go through some rough patches.  We have really yet to put together a string of solid minutes where we continue to work the way we do in practice," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "I think that is the biggest thing is if we control our ups and downs and try to keep on an even keel and take away some of the more down notes of the game.  We are working hard in practice trying to sure some of that up.  Right now the difference in ours games is the turnovers and the inability to run our offense like we do in practice."

          Basketball is a game when many mistakes are made it is just the nature of the game.  Davis says they need to do a better job of moving on to the next play.  "If we make a mistake on offense we want to fix it on the defensive end.  What is in the past is gone, you can't fix that.  We are really preaching to them and try to get stronger on the defensive end and work on their defensive principals and from there we can be a lot stronger team," he said.

          Madison (5-9,2-5) plays at home against Clear Fork (11-3,6-2), #4 in the Swankonsports.com girls' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, on Thursday night in Ohio Cardinal Conference action.  Davis says they need to stop the Lady Colts transition and if they do they can win this game.  "They are a solid, experienced team.  We went down there early in the year and we lost one our better shooters in Kendall Burtoch that can really spread the floor for us and we had to make some adjustments and put kids in some situations that they weren't used to.  Kendall was back (Tuesday) night and her knee started bothering her, we don't know her status yet.  We have to attack their zone with sharp passes and being strong with the ball.  On the other end not allow transition baskets.  They are well coached and a very good basketball team, but if we play 32 minutes of basketball we have a good chance to win," said Davis.

 

Published 1/29/15

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Madison Taking Steps

 

          The Madison Rams basketball team is still trying to deal with the loss of leading scorer Tyrell Ajian to a season ending injury, but they are getting closer to figuring out some things.

          They played two of the best teams in the area last weekend and lost both games by considerable margins to Ashland (80-54) on Friday and Mansfield Senior (70-38) on Saturday.  Coach Tim Mergel says they are still looking for the right way to do things.  "We played some pretty good basketball teams this last week with Ashland and Mansfield Senior, one at the top and one right there at the top.  You can tell our guys are still trying to find their way a little bit.  When push comes to shove and we were in tight situations we kind of turned to Tyrell to get us through those situations, slow us down and get us regrouped.  We don't have that guy that can stop those runs.  We have to do it collectively now.  We have to get five guys on the same page and we are working towards that," said Mergel.

          With the loss of Ajian, Mergel says the rest of the roster is adjusting to different roles and some guys are doing a pretty good job.  "We are in the mist of changing things as far as personnel on the floor.  When Tyrell was with us we was the focal point of what we were doing.  We would use him to our advantage as far as getting other guys shots.  It is going to take a little time now, but we are now two weeks without him.  There are guys that are stepping up and playing better," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "You look at Alec Keen, he has given us great minutes and Austin Finley has taken over the role of handling the basketball, and he has done well.  It is just going to take a little bit more time to get to do some tweaks to get the job done.  I told the guys when the injury happened that we would work towards playing our best basketball come tournament time."

          Madison (8-7,3-5) pays a visit to Clear Fork (3-8,1-6) for an Ohio Cardinal Conference match-up on Friday night.  Mergel says the Colts are a couple of players that can keep them in any game.  "Clear Fork does such a great job of making you play at their pace a little bit.  They have a couple of great basketball players in Chrastina and Robinette.  If one of those guys gets going they can keep Clear Fork in any game.  If both of those guys hit the "on" switch then you are in for a real battle and it is going to be a tough battle.  They are playing better basketball and I said after we played them the first time this year that is a team you can't sleep on because coach Bechtel's teams always do a great job of improving throughout the year," said Mergel.

          On Saturday night, Madison hosts Lexington (8-8,3-5) in another conference game.  Mergel says games against Lexington are among his favorites.  "They are kind of an up and down team.  They played Wooster really tough and Wooster is a great basketball team.  They beat Orrville.  Anytime you get Madison and Lex you get that vibe to it that the kids always come out and play their best and they always play hard.  I don't know if it is a chip on the shoulder thing.  It's a great rivalry and I am always excited to be part of that game," he said.

 

Published 1/28/15

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Without Ajian Madison Faces tough Weekend

 

          After a terrific start to the season, the Madison Rams are now battling adversity as they have lost their leading scorer for the season.

          Tyrell Ajian broke is ankle and didn't play in losses to West Holmes (51-36) and Orrville (41-35) last weekend.  Rams coach Tim Mergel says nobody is going to feel sorry for them.  "When you take 20 some points and six or seven rebounds out it's big.  With his presence it made other teams change their game plan.  We just have guys that we have to put in different positions now.  We have to continue to get better from here on out.  I thought we took some positive steps forward last weekend even though we took two losses we had some guys that really stepped up.  No one is going to feel sorry for us and we are not going to feel sorry for ourselves we have to continue to get better each day," said Mergel.

          He thought the effort was there last weekend, now Mergel says they have to redefine roles and try to get better by the time the tournament begins in six weeks.  "I thought our effort on the floor, as usual, was pretty solid last weekend against West Holmes and Orrville.  These guys know the position we are in now.  Our goal right now is to compete every night and be playing our best basketball come tournament time.  We were making progress as a unit with Tyrell in there and it is just a couple of steps back and now we need to taker those steps forward now as you go on without him," he said.

          Madison (8-5,3-3) faces very tough back to back Ohio Cardinal Conference games this weekend with league leader Ashland (9-1,5-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball poll in the large school division, on Friday and improving Mansfield Senior (7-5,4-2), #5 in our poll, on Saturday.

          Ashland has won nine straight games and Mergel says the Arrows have the whole package.  "There are not a whole lot of deficiencies in their lineup.  They lack that true big man, but they do have some guys with some height and they can do a little bit of everything.  The have a good, quick point guard , they have a couple of guys outside that can shoot it, those guys that can shoot it can also put it on the floor and score," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We have our work cut out for us and the defense that we have been playing so well is going to be tested.  They are the conference leaders for a reason.  They play good fundamental basketball and they are an unselfish group.  One night Vipperman can put up 22 on you and next tight Isaac Whit can put up 26 on you.  You just have to limit their touches and their good looks at the basket."

          Mansfield Senior beat West Holmes (52-48) on Tuesday night for their fourth straight "OCC" win.  Mergel says there is no question the Tygers are better than they were at the beginning of the year when they beat them (52-43) in Mansfield's first game.  "We played them when they were a little bit short on experience.  Look what they have done since we played them in their first game of the season.  Their schedule has just been brutal with Akron St. Vincent/St. Mary, they played a Delaware Hayes team that is solid .  They have beaten some good teams.  They are always going to be in the conference hunt no matter how far they are out of it.  They have done things the same way there for a couple of years and they have definitely gotten better," said Mergel.

          David Hall, a transfer from Mansfield St. Peter's, played his first game for Mansfield Senior against West Holmes.  He scored four points in the final 70 seconds and was instrumental in the Tygers win.

 

Published 1/21/15

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Rams Ready for Two "OCC" Games

 

          Madison trails Ohio Cardinal Conference leader Ashland by just a game going into a weekend when both play two conference games.

          The Rams play West Holmes and Orrville and Ashland tangles with Wooster and Lexington, two tougher teams, so it could be a chance for the Rams to move up if they can take care of business. 

          They downed Mt. Vernon (46-36) on Tuesday night in non-league play.  Coach Tim Mergel says they made the needed adjustments on offense.  "When push comes to shove we like to rely on our defense.  Offensively they threw a zone at us and we haven't seen a lot of if and took us a while to make some adjustments and once we able to do that in the second half we were able to get some separation.  Our kids did a good job of finishing off that game, getting some easy buckets and making a couple of free throws down the stretch," he said.

          In judging their play in the half court this year, Mergel says they are headed in the right direction.  "For our have court sets I think we run them, but being this far a long in the season I give them a little more leeway to the more veteran plays to just learn how to play the game with the other players on the floor.  We seem to be picking up and making strides in the right direction.  in order to have success you have to be able to run your half court offense efficiently.  If you are struggling that is when you have to get it from your defense and beat their defense up the floor once you get stops,' said Mergel.

          Madison (8-3,3-1), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, plays host to West Holmes (5-5,1-3) in an "OCC" game on Friday night.  They just won the first game in the league Tuesday night in beating Orrville (49-42) at their place.  Mergel says the Knights are improving.  "Coach Troyer does a good job over there and time you lose a talent like (Brady) Arnold you have a big void to fill the following year.  They seemed to have done that with a couple of kids, the Neer kid and the Kline kid.  You can tell that they have some inexperience on that team.  You look at some scores and they are up and they are down.  They are going to start playing more consistent basketball.  We just hope to keep them down on Friday night," said Mergel.

          The Rams then travel to Orrville (2-5,1-3) on Saturday night.  Mergel says they have to stay disciplined in order to be able to contain the Orrville motion offense.  "Anytime you get a team like Orrville with tradition you know you are going to get a team that plays hard,  Coach Slaughter does a tremendous job over there.  They run a motion offense and they are always cutting hard and they are always reading how you are covering screens and they are going to and they are going to go the opposite way.  As a basketball team, we have to be very disciplined in the half court," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "They are just going to exploit that one mistake that you make.  It is going to be up to us Saturday night to stay disciplined for those 20 seconds or 45 seconds or minute possessions, so we don't have that breakdown that cost us."

 

Published 1/15/15

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Madison Needs to Respond

 

          Madison lost for just the third time this year on Saturday night when Wooster handed their first conference loss (55-43) at Wooster.

          Rams coach Tim Megrel says they had some problems with the Generals height and this time the ball just didn't bounce their way.  "They are just a tough match for us in general as far as personnel and they bring some height to the table which always presents us with a problem being undersized.  They play much better at their place.  We were even with them at halftime and some of the 50-50 balls that we were used to getting throughout the year we didn't quite get this time.  They made some tough shots and the end result was what it was and we have to get back in the saddle again Tuesday night," he said.

          In looking back on the game against Wooster, Mergel says they have to do a better job of running their offense than they did against the Generals.  "Defensively except for a few possessions I thought we played pretty well, but anytime you get a loss you put things under a microscope.  One of the things we talked about on (Sunday) in practice is we need to move the ball a little bit better offensively we get some more guys involved," he told Swankonsports.com on Sunday evening, "(Saturday) night when we got down I think we had some kids trying to do too much.  You don't want to break it down back to the basics, but you look back and you look at some things and you try to get everyone on the same page."

          Madison (7-3), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, hosts Mt. Vernon in a non-conference game at Tuesday night at their place.  Mergel says this is a team that is going to play tough and physical.  "They have a kid that is a tremendous talent over there in the Minnard kid.  They have a couple athletes starting with the Springer kid.  They are a physical basketball team.  They come over and play another conference opponent in the "OCC" with Lexington and beat them and that is no easy task as we know.  They are a tough bunch, they play hard, they play physical and they had a couple of guys that can really light it up if you give them distance," he said.

          With "OCC" games against West Holmes and Orrville schedule for the weekend, Mergel says they need to get back on the beam against Mt. Vernon.  "Anytime that you lose you like to get back at it and see how your kids respond.  With this group we have had a couple of losses and we have responded each time and coming back with a win afterwards.  It is going to be interesting to see how our kids respond after a short break and a couple of practices.  I don't expect any less of an effort.  We have to get some momentum going back into a double weekend in the "OCC," said Mergel

 

Published 1/12/15

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A Big One for Madison

 

          It is a battle between contenders for the Ohio Cardinal Conference title as the Madison Rams, co-leaders in the conference, takes its act to Wooster to face the meet the Generals, who trail by just a game, on Friday night.

          Last Saturday, Madison took a step away from conference play to beat Mansfield St. Peter's (62-40) behind 20 from Tyrell Ajian and 17 from Billy Buckley.  Coach Tim Mergel says they were fortunate to shoot a good percentage.  "We shot the ball extremely well and it's a good thing we did.  St. Pete's came in, we want to say we take the pressure to people, and St. Pete's pressured us a little bit as far as attacking the basket and we got in a little bit of foul trouble, but fortunately for us we were able to shoot the ball well, which gave us that first half lead and we were able to knock it down little in the second half," said Mergel.

          This year with some more experience they have shown some versatility and the ability to win games when they have a alter their game plan.  Mergel says that is a mark of maturity.  "That is what is kind of neat about us this year is we can win different kinds of games.  You look at the start of the season and Tyrell Ajian is averaging 25 points a game and now defenses are starting prepare for him more and different guys have stepped up.  We have won games in a lot of different ways.  I keep going back to last year and we lost a lot of games in different ways.  It is nice to see our fortunes turn around," he said.

          Madison (7-2,3-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, is at Wooster (6-2,3-1), #4 in our poll, for a key conference game.  Everyone knows about Wooster's four year starter Cam Daugherty, but Mergel believes Wooster is better this year because of their guards.  "Watching them play against Senior High they did struggle a little bit, but with Daugherty inside and they have #40 inside, but I tell you what it is their guards that are making them so successful this year because I think they are a very unselfish basketball team," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "They have guards that can take you off the dribble and once they take you off the dribble their decision making is a lot better than in years past.  I think that is why you see them off to a 6-2 start.  It does start with Daugherty and what a load inside that kid is.  I can tell you I am one coach that will not be sorry to see him go."

          Madison is very athletic, but they aren't the biggest team in the world, Mergel says they must at least compete with the Generals on the boards.  "I think anytime you look at our team we are undersized and we have to compete on the glass.  I got tired of using win the glass, win the glass, win the glass.  If we can compete in the glass, keep that as even as possible, and limit their offensive rebounds, we are going to put ourselves in a position to win.  We have to limit Daugherty's inside touches and just his overall touches.  Our guys offensively just have to continue to do what they have been doing over the last four games and that is working to get each other open and not settling for a good shot, but getting a great shot," said Mergel.

 

Published 1/07/15

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"OCC" Leaders to Play St. Peter's

 

          Madison shares the Ohio Cardinal Conference lead with Ashland and the Rams are playing some excellent basketball, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

          Billy Buckley had 17 points as the Rams downed rival Lexington (54-49) on Saturday night in "OCC" play.  Coach Tim Mergel says again they were able to turn the tide in their direction because of their defense.  "I don't want to sound too overly confident, but we didn't play a great basketball on the offensive end.  I'll tell you what we really disrupted what Lexington was trying to offensively.  We battled a little bit of foul trouble, and they did too.  We would put a run at the them and they would put a run back at us.  You have to expect that on their home court.  We just worked hard enough, an where fortunate enough, to have that last run," said Mergel.

          Due mostly to their experience, but also because of the improvement of their skills Mergel says the Rams are better able to handle pressure situations.  "I go back to last year with some of the kids we have in this group and there were some games that got away from us and we want to avoid that this year and for the most part we have.  That is just a testament to our kids and their ability to disrupt what other teams are trying to do.  If you want to say we have outworked people, I think that is a good way to put it.  We have come to an understanding that it takes 32 minutes to get the job done," he said.

          Madison (6-2), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, plays host to Mansfield St. Peter's (5-2) in a non-conference match-up on Saturday night.  Joe Jakubick is the new coach at St. Peter's and Mergel says the Spartans are a pretty good team.  "It starts at the top with a new coach and any time you bring a new coach in you are going to have new philosophies and different offensive and defensive schemes.  I have been able to watch them a couple of times and being how young they are and with the youth they put on the basketball floor they seem to be a very disciplined and fundamental basketball team," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "They pass the ball very well and are a very unselfish group.  We have to do our best that we can do to disrupt any offensive flow that they have.  We were that young team once and we understand the more pressure that we put on them and the more difficult we make things on them the better off we are going to be."

          Madison hasn't run a the floor that much this year, but Mergel says they would like to turn up the tempo against St. Peter's.  "I think we have some athletes that can get up and down the floor and I think we have a slight edge in athletic ability and any chance that we can get out and run we don't turn away from it.  Sometimes I have to get on my guys to run a little more.  As hard as we are playing defense I think there are some tired legs and when we get that defensive rebound I'm sure my guys want to rest a little bit.  Any time there is a chance we can push the basketball up and down the floor on Saturday night we are going to take advantage of it," said Mergel.

 

Published 12/31/14

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Ontario Holds on to Beat Madison

 

          Lenel Shelby poured in 23 points and Ontario sprinted to a 15 point halftime lead and held on to beat Mansfield Madison (54-48) in a non-conference boys' basketball game at the "O-Rena" on Tuesday night.

          Madison's leading scorer, the explosive sophomore Tyrell Ajain finished with a team high 12, but didn't score until less than three minutes remained in the first quarter and only scored four points the entire second half.  Ontario coach Joe Balogh thought they didn't an excellent job defensively on Ajian and Billy Buckley.  "I thought we did.  Ajian ends up 12, he eight in the first half and Buckley gets nine, all in the second half.  We had to limit the touches of those two guys and I thought we did a really good job of that," he said.

          Ajian has scored as many as 25 in a game and averages more than 20 per contest.  Rams coach Tim Mergel says he has to be ready to score against tough defenses like he saw Tuesday night.  "Tyrell is going to continue to see that.  He is a sophomore, so he has two and three quarters of a year left.  He is going to see all kinds of defenses.  He is going to see all kinds of crazy things thrown at him.  He continues to work hard and he continues to want to get better.  So, he knows he is going to have to continue to earn everything he gets," said Mergel.

          Shelby, the Warriors (6-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball poll in the large school division, only returning started form last year's Northern Ohio league co-champs scored eight of his points during the second quarter when the Warriors outscored Madison (17-10), plus Balogh says he did a great job guarding Ajian.  "Lenel can do some things that our point guards haven't been able to do for years.  He was pretty solid defensively.  We kind of had him matched on Tyrell.  We switched some people on him, but I thought his defense was really a key for us," he said.

          The Ontario pressure hurt the Rams (5-2), #4 in the our poll, especially early, and Mergel says they were sloppy in the first half and it cost them.  "We told the guys prior to the game just by watching Ontario they score bunches of points when they get a turnover and transition offense.  If we limit their transition and stop the ball with Shelby and we take care of the basketball we are going to be successful.  The first half it didn't work out that way," he told Swankonsports.com after the game, "Against Clear Fork I think we had three turnovers and in the first three minutes we had five (Tuesday) night.  That is a credit to Ontario and the defensive pressure they brought.  We were sloppy with the basketball and they capitalized."

          Ontario only scored seven points in the third quarter and Balogh says they didn't play smart basketball.  "Just disappointed that we didn't value possession of the basketball as much.  When you are in the situation where you have that 13, 15 point lead you need to make people come and play you.  Some of our decision making was I am going to drive the ball into the lane and they were taking charges.  We need to make them come to us and then the lane will open up and we just drove into traffic,' said Balogh.

          There were a number of times when the Warriors either got stick backs or kept Madison's hands off the ball with offensive rebounds.  Balogh says that was a plus Tuesday night.  "We talk about efforts to the glass.  We have 11 offensive rebounds, I'm not sure how many of those were in the first half.  Bradley Garverick was really good on the glass at both ends all night, " he said.

 

Published 12/23/14

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Madison Feeling Pretty Good

 

          Madison continues to play some pretty good basketball.  After a win over Loudonville Tuesday night they have won four of their first five games.

          The Rams (4-1,1-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, plays host to Clear Fork in Ohio Cardinal Conference action on Friday night.

          Coach Tim Mergel says they have done good things in every game they have played so far.  "Even in the game we lost I thought we played well enough to win we just didn't make enough shots and that is the bottom line.  To our kids credit we came out on the right foot.  We have played together.  We have played pretty consistent.  We have struggled a little bit offensively, but (Tuesday) night we got a boost.  Tyrell Ajian struggled a little bit, but Jesse Weightman picked him up a little bit and Nick Smith picked him up.  It was good to get some contributions (Tuesday) night and that is what it is going to take for us to sustain this success for the rest of the year," said Mergel.

          They have done some good things on offense, but Mergel says really this team is off to a great start because of its defense.  "(Tuesday) night was another great defensive performance for us.  I think we set a school record for points given up with 28.  Loudonville came out and they were aggressive and they attacked us and at the end of the first quarter it is 16-13.  The next three quarters we held them to 15 points, which is outstanding.  Our guys when they put their nose down to it can really defend, but it is going to be tough with a 22 game season to sustain that and we know we are going to have breakdowns, but you have to fight through them," he said.

          Friday night will mark the Rams sixth game already this season and playing a lot early can be difficult says Mergel, except when you are winning.  "When you look at that schedule you think that is a lot of basketball to be playing early in the year, especially when we have a lot of football guys that are just getting into it.  Anytime you win it makes it look a lot better.  As tired as our legs are with this our kids have fought through it.  I always preach one more stop, we just need one more stop and that one more stop could be the next three possessions depending on how the whistle blows.  Right now our schedule looks pretty good, but when you get down to the end of the season you kind of worry about your kid's fatigue level, " said Mergel.

          Clear Fork (1-2,0-1) lost their "OCC" opener to Ashland (65-41) last Friday, but then picked up their first win against Mansfield Christian (74-59) the next night.  Mergel says Clear Fork showed what they could do against the Flames.  "They played two pretty good basketball teams, two of the better in the area to start off with.  They always get better throughout the year.  What Steve does over there is great.  They always play the game the right way and they always play hard.  You could see against Mansfield Christian they just turned it up a notch and they got very aggressive in taking the ball to the rim," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "You can tell that he has been preaching that to them because they look like a different basketball team than they did.  They lost their top scorer for last year, but they bring back two pretty good guys.  They have a bunch of guys that played a little JV ball last year.  Once they get that experience they are going to be a solid basketball team."

 

Published 12/18/14

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Conway Resigns as Madison football coach

 

          Even though he is a Notre Dame fan, Sean Conway is one of the good guys in the high school football coaching game.

          He has resigned as the coach of Madison Rams to be closer to his young family and continue to peruse his career as a school administrator at Madison.  He says he feels he has taken the program in his five years as its head coach about as far as he can.  "I think we have made a lot of improvements in our program over the last five years and I am very proud of those, but throughout the five years my assistant coaches have been fantastic and have helped to grow the program and bring it to where we are now.  I think now it is time for a new coach to come in with a new voice, a new vision and help take it to the next level," he told Swankonsports.com, "It will also allow me to focus on my primary focus, which is raising my family.  Also I need to continue to become a stronger administrator for Madison and focus my efforts there to serve the district as the Dean of Students at the high school."

          Conway led the Rams into the playoffs last fall where they lost a first round game to Clyde.  He finished 29-24 in his five years.  He led Madison to a co-title in the Ohio Cardinal Conference in 2012.

          Coaches always seem to be coaches in some way and Conway couldn't say positively that he is done coaching.  "I haven't necessarily ruled it out.  I want to be at Madison for a long, long time.  I want to be there until they are ready to get rid of me.  I want to continue to grow as an administrator there.  Hopefully my role at the high school continues to expand.  It is going to come down to what my job permits me to do as to what my future in football is.  I love football and I want to be involved with it.  So, in some capacity, even if it is just being a fan I want to help our program get better and support the next coach and get him ready," Conway said.

          There are a number of former head coaches on the Madison staff in Leroy Smith and Jamie Masi, both at Mansfield Senior, and Matt Godsil, who preceded Conway at Madison.  The other finalist when Conway was hired was current Galion coach Chris Hawkins. 

          Conway says he is willing to assist in any way he can in finding the next coach of the Rams.  "None of that has been discussed yet.  I think the primary people are going to be our athletic director Mr. Rickert and our principal Mr. Peterson.  Both of them are current and former two sport coaches, baseball and basketball, they are both very familiar with athletics,  probably a far better coach than I ever was, but I will definitely help them and aid them in any way I can," he said.

          Conway also spent six years as the coach at Crestview, where he was 44-19 with the Cougars.  His overall record is 73-43 over 11 years.

 

Published 12/16/14

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Madison Prepares for Biggest Game

 

          Madison has won two of its first three games and now they face their biggest rival in their Ohio Cardinal Conference opener on Friday night.

        After splitting games with Shelby and Norwalk last weekend, the Rams downed Galion (51-45) on Tuesday night as Tyrell Ajian scored 26 points.  Madison also forced a bunch of turnovers.  Coach Tim Mergel says it was their defense that carried the day.  "Defensively we were pretty good all game.  We were able to hit some foul shots in the end, which kind of bit us in the butt against Norwalk in that one point loss.  Offensively we really haven't found our grove yet.  We are still identifying roles as far as offensively.  I think is going to come together as long as we can continue to hold teams to a manageable score.  We should be okay.  Defense has carried us to these two wins and hopefully that continues," said Mergel.

          As good as the Rams have been on defense. Mergel says the potential is there to be even better because right now they are kind of living on their athleticism.  "That is what we talked about (Tuesday) night.  We have held our opponents to 44, 44. and 45 points in three games.  I told the guys I think we have just kind of scratched the surface in what we can do.  We are pretty bland defensively in that we don't have anything really spectacular in.  If we can expand on that and maybe show some different looks to teams as the year goes on I definitely think we can be better," he said.

          Madison travels to Pete Henry Gym to open up the Ohio Cardinal Conference schedule against Mansfield Senior on Friday night.  The Tygers haven't played a game yet and graduated nine seniors.  Still, Mergel knows what they expect.  "Senior High they don't ever rebuild they just reload.  They bring athletes to the table.  They are easiest team to prepare for and the hardest one to beat and that is because they just bring so much athletic ability," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "The bottom line against Senior High is you have to withstand the runs and you have to keep them off the glass.  It's not the first shot that gets us against them, but the second and third opportunity that they provide for themselves.  They always work extremely hard on the offensive glass.  That is one concern we are going to have because we aren't the tallest team we just have to outwork people.  It is the same old thing with them and it is definitely going to be a tough match-up for us."

          There are a lot slogans for this game beginning with the "Battle of Mansfield," but Mergel says playing Mansfield Senior really is different.  "You don't have to tell the kids who they are playing or what to expect.  The atmosphere is always fantastic.  It is always a rowdy crowd.  The community always backs us when we go there or they come here.  It is not only a rivalry among the players, but bragging rights amongst the community.  The kids have a lot at stake and they understand that.  Most of our guys have been under the bright lights of Friday and Saturday nights.  The tournament game last year is definitely going to help us as far as preparation and what to expect.  It is always a fun and enjoyable time and as coaches and players these are the games you don't forget," said Mergel.

 

Publishe 12/11/14

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Handling Pressure Key for Madison

 

          Madison certainly looks like they have the tools to be a good basketball team this year and we begin to find out when they host traditional non-conference rival Shelby on Friday night.

          Based on what he had seen in practice and scrimmages coach Tim Mergel thinks the Rams have a chance to be competitive.  "We are moving in the right direction.  I think every basketball team when it's early you are going to make mistakes and you are never as far along as you would like to be as far as cohesiveness and progression and things like that, but we are taking small steps forward.  At the beginning when I thought we were way ahead of schedule now I think we are about where we should be.  All of this is building up in anticipation of December 5.  Right now all of the kids are ready to play that first game when you get that ball tossed in the air and it's going to be a fun night.  I think the first couple of games it comes down to who makes the least amount of mistakes," said Mergel.

          A key to Madison's improvement from last year when they won six games is the maturing of their guard play.  Mergel says he believes his guard are much improved from where they were at the beginning of last year.  "Anytime you throw a freshman out there like we did Tyrell last year and a sophomore Billy Buckley and you give them ball handling responsibilities you have to take the good with the bad.  There were definitely some low moments and some teachable moments for both of those guys, but they definitely improved as the season went on," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "We expect steps forward from those guys.  In practice and scrimmages so far they have looked the part.  Along with Austin Finley, who gives me everything he has got every night, Jabari Caldwell, who handled it for us a little bit at the end of last year.  I have always said you are only as good as your guards and it should be one our strong points as a unit this year."

          Shelby and Madison seem to play good games no matter what the sport and boys' basketball is no different.  Mergel knows his team will be in for a battle.  "The Madison-Shelby game has that conference game feel to it, which is kind of nice to open up with that.  With that being said it doesn't matter who Shelby loses or who they bring back or who we lose or who we bring back it is going to be a hard fought game every year.  The last two years we go down by one each year with last second shots.  Troy does such a great job over there with his kids running his system whatever he puts in.  They play the game continuously hard no matter what the score is or how much time is on the clock," he said.

          In scrimmages this year the Whippets have been pressing a lot and Mergel expects that is what they are gong to see come Friday night.  "It is kind of out of the norm for Shelby, but I think he has enough confidence in his guys that he going to try and get up and press you for most of the ball game and try to force you into situations that you are not comfortable with.  At the beginning of the year with a lot of teams you are trying to work the kinks out.  They could force us into some bad situations, but we have some guys that are year older and a year smarter and a year stronger.  So, as long as we are able to play strong in the traps and step through the traps and make nice hard, crisp passes, and come back to the basketball we should be fine," said Mergel.

 

Published 12/02/14

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With More Experience Rams Should be Better

 

          Madison finished last season with only six wins, but things certainly look up for the Rams this year.

          Although they didn't win as many games as they would have liked a year ago, Madison did give rival Mansfield Senior, a regional qualifier a good game (59-56) in the sectional final.

          Plus, coach Tim Mergel says they have a lot of their players back.  "Most of our core guys are back.  Of course we did lose some seniors like everyone and that is going to hurt.  We lost three guys that gave us a lot of minutes last year in Bryce Lucky and Cody Harris and Matt Kleen, but we have some guys that are returning and some JV guys that are ready to step up.  We have some guards back, which is always a good thing, anytime you get some veteran ball handlers back it seems to be a little bit more advanced than they were in years past.  We are excited and we are looking forward to the December 5 match with Shelby.  Practices are fun now.  We have some scrimmages, but everything is going toward that December 5tth tip off." said Mergel.

          A plus for Madison this year, according to Mergel, is they should be better ball handlers because they have some guards that have been through the wars of varsity basketball.  "You look at our teams from the past and we had some really younger ball handlers and it definitely affected the outcomes of some games.  We have talked before about learning how to win and that comes with experience.  I think anytime you get a guy that is a year older and he is back in your program they have a little bit of confidence because they have been in those situations before," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "We have a couple of guys in Tyrell Ajian and Jabari Caldwell and Austin Finley that are going to be counted on to handle the basketball and those are returning lettermen for us.  I feel pretty good that we are going to be able to handle the basketball.  I always say you are only a good as your guards and that is taking nothing away from the big men because I would love to have the height too.  Your team kind of goes as your guards do."

          There were some games last year where the Rams let wins get away from them late.  Mergel believes that won't happen as much this year due to a number of factors.  "It's all about learning from past situations and putting yourself in those situations in scrimmages and having guys comfortable with one another.  There were a handful of ball games last year that could have gone the other way for us and didn't turn out.  Hopefully as a coaching staff and players we have watched film and learned from those.  Hopefully this year everyone comes in more opportunistic than they have in years past.  I know our guys are more confident and they look better in practice.  There is no question as you get older the confidence level increases.  You know, Tyrell Ajian was a freshmen last year and Billy Buckley was a sophomore last year.  They were put in some tough situations being young kids and they are definitely going to be better for it this year.  I can't wait to see what happens with those guys," said Mergel.

 

Published 11/18/14

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Madison Handles Adversity

 

          At the halfway point of the season the Madison Rams were (2-3) and going nowhere fast, but they were unbeaten in the second half of the year and have blazed a trail to the playoffs.

          The Rams (7-3), #5 in the final Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, travel to Clyde (8-2), #3 in that poll, for a first round match-up in division three on Friday night.

          Coach Sean Conway says the Rams dug down deep and found something when they had too.  "I think we are definitely playing better than we were at the midseason point.  We have gotten better as time has gone on.  Even though we didn't play great on Friday we saw some adversity and overcame it and good football teams do that.  I think we are in a lot better position now than we were five weeks ago," he said.

          One thing Madison has been able to do this season is battle adversity.  When things look bad they don't give up.  "Mansfield Senior is a rival and it is an emotional game.  Some things happened and Mansfield Senior got the early lead.  They were really controlling the line of scrimmage and running the ball on us.  We were able to reverse that trend and run the ball at them and control the line of scrimmage in the third and fourth quarters," he told Swankonsports.com, "That is kind of what has happened all season.  We started off doing really well, then we hit a stumbling block and then we turned it around.  Friday was like a microcosm of the entire season for us."

          Clyde advanced all of the way to the state semi-finals last year and they have had a outstanding season this year.  Conway says they are good, but they have played a lot of good teams this year.  "I think Clyde is an excellent football team.  I think they are going to be a handful for any team that they play and for us as well it is going to be a tough task.  One positive thing is we have played really good football teams this year.  We played one Friday in Mansfield Senior, we played one in Ashland the Friday before that, so I think we are used to playing very good football teams, so this should not be a shock as far as talent or anything like that goes," said Conway.

          Clyde has bottled up some very good offenses this season, a (42-6) win over a very good Bellevue team is an example.  Conway says they are not only physical on defense they know where they are supposed to be.  "They are extremely active defensively.  Their defensive line is very, very good.  They just have such great technique.  They fly to the football.  They are athletic.  Their linebackers are hard hitting, they are physical football players that are going to come at you and try to take your head off.  It is a real difficult situation for an offense to attack.  Our offense has to do a good job this Friday," he said.

          Madison beat Ashland (41-35) two weeks ago and Conway says Clyde is similar in their approach and their personnel, especially on defense.  "The only team that I would say there is a little bit of similarity to is Ashland because I think so much of Ashland's coaches and the technique that they teach defensively.  I think Clyde is very similar to that.  They can show you some even front, they can show you quite a bit of odd front, which is what we see in Ashland.  Their linebackers are very hard hitting.  They take on power blocks so well and that is what I see in Clyde as well, so I would say a little bit of Ashland," said Conway.

 

Published 11/05/14

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Rams A little Anxious For Tygers

 

          There is a lot riding on the Madison Rams game with arch rival Mansfield Senior on Friday night, including a possible playoff berth in division three.

          Rams coach Sean Conway says this game means a lot to him and the players regardless of what else might be tied to its outcome.  "I think it is a game we look forward too and it's a game we dread a little bit because it brings to close the season and it is also quite a bit of pressure, slash excitement, slash butterflies, everything kind of goes into this week.  So, I look forward to it every year and I kind of dread it every year.  It is the kind of game that I always dreamed about when I decided to become a coach.  I always wanted to coach in a game like this and Friday night I get to, so I am pretty excited about that," he said.

          Conway admits this week in practice is a little different than the other nine, even though they try to avoid it.  "We try to do our best to keep every week the same.  I do think there are moments when the intensity kind of gets ramped up because it is Mansfield week, but we do our best to try and portray each game like it is the most important game on the schedule and we try and ratchet it up every week and give our best effort," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "But, to say there is something not special about Mansfield would be ridiculous.  As much as we try and fight it I think the kids go a different level of excitement when Mansfield is on the schedule."

          Madison (6-3,4-2), #5 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, has won it's last four games, including a (41-35) win over Ashland last week in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game.  Conway says when they put it all together they can be pretty good.  "I think we were always capable of playing like we did last Friday, but for whatever reason we just haven't made everything happen all at once.  Hopefully this week we really put everything together and we have a good game plan and go out there and execute the way we are capable of.," he said.

          Mansfield Senior (4-5,3-3) smashed Lexington (64-15) last week and they will bring some momentum to Ram Field at Starteck Stadium.  Conway says they Tygers have a lot to defend.  "I think their extreme athleticism, their skill, their speed, all of the above.  They have playmakers all over the field, they have two extremely good running backs, a couple of wide receivers that can go the distance anytime they touch the ball, both quarterbacks are playing pretty well.  They are putting up a lot of points in a lot of different ways.  They are just a good, good football team and they are very well coached.  We are going to have to play our best game to beat them," said Conway.

 

Published 10/31/14

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Battle of Mansfield:  Madison Perspective

 

          The only thing on the mind of Madison football coach Sean Conway and his players is finding a way to beat Mansfield Senior, plain and simple.

          The Rams (6-3,4-2) host their cross town rivals on Friday night at Ram Field at Startech Stadium.

          Madison won their fourth straight game when they downed Ashland (41-35) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game last week.  Madison threw no passes against the Arrows, but they ran for more than 350 yards.  Conway says they executed very well, especially early in the game.  "We had some great early possessions.  I think we scored our first four possessions, which is fantastic against a great Ashland team.  So, anytime you can do that and score 28 points in the first half I think that is a huge positive for the football team.  We are kind of lucky that is not something Ashland usually gives up," he said.

          Ashland rallied to tie the game at 35 all with eight minutes left in the game, but Madison tallied the final TD on Juwan Howard's 64-yard run.  Conway says his team played with guts.  "I am very excited about that and very proud of that because I don't think that is something what would have happened for us a couple of weeks ago.  Our recent success has been a difference maker.  I think that was just such an accomplishment, not only winning, but they way in which we won," he said.

          Conway says the Mansfield Senior game is big game every year no matter what happens in the first nine weeks of the season.  "This is the super bowl for us.  There is nothing more important than Mansfield and Madison.  There is nothing more important than that game.  It is everything to us.  We are going to do everything we can to win that game.  It is what we work for every year.  Senior High is no different, they feel they same way.  Their is a lot of emotion.  There is a lot of excitement that goes into the game, but at the same point they love to get after each other and compete against each other.  It's a big one and anyone that tells you otherwise is lying to you," said Conway.

          Mansfield Senior (4-5,3-3) broke a three game losing streak last week with a (64-15) win over Lexington.  Conway says the Tygers just have tremendous talent all over the field, but he is not counting his kids out.  "They have two good quarterbacks in almost completely different systems and two different styles.  They have two running backs that are both exceptional, both are home run threats.  They probably have the biggest returner in this part of the state in Wilder.  Their offensive line is improved.  Their defense is after it.  They are a very good football team.  Chioke is as intense a coach and gets his players to play for him as much as any coach I have seen," he told Swankonsports.com, "I am accepting the challenge this week.  I know my kids are accepting the challenge.  We are going to do everything we can.  I love my kids and I believe in them, whether we are the underdog or not I don't know, but I would never bet against Madison kids."

          Madison is seventh in its division three computer region, the top eight make the playoffs.  Conway says the playoffs are not part of his mindset.  "I really don't know and I really don't care, everything is about Mansfield.  If we get in the playoffs great, if we don't get in the playoffs great, I really don't care.  When Mansfield is over we will think about what is next and that point I am sure I will care, but at this point there is nothing on my mind except Mansfield Senior.  I know that is probably not the answer that anyone wants to hear, but it is ridiculous to talk about anything other than Mansfield on week 10 of the football season," said Conway.

 

Published 10/28/14

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Madison has Tough Task

 

          Madison hosts Ashland this week in Ohio Cardinal Conference play in a game that has both conference and playoff implications riding on it.

          Ashland still has a chance to share the conference title if Wooster can beat West Holmes this week and both have a chance to make the playoffs, Ashland is fourth in their division three region and Madison is tenth in their division four region.

          Last week, Madison quarterback Austin Finley completed seven of eight passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns.  Coach Sean Conway says any win against Orrville is one to be proud of.  "Anytime you can get a win against Orrville you kind of count your blessings.  I know this was not the kind of year that coach Davault was wanting, but they are still Orrville and they have hard nosed, physical football players and they definitely come to play every Friday night.  I count myself lucky anytime we can play Orrville and get a "W," so I feel pretty good about want happened on Friday," he said.

          Madison also ran for 320 yards against Orrville, 216 of them by Juwan Howard.  Conway says when they have been on their game they have been pretty balanced.  "Our quarterback is playing really well.  Austin Finley has just done a tremendous job of leading the team.  He really is as affective a passer as I have ever had at the position.  I do think he is surrounded by some playmakers.  All of that being said we have been inconsistent at times this year where we kind have struggled, but right now I think everyone is kind of playing well," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We realize we are kind of taking a step up this week in competition with Ashland.  I am very nervous about how it is going to play out.  I believe in our kids no matter what I believe we have the opportunity to play well."

          Ashland, at times has run the ball more this year, but last week they threw it for 359 yards against Clear Fork.  Conway says the Arrows have the talent to do what will make them successful.  "Scott Valentine is a good coach and he adjusts to his personnel.  I think he has a wealth of talent again this year.  I don't where they keep coming from, but he has another great team.  He has the ability to run the ball, to throw the ball and out of multiple sets to.  Scott is a great coach and he puts his kids in position to be successful.  It is going to be a tough task for us, but I really think if Madison plays well we can compete with a team like Ashland, but we know it is not going to be easy," said Conway.

          Ashland runs an offense, often with five wide outs, that spreads a defense out and Conway says that means they have to be solid tacklers.  "Tackling is a big emphasis this year.  It has been something we have been inconsistent at and I think as our tackling goes, so goes our record.  When we come to play on Friday we run through ball carriers and we tackle well we are in most situations putting ourselves in position to win.  When you let them breakaway from you and score that touchdown after contact most of the time you lose.  We are hopefully going to do a good job of running through ball carriers and bringing them to the ground.  Again Ashland is a very good football team and coached well too, so it should be an interesting game on Friday," said Conway.

 

Published 10/22/14

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Madison is Versatile

 

          For Madison it has been two, three, two, that's two wins, then three losses, and two wins, now the Rams want to finish the season strong.

          Last week they scored six times in the first half and went on to outscore Clear Fork (49-27) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game.  Coach Sean Conway says they got it done.  "I hope we continue to play good football.  Last week was a nice win for us.  Clear Fork is as a very explosive team with some great playmakers and we were able to get a win.  I know we play some great tradition in Orrville this week.  I hope we can go there with a good head on our shoulders and take care of business," he said.

          They also beat Lexington (21-8) the week before and Conway says they are starting to become a pretty good team.  "I think confidence is everything.  When we know what our plan is and we go an execute our plan the right way and we are confident in what we are doing I think we play a heck of a lot better.  We are trying make a simple plan this week that the kids can execute and do a good job with.  We will see on Friday if we have done a good job of instituting that or not," he said.

          Madison went up top against Clear Fork, throwing for 296 yards, and against Lexington they didn't throw a pass.  Conway says it depends on what the defense show them.  "I can tell you right now I never want to throw the ball.  I want to run the ball every single play, but I think it really comes down to what the defense is allowing us to do and where our coaches feel is our best opportunity to win.  We really want to win games.  Last week they loaded the box and you throw the ball more.  We threw it affectively and our quarterback is a really good kid and has done a great job, Austin Finley.  He threw the ball for close to 300 yards last week.  It isn't what I want to do it is really what the defense gives us.  Last week, it was the passing game, the week before, due to weather, it was mostly the running game, so I don't know what this week will bring," said Conway.

          Madison (4-3,2-2) plays at Orrville (2-5,1-3) in an "OCC" game on Friday night.  The Red Riders were beaten (49-6) by Ashland last week and they have a three game losing streak.  However, Conway says Orrville is a football town.  "They are always a hard nosed physical team.  They are always well coached, that doesn't change.  I think any time you play high school football, your health, and how you match up with teams differently.  I have seen a couple of different teams on film.  I have seen an Orrville team that flies to the ball and is physical at the point of attack and I have seen a team that spreads the ball out and throws it a bunch.  I think depending on who they are playing it has dictated different results.  What I can tell you that is consistent about them is they are well coached," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "They are hard workers and they are enthusiastic about what they do.  They have such a winning tradition there they believe they can win any game that they play in, but we think Madison has a good tradition too and we believe in our kids.  It should be a really good game on Friday night I just hope our kids go out and perform the right way."

 

Published 10/17/14

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Madison Expecting Everything

 

          Madison broke a three game losing streak with a win over Lexington (21-8) last week and Friday they travel to Clear Fork expecting the Colts to do just about anything.

          The Rams (3-3,1-2) ran for almost 300 yards on the ground on a rainy night in Lexington last week.  After losing their previous three Madison coach Sean Conway aggress that it was a big win for them.  "It was important to get back on that right side of the win-loss column.  With all of that being said that makes this one all that more important.  We are going to go an give our best effort and see what happens.  We play a very good football team this week.  My hope is we are going to perform and represent our community very well," said Conway.

          Clear Fork (3-3,1-2) is a team that has scored more than 40 points three times this year, but they were stuffed last week by Wooster (42-7) in an "OCC" game.  Conway says the Colts are potentially very explosive.  "They are a very, very powerful offensive football team.  I even think they play physical defense.  I just think their offense is so good they get the baulk of the credit in what they do," he said.

          Clear Fork's defense has twice given up over 60 points in a game.

          A major concern for Clear Fork this year has been tackling.  Conway hopes they can run the ball, which has been the Rams bread and butter.  "We still have a ways to go and our offensive line really does come together.  I think we are going to have a difficult task this week.  Again my hope is that we just come to play.  Clear Fork does such a good job of mixing up what they do and creating problems for people that at this point I don't even know what to expect on Friday, but I expect a dog fight," Conway said.

          Versatility, somewhat out of necessity, has been something Clear Fork's offense possesses.  Quarterback Kadin Chrastina is likely to line up about anywhere on the field.  Conway says the mental preparation for Clear Fork is difficult.  "It really puts us in a bind because as a defensive football team or an offensive football team because they just show so many different looks.  You don't know what to practice, you don't how they will attack you or put you on your heels," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We are just going to try and figure what they are the best at and try to figure out a plan for that and take that plan into Friday and try to adjust from there."

 

Published 10/08/14

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It's an Important Game for Madison

 

          When the season started it looked like it might be a solid year for the Madison Rams, and it still could be, but for that to happen they need to break their three game losing streak this week when they play Lexington.

          They spotted Wooster a three touchdown lead last week before battling back and losing (21-14) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.  Coach Sean Conway says they need a 48 minute effort.  "I am disappointed.  We have good kids and they deserve to win.  As coaches we have to put them in position to win and at the same time they have to try and do everything they can for four quarters and not just the final quarter.  We finished strong, but it was too little too late and we need to make improvements," he said.

          The Rams (2-3,0-2) has not scored in the first half in league play and Conway says they are kind of shooting themselves in the foot.  "It is just little thing, really it is, it is just little things.  We don't complete drives and we will turn the ball over after an 18 play drive.  You fumble the ball, you throw an interception, or you get a 15-yard block in the back penalty.  But, at the same point it is not for a lack of effort.  I think our effort is there we just need to put everything together," he said.

          Madison made three big plays in the second half two weeks ago against West Holmes for scores and Conway says they have that ability they just have to finish plays and drives more consistently.  "I think we have big plays.  We have some athletes that are able to turn it on.  We have some definite threats out there on the field.  I think one the great things about Madison is we have the ability to munch the clock and hold the ball, but I think we have to ability to score quickly too.  What we have to do is put all of those drives together," he told Swankonssports.com on Tuesday, "We have to get a big play where there is not a holding penalty or a last second unnecessary block that gets the play called back.  We have had five touchdowns called back on blocks that were away from the play.  Those are things that really come back and bite you and they bit us last week."

          Madison is at Lexington (0-5,0-2) Friday for an "OCC" contest between cross county rivals.  Lex lost last week to Clear Fork (35-26) and Conway thinks they have shown dramatic improvement this year all ready.  "I think they are getting better every single day and they are a young football team.  They are going to be a great football team.  I just hope they are not great this Friday.  They are getting better each and every week.  They are getting guys back from injury and starting to put it all together.  We are in a spot where we are desperate for a win and we are going to do everything we can to get one.  Come Friday Madison will be ready to play and I'm sure Lex will be ready to play," he said.

          Conway knows this game against Lexington is important to the program, but so are the rest.  "Here is the thing we are going to play Friday like this is the most important game on the schedule and next week when we play Clear Fork is will be the most important game on the schedule no matter what our record is, if our record is 7-3, 6-4, 5-5, or 3-7.  We are going to bust our butt every single game.  We are going to line up and try to hit you every single play.  I am going to coach as hard as I can possibly coach.  I think we have good coaches and we have good players and I think this is a game where we are going to try and show everybody what we are made of," said Conway.

 

Published 10/01/14

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Madison Just Has to Play Better

 

          The Madison Rams seem to be going in the wrong direction.  They won their first two games rather handily and now they have lost two in a row, including their "OCC" opener last week against West Holmes.

          Trailing (6-0) at halftime the Rams allowed West Holmes to score four times in the second half in a (34-21) win last Friday.  Coach Sean Conway says they just weren't as consistent as they need to be in order to win the game.   "We weren't a very consistent football team and we need to be better," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "Our work this week is about becoming a better football team with better execution and establishing the line of scrimmage so when we play Wooster Friday we have a much better plan and then we go execute that plan to the best of our ability."

          They ran for 224 yards in the game, but they allowed West Holmes to rush for 344.  Conway says in order for them to be successful they have to control the line of scrimmage.  "I think playing the more physical game, winning the line of scrimmage is essential to us winning a game.  The last two weeks we haven't done that, so hopefully we do that this week," he said.

          Madison threw 19 passes last week, almost unheard of in the Conway era, and they have thrown 62 passes, completing 33, this year.  Conway says this explosion is really not his doing.  "Our coaches are confident in our passing game.  I am a person who would never pass given the opportunity.  I would run the ball on third and 15 and that's why I don't call the plays.  I believe in our quarterback though and I believe in our wide receivers and I believe in our line protecting them, but that whole forward pass thing I think is overrated," said Conway.

          Wooster (1-3,0-1) comes to Madison (2-2,0-1) for an "OCC" game at the new Startech Stadium on Friday night.  Despite their record, Conway says Wooster has a very talented roster of players.  "They are maybe the most talented team that we have left to play.  They have big play people at every position.  They have one the best offensive linemen in the league.  They are a very good football team and are very well coached.  We have our hands full," he said.

          When Wooster has scored this year, they lost (21-14) to Ashland last week, they have done it with big plays.  Conway says they have to make them earn their points by making them drive it.  "We have to take away the big play.  I think if we do that we put ourselves in better position to win.  I think Wooster is going to have their plays though no matter what we do, we just have to have more plays than them," he said.

 

Published 9/26/14

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Madison Opens "OCC" with West Holmes

 

          League games start this week in the Ohio Cardinal Conference and nearly everybody seems to have at least chance to figure in the conference race, Madison and West Holmes fit into group.  The Rams play at West Holmes on Friday night.

         Madison (2-1), #5 in the Swankonsports.com football coach's poll in the large school division, lost their first game of the year (27-21) to Mt. Vernon last week.  Coach Sean Conway says they had a couple of drives where they didn't get points and it cost them.  "Mt. Vernon is a very good football team and give them all of the credit they deserve they are very well coached and have some great players.  We did our best to compete with them the entire game.  I felt really good about where we were going, but we just couldn't finish and that is what we have to do this week we have to finish," he said.

          Conway says in his opinion there are a number of teams that can win the league title and if that is going to be them they have to bring their "A" game every week, this week included.  "I think any year the "OCC" is wide open.  There are always the perennial teams that have great off season programs and work hard and always seem to have that talent.  I think in the "OCC" at one time or another every single team has won league championships," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "It's not like you have a completely dominate team or a group that can't compete.  That being said we are just going to try and do it one week at a time.  This week it is West Holmes and that is where our focus is going to be."

          The Knights (0-3) have been involved in a couple of high scoring game, losing both, to Wooster Triway (65-27) and Coshocton (49-28) and they also lost to New Philadelphia (19-9) on week two.  Conway is very impressed with what the Knights do on offense.  "West Holmes is a very, very good offensive football team.  They are a good team all of the way around.  Offensively they are, for me, just so fun to watch.  I love power football.  I love the different schemes running the ball.  They are a lot of fun to watch, they aren't fun when we play them, but they are a cool offense and it's fun to watch what they do and how coach Maltrich calls the game.  I don't look forward to stopping that offense, they are pretty tough," said Conway.

          Defensively West Holmes has given up a lot of points, but Conway says that is more of a case of who they have played.  "I think they are a work in progress on defense, a lot like we are.  I think their offense is so complicated and interesting and that becomes the focus of their team.  I think the teams that put up points against them are just extremely good teams.  Triway is one of the best teams in their division.  I think Coshocton is now ranked.  I don't think that means anything negative for West Holmes at all.  I think West Holmes is pretty good defensive team that has just played good competition," he said.

 

Published 9/17/14

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Rams Face another Challenge

 

          So far, the Madison Rams have been a dominating football team outscoring their opponents 71-3 over first two weeks of the season, but this week they are the underdogs again according to their coach.

          Coach Sean Conway said much the same thing last week going into a game with Galion and the Rams responded by pounding the Tigers (37-3) in non-conference action.  Conway feels they are going to have to play very well when they head to Mt Vernon (1-1) on Friday night.

          Madison (2-0) allowed Galion to take a (3-0) lead but never permitted them to score again last week.  Conway admits the played very well, but knows they have to continue to grow as a team.  "We played very well on Friday.  I feel very well about the direction of the team, but at the same point we still have to get better.  We still have to make that week two to week three progression that is so important and vital for us to make," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "If we do that I feel really good that things are going to continue to improve for us, but we play a very tough opponent this week and we are going to be definitely tested.  It's another situation going in where we are the underdogs.  I am really just hoping to compete with Mt. Vernon and get better."

          The Madison defense has been outstanding and this year and they held Galion to only 88 total yards last week.  Conway says the offense is doing its job too.  "The goal is compete every Friday.  However, I want to say that as good as the defense has played it is a total team effort because I think you have to play a certain style of offense that limits the amount of opportunity that the other team has and I think we do that.  So, I think our offense helps our defense and our defense helps our offense.  Hopefully that trend continues," he said.

          Mt. Vernon lost their opener (58-27) to Grove City Central Crossing, but thumped Highland (60-13) last week.  Conway knows the Yellow Jackets are really good.  "I think they are extremely well coached.  I think they are extremely physical and have a great senior class highlighted by J.D. Orr the tailback.  He is going to make a lot of coaches miserable this year this week it just happens to be our coaching staff.  We are going to do our best, but they are pretty darn good," he said.

          In terms of defending Orr, Conway says they can't allow him to get up head of steam before they get their hands on him.  "The first thought is I think we have to be physical at the point of attack.  I don't think we can allow their offensive line to push us around.  If they do it's going to be a real long night.  So, if we can physical at the point attack where we are closing down those run lanes and make him work a little harder for his yards.  That is really our goal.  He is going to break runs, so when you are talking about containing we understand he is going to make plays, probably score points, and do things to hurt us.  The thing is we just want to limit the amount of what he can do," said Conway.

 

 

Published 9/09/14

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Madison Sees Self as Underdog

 

          Madison shutout Shelby in their opening game last week, but they face a much bigger challenge at home this week as they host the Galion Tigers.

          Last week, the Rams hammered Shelby (34-0) running for nearly 280 yards in the process.  Coach Sean Conway says they have taken it step further in practice this week.  "I think it has gone okay.  Galion is great football team, so it took a lot of learning throughout Monday about what they do and how to prepare for them.  We hope that the good day we had on Wednesday that we can ride that into Friday," he said.

          Friday night will be the regular season debut of Madison's renovated surface at Ram Field at Starteck Stadium.  Conway says the facility has already been a big benefit.  "It has made it a lot easier.  Everything from the walk to the practice field  to the condition that we face everyday.  We are a lot more crisp, we are a lot more efficient in what we do practice wise.  We are used to playing on in wonderful facility, on a wonderful surface, so it has actually benefited us tremendously to have that type of facility for Friday night, but even more so Monday through Thursday," said Conway.

          Galion also won their first game, beating rival Bucyrus (29-22) last Friday.  Conway says the Tigers are a very explosive team.  "I think they are very athletic.  They are going to be one of the more athletic teams that we face all year.  I mean Cario Davidson, the wide receiver, is probably one of the better players we are going to see all year.  It is a difficult task and we fully understand we are the underdog, but having said that I totally believe in Madison, I believe in our spirit, and in what we are going to do on Friday night and everything being said I never count our kids out,' said Conway.

          But, it is more than just Davidson, Conway says Galion has a lot of home run hitters.  "They have breakaway threats at different positions.  They are definitely not a one man show although Cario is pretty spectacular.  They have a quarterback that is a playmaker, they have a couple of running backs that can really make you miss.  They have a couple of other receivers that pretty spectacular as well," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "They have a power game, they have a spread game and they can get to the open field.  Our job is to try and make those difficult tackles because they are pretty special in space."

          Conway says Galion is very good on defense, especially at stopping the run, and that is what Madison likes to do.  "They are very proud of their defense and I think with good reason.  They three giant run stoppers up front and it is hard match up for us because we are a running team.  We are going to be going into a tough situation on Friday night, definitely the underdog facing adversity.  I believe in our pass game.  I believe in Austin Finley, our quarterback.  Despite their run stopping ability I hope we can be competitive and move the football," said Conway.

 

Published 9/05/14

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It's Wait and See on Madison

 

          Madison wants to make progress this season, but seems to be painstakingly slow at this point and the season opener is at Shelby on Friday night.

          Coach Sean Conway says his team has gotten better during the preseason, but he still isn't sure what he, or the Madison fans, are going to see on Friday night.  "We are definitely headed in the right direction.  The question is are we heading in the right direction fast enough.  I won't have that answer until Friday.  I am excited to see how we play.  I am excited to see if we have maximized our potential.  To say I'm not nervous and concerned is also would be false.  We are definitely concerned.  We are definitely nervous.  I really want see if our kids can go out there and compete in the fashion I believe they can compete in or do we still have a lot of work to do," said Conway.

          The Madison coach is confident in the game plan they have installed now it is all about executing those plays.  "Not really anything x's and o's.  My concern is just execution.  And that could be execution as far as our snaps, our holds, our kicks, sustaining blocks, chipping off second levels, securing the football, trying to take the ball away or solidifying tackles.  Little things can get lost.  If we can execute we have the opportunity to win on Friday night.  If we can't execute Shelby will beat us.  It's just execution, it's not really x's and o's that I'm worried about," he said.

          Earlier this week Shelby coach Erik Will said he thought it was critical for his team to get off to a good start, Conway feels the same way.  "I agree with coach Will completely.  It will be vital.  Shelby was a 1-9 football team, but we were only a 3-7 football team and they return as much or more than we do.  Shelby has as much experience in the success department as we do.  I am concerned I feel like they have an unknown quality about them," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "I feel their coaches are doing a really good job.  Getting out to good start and not getting down early is something I am very fearful of.  We are going to do everything we can to get off to that proper start and get moving."

          Conway is one of the deans in coaching in North Central Ohio and he believes that Will is going to get the Shelby program headed in the right direction.  "I can't say enough about what coach Will has done for that program.  He is a very intense coach.  All of his coaches share a passion.  I personally believe they are going to make a difference for Shelby football.  They are putting together a plan and laying a foundation for future success at Shelby.  Hopefully we can match their intensity and passion and play physical football," he said.

 

Published 8/27/14

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Madison Still Has a lot of Work to do

 

          Like a lot of teams the Madison Rams have the building blocks to become a pretty good football team. but a lot of teams that have those things never put them together, and right now the Rams are having to trouble getting everything to stand up straight.

          Last season, Madison was just a 3-7 football team and they are hoping to be much better than that this season.  However, coach Sean Conway says at this point that isn't happening for his team.  "I have seen us get better in some areas and I have seen us get worse in others.  We are a football team that is yet to achieve our full potential. We have had a lot of obstacles between injury and sickness and what not, so we are still trying to figure out who we are and what we are good at, but I think our kids are going to try and rally around each other and try and get that done," he said.

          Madison has three former head coaches on its staff and Conway, now in his fourth year at the school, has consistently credited his staff.  He believes they are going to get it turned around.  "What makes me feel good is the people that I have surrounded myself with, players and coaches.  As a coaching staff you not going to ask for a better one in the state of Ohio.  We've got quality individuals who are in leaderships roles that are basically the best possible role models for our players and they are excellent x's and o's coaches as well," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "I think our players have the right potential, the right tools if they take the coaching to be put in successful positions.  What makes me feel bad is it is taking us this long to get to that point.  We have an execution problem, we are not executing the right way yet and we also have a lack of consistency.  One day we will look great and the next day we won't.  We have some things that we definitely have to work on."

          There have been short stretches of real good play and that is what is frustrating.  Conway says they have to have that kind of execution all of the time and right now they aren't getting it.  "I think it is not a sometimes thing it is an all of the time thing.  If you are a good football team you don't need your coach hollering at you and getting you motivated to go out and practice or play and that is where we are right now.  We are a group of good football players that hopefully become great football players and the only thing that is missing is that consistency, that motivation to go out and do great everyday.  We definitely have our moments when we look fantastic, but we also have or moments when it looks like we have a lot of work to do.  We'll get there it's just right now it's been a little bit of a struggle,' said Conway.

 

Published 8/20/14

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Madison Needs Better Execution

 

          After winning the Ohio Cardinal Conference co-title in 2012, the Madison Rams were just 2-5 in “OCC” play a year ago and for that record to improve this year they need better execution.

          Coach Sean Conway says they must be tougher mentally and they need to limit the turnovers they commit.  “The two things are trying not to turn the ball over.  I think a lot of the games we lost last year were due to turnovers.  That would be an obvious number one.  And number two I think just a general mental toughness is something we need to have.  We need to handle adversity, which I think we were very good at in 2012, but really didn’t carry over to 2013.  So, we are trying to develop a more mentally tough team and more emphasis on ball security,” said Conway.

          Many of the drills the Rams have been completing so far this year have been related to not putting the ball on the ground and so far Conway has been pleased in that aspect.  “We fumbled in every way possible.  We fumbled the dinner plates when were on the way to the living room, fumbled the remote control when we were trying to change the channel.  It became something that was in our heads more than anything else.  Everything we do right now is centered around ball security.  Our kids know that is the heavy emphasis.  From what I am seeing it is really paying off.  Our kids are doing a nice job of taking that challenge and meeting it head on,” he said.

          Outside of possibly Lucas, Madison throws fewer passes than anyone in the area yet Conway says they did take part in some passing scrimmages.  “They are important from the standpoint for us competing and getting better everyday.  We understand that we are always going to be noted as a heavy run team and I’m not afraid to say that and I think anyone who has followed Madison or me as a coach knows we are going to run the football.  We think having a power run game is a discipline and attitude.  We also know that we need to develop our passing game,” he told Swankonsports.com, “We do have what I hope are some pretty good skilled players to try and get the ball to this year.  It is a challenge for us and we tried to meet that again this year.  I think our kids had some fun with it and we even hosted a seven on seven scrimmage at our new facility.  It was our first day out on the turf and I think our kids rose to the occasion.”

          Conway believes that the team that is most physical on Friday nights will win more than 90 percent of the time.  He says they have to get a lot better at that part of the game.  “I didn’t like much at all.  We need to get a lot better.  We have a lot of younger guys that we are forcing into roles this year.  The last two graduating classes have been really big.  I think our effort was great.  I think our character was great, but the product on the field is no where close to what it needs to be and I am the direct person responsible for that.  We need to make this a better football team come week one,” he said.

          Madison opens a new facility during a scrimmage against Upper Sandusky on Saturday and hosts its first regular season game against Galion on week two.  Conway says they are really looking forward to it.  “It is the finest athletic facility, in my opinion, in this part of the state.  It is the best looking, the cleanest, we have the best people taking care of it.  I feel very honored and blessed as a coach to walk out on that everyday instead of a dusty old practice field.  I think the players are so thankful to the people that donated and the Madison community in general.  We are a lucky group and I am just hopeful that we will put a product out on the field that the Madison community can be proud of,” he said.

 

Published 8/12/14

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Madison Beats Wooster; Wins "OCC" Title

 

          Hunter Ackerman and Josh Smith had three hits a piece and Madison knocked off Wooster (8-5) on Tuesday to claim their first Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball title since 2007.

          Coach Doug Rickert says winning the "OCC" was a goal, but they have more they want to do this year, in fact more they want to do this week.  "We just don't want it to be over.  These kids set their goal of going to the state tournament and winning an "OCC" title.  We have a big game on Thursday.  For us it has been a long time.  It has been seven years since we won the "OCC," finished second a few times, but never got first.  It has been a few years since we have been in the regionals, so we have another goal," he said.

          Wooster got to Madison starter Blake Lampert in the first for three runs, but the Rams came right back to take a 4-3 lead after one.  They have been hitting the ball well lately and Rickert says those were big hits early by his guys.  "We had 13 hits (Tuesday).  We were down 3-0.  Ackerman got a single, Keen drew a walk, we laid down a beautiful bunt, and then Josh Smith came up and cleared the bases with a double and we were right back in it.  We pushed across a couple more and took a 4-3 lead.  We swung the bats all through the lineup," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night after the win, "We only had one guy without a hit.  They came back with their number one in Murphy and he is a very good pitcher, one of the best in the league and we were able to score four more on him."

          The third, fourth and fifth innings were scoreless, but Rickert says they again responded when they needed too in the sixth.  "What we did (Tuesday) is we were able to tack a couple more runs on.  They got one in the sixth and closed the gap to 6-4 with the top of the order coming up and I told the coaches we need to tack on one more and we were able to tack on two. Josh Smith and Galco got big hits in that inning, all with two outs and make it 8-4.  They were able to scratch out one in the last inning, but that 8-4 lead is a lot better than that 6-4 lead in the last inning," he said.

          Madison (20-6), Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll champion in the large school division this spring, will play Bowling Green in the division one district semi-final at Carter Park in Bowling Green on Thursday afternoon.  Rickert gives us a little scouting report on the Bobcats.  "First of all they knocked off a very good Findlay team and a very good Findlay pitcher.  They have a very nice pitcher of their own.  They swing the bats pretty well.  Defensively they are not as good as some of the other teams we have played, they do make some mistakes defensively.  They have some big wins this year.  They are going to throw their number one pitcher at us.  He's a lefthander and we have seen a lot of lefties lately.  Bowling Green for whatever reason hasn't been great to us.  It is kind of a tough task to play Bowling Green at Bowling Green, but we are going to do our best," said Rickert.

 

Published 5/21/14

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Madison Readies For Mansfield Senior

 

          Ohio Cardinal Conference leader Mansfield Madison will play host to Mansfield Senior in a division one sectional final on Friday.

          The game was supposed to be played on Thursday, but was not due to wet field conditions.  Madison coach Doug Rickert says they definitely want to play on Friday.  "It has been tough on the kids they are ready to go.  They have a good mind set.  It's been this way all year.  We thought we were going to be able to play Wooster once this week and didn't get too, thought we were going to be able to play the tournament game and didn't get too.  We are out here working on the field right now and hopefully we will be able to get to (Friday)," he said.

          Madison (18-5), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, has played only one game this week and that was a good win over Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference blue division champ Highland (7-1) on Tuesday.  Rickert says Highland is a good team.  "They are a good club.  In fact, I told the kids when the game was over that they were one of the better teams we have played this year.  I put them in the top five teams we have played this season.  They have some really nice hitters and play excellent defense and their pitchers throw strikes.  We had 14 hits, that's the most we have had in any game this year.  (Alec) Keen was able to throw strikes, he hasn't pitched as much for us this year, but he threw well and we played excellent defense.  That is something so far that we have been able to do really well this year, defensively we are playing like we should be," said Rickert.

          Madison beat Mansfield Senior (4-17) twice on the first week of season by the same score (12-1), but Rickert says that was a long time ago.  "They have some different guys than when we played them the first time and so do we.  We had a kid that was suspended and didn't get to play against them, he's back.  It's been so long ago that I think you will see a better Sr. High team and I think it is a better Madison team," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "We are not going to take them lightly, they beat a good Clear Fork team this week.  I don't know who we are going to see on the mound for them.  We are going to go with either Michael Penney or Blake Lampert and we feel pretty good with those guys."

          In the "OCC" standings Madison is in first place and Mansfield Senior is in last, but Rickert says this is the tournament and they don't take any wins for granted.  "I don't think that is the case.  I have watched them in practice the last couple days and they are pretty focused.  If Sr. High beats us it won't be because of lack of focus.  We won't use that as an excuse.  We are ready to go it is tournament time, so you have to play your best baseball now.  With our kids I think that win over Clear Fork woke anyone up that thought about taking them lightly," he said.

 

Published 5/16/14

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Madison Still in First

 

          Michael Penney threw a complete game shutout as the Madison Rams kept first place to themselves in the Ohio Cardinal Conference with a (5-0) win over the rival Ashland Arrows Wednesday night.

          They lead Wooster by a game as the Generals edged Lexington (4-3) on Wednesday to eliminate the Minutemen from the conference race.

          Madison (16-5,11-1), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, also beat Ashland (4-1) on Tuesday behind Blake Lampert.  Rams coach Doug Rickert says Ashland always plays them tough and this year was no different.  "We knew we had to take care of business.  We talked about Ashland sort of being a thorn in our side.  It seemed we split with them early in my career all of the time with either us or them winning the league and winning the district.  We knew it was going to be two tough games and it was two tough games.  We were able to score early in both of those games.  We left 12 guys on base (Wednesday), which wasn't a good thing.  Two nights in a row now we got great pitching.  In 14 innings they only got one run, so we are pretty happy with that," he said.

          Penny didn't have his best stuff on Wednesday night, but Rickert says he found a way to get guys out and that is what you have to do.  "(Wednesday) Michael Penney stepped up there.  He improved to 5-0.  He didn't have his best stuff I didn't thing early in the game.  He was able to make some adjustments, and I thought coach Harris did a good job going over some of the adjustments with him.  We told him what Bert Blyleven once said that you only have your best stuff 30 percent of the time and he had 300 wins.  It's how you pitch when you don't have your best stuff," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "(Wednesday) he was able to get it back around the fourth inning.  The defense was solid, we were able to turn three double plays (Wednesday) and two (Tuesday) night.  Guys just don't square it up against him.  I think they had only one extra base hit.  He has been fantastic for us."

          Rickert, the dean of "OCC" baseball coaches, says good pitchers are ones that have at least three pitches they can go to in the game.  "We try to have every pitcher have at least three pitches.  Sometimes you are going to have your fastball, sometimes you have your curve ball, sometimes you have your change up or your two seem fastball of whatever it is.  Sometimes you go out there and you don't have anything and you are just throwing your fastball all day.  (Wednesday) he didn't have his curve ball, but he was able to locate his fastball and work his two seem fastball down in the zone and get ground balls.  That's why you can't go out there with one pitch," he said.

          Madison hosts Shelby (12-8) of the Northern Ohio League in a non-conference game on Thursday.  Rickert says with the tournament coming up and the big showdown with Wooster they have to maintain their focus.  "We preach that like crazy.  We have lacked focus a couple of times this year and that is when we have gotten beat.  I didn't think we were very focused on Monday night against Marion and it took a big inning late to win that one.  The last two nights with the conference games we have really been locked in and focused and we did what we had to do.  They have been a great team.  I walked out there in the last inning and asked Michael if he was okay and the whole mound came together and said your going to finish this thing.  I think it meant a lot to him and I think it meant a lot to the guys.  They remain focused in the big games.  I don't know why in the non-league games we don't stay as focused as we should," said Rickert.

          Right now it looks like Madison will play at Wooster next Wednesday and then host them the week after.  That's because the Generals play either Canton Glenoak or Green in the tournament next Tuesday and the Rams host Mansfield Senior in their tournament opener next Thursday.

 

Published 5/08/14

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Madison Hands Ashland First "OCC" Loss

 

          Madison scored four times in the bottom of the seventh inning and they gave Ashland their first loss in Ohio Cardinal Conference play (7-6) on Wednesday at Madison.

          Coach Tim Niswander says they actually played pretty well at Ashland on Tuesday and deserved a better fate.  "It certainly lifts a load off my back.  We played really, really well over at Ashland and got beat 4-2.  We really made two mistakes, one of them was not getting an out on a bunt and the next one was leaving a pitch in the zone that a kid hit for grand slam.  Other than that we played really, really well.  The kids were disappointed because they thought they should have won the game.  They knew we played as well as we did all year long," said Niswander.

          At home on Wednesday Niswander says his young team responded to pressure well.  "They came out (Wednesday) and we weren't quite as clean and we weren't quite as crisp.  Offensively we were a completely different team.  We did what we had to do in the last inning.  We left the bases loaded earlier in the game without scoring a run.  When the opportunity came around at the end the kids did a great job finishing it and making it a great night for the Lady Rams," he said.

          Last season, Madison won the "OCC" and advanced to the regional tournament.  Nisawnder says this a different team, but like last year, they are really improving toward the end of the season.  "We are certainly not at that level.  I am not even close to comparing those two teams, but we have gotten better night in and night out.  We play a lot of younger kids and those younger kids are starting to figure it out a little bit.  Earlier in the year we had a freshman pitcher and the varsity thing was a little bit too much pressure for her.  I don't think she understood the whole get ahead in the count and work in your breaking stuff and now she is starting to see that," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night, "She didn't walk anyone (Wednesday), she walked one person (Tuesday) night.  Over at Lexington last week she had two walks.  She gave up two earned runs against Lex and (Wednesday) she only gave up one.  She is starting to trust the kids behind her, which I think is the strength of our team.  Hopefully we are playing softball in late May and maybe beyond."

          Next Tuesday, Madison (10-6,7-5) opens division two tournament play by hosting Ontario.  Niswander says there are good things and bad things about the new policy of the higher seed hosting in first two rounds.  "The winner of that game has to go to Clyde and that won't be an easy task no matter you it is.  I don't mind the home game, in fact, I think that is a really good idea.  I am not a fan of the whole district playing into the same bracket.  To me it meant a little more when you actually had a sectional where the teams were in your immediate area where now you can play a second round game at Clyde or Edison and I'm not so sure you should be traveling an hour and 10 minutes to play a second round game.  It's got it's pluses and minus," said Niswander.

 

Published 5/08/14

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Madison Continues to Win

 

          Blake Lampert was brilliant again and the Madison Rams remain unbeaten in the Ohio Cardinal Conference after a (4-0) shutout of the Orrville Red Riders on Wednesday evening.

          Lampert allowed only three hits while striking out nine in the win.  Coach Doug Rickert says the hard work he put in has certainly paid off for him this year.  "He has been pretty special.  I called him over (Wednesday) and had a talk with him and Michael Penny, who really threw ball well.  I told Michael Penny, who is a sophomore, to learn a lot from Blake.  I don't think Blake worked nearly as hard last year as he has this year.  His work ethic and what he put into it he wanted to have a special senior season and it shows.  He was in total command.  He gave up three hits.  One of them was an infield single that was bang-bang at first base.  He struck out nine, hit a batter, and walked one.  He beat a very good pitcher in Perez," said Rickert.

          On top of that Madison has been play some pretty solid defense and Rickert says some lineup changes he made with Alec Keen and Alec Gowitzka have really worked out for the best.  "We played really good defensively.  I thought Zane Harris played a really good third base and Alec Keen played a very shortstop and we had a heck of a catch from Blust at first base, he has been really incredible for us at first base.  We only had one ball hit in the outfield all night, which shows what Blake did," he told Swankonsports.com after the win Wednesday, "We had a lot of ground ball outs and he had the strikeout pitch going.  Defensively we have been night and day from last year.  We switched a couple of things around at the beginning of the year.  We moved our second baseman from last year to shortstop and our shortstop to second base and they have both been more comfortable at those positions.  He got ahead in the count and guys kept hitting it in the ground."

          Madison only had five hits Wednesday, but Rickert says against Orrville, who had a six game winning streak coming into the week, you aren't going to score much.  "Against Orrville you aren't scoring a lot of runs.  Defensively they are pretty solid on the infield.  When you face Schley, who is going to West Point and you face Perez, who is going to the University of Cincinnati.  They have a deep, deep pitching staff, a very good pitching staff, and senior laden teem.  I wouldn't be shocked at all if they made another state run.  They lost in the regional finals last year and I wouldn't be shocked at all if they made a run at the state tournament.  (Tuesday) night I said I wanted to score four runs and (Wednesday) I said I wanted to score four runs.  We were fortunate to score a few more (Tuesday) and (Wednesday) we got four and that's what we needed," said Rickert.

          Right now, Madison, (10-3,8-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coach's poll in the large school division, leads Lexington and Wooster by two in he "OCC" race with six games to play and Rickert knows things are far from over.  "We told the kids we haven't won anything yet.  We have won no sectional tournament, no district tournament, no conference.  We are off to a good start, but we aren't satisfied.  Next week we have a big showdown with Lexington.  We still have Ashland and we end up with Wooster.  A lot can happen.  We control our own destiny if we just continue to win we win this thing.  Lexington always plays us good, Wooster always plays us good and Ashland has always been a thorn in our side.  We have six tough ones left," he said.

 

Published 4/24/14

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Madison Right Back in it

 

         Madison is right back in the race in the Ohio Cardinal Conference, not that they ever really left.

          After two sub-par performances last week against Clear Fork, Madison moved back into second place by themselves with an (11-3) win against Orrville, while Clear Fork lost to Lexington (7-3) on Tuesday.  Ashland is still unbeaten in the league after an (11-2) win over Mansfield Senior.

          After the losses last week to Clear Fork, Madison (5-3,5-2) didn't stand still, coach Tim Niswander says they made some moves.  "We made some changes last week after the first game with Clear Fork and made some more changes (Tuesday) night and we got some kids back that were on vacation.  Our four hitter was on vacation and you don't think that one kid is going to make that much of a difference in the lineup, but it was amazing how much more relaxed everyone was and how everyone else wasn't pressing and trying to do too much," said Niswander.

          Maybe most importantly, Niswander says they made a change in the pitcher's circle.  "We also made a little bit of a change on the mound.  We threw our sophomore Bailey Kiser and she really had a nice night.  We missed some kids last week, but it gave some other kids the opportunity to play and earn a position they may not have had.  That gave us some more options going into (Tuesday) night and the kids really ran with it and did a nice job," he said.

          Niswander says over the last week they have had some kids step up and take on other roles with the team and make them better.  "We always tell our kids that you never know when that opportunity is going to come and you have to make the most of it and if you play well we are going to keep playing you.  I don't know if a lot of kids necessarily believe that is true.  We have Alexis Arnold, who is now our starting right fielder.  She stepped up last week against Clear Fork and had a nice night.  She started in the outfield for us again (Tuesday) and had a nice night," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We moved our freshman catcher to DH and let her play some outfield as well.  I think moving her from behind the plate has really lifted a lot of pressure off of her.  In the two games that she hasn't caught she is five for seven.  I don't know if it was the catching are not, but she sure seems to have caught fire."

          Two games back with still seven games, or half of the conference schedule, left to be played, Niswander knows they are still in the thick of the race.  "We told the kids at the end of the night Friday that if we win the rest of our "OCC" games then we are going to win the league.  There is nothing anyone else can say about that.  That being said we also told them the only game we need to worry about right now is Tuesday night against Orrville.  When we got done (Tuesday) the only game we have to worry about is Wednesday night against Orrville.  We are going to try and pull that focus in to the game in front of us, take them one at a time, and hopefully when the end of the season rolls around good things will be happening for us.  The race is far from over and their is a lot of softball yet to be played.  Clear Fork is going to have some say in it, obviously Lexington is going to have some say in it, Ashland is still undefeated, and hopefully we have a little say in what happens as well," said Niswander.

 

Published 4/23/14

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Madison Belts Clear Fork, Builds on Lead

 

          Blake Lampert took a shut out into the seventh inning and Kyle Blust had three hits and three RBI as Madison pounded Clear Fork (12-4) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball game Thursday in the valley.

          Madison took a (1-0) lead in the first when leadoff hitter Hunter Ackerman doubled and scored on a ground ball.  It was (5-0) after the second after RBI hits by Blust, Lampert, Ackerman and Alec Keen. 

          Rams coach Doug Rickert says they were pleased with the win, but knows there is more work to do.  "That was a great win for us.  They were picked to win the league at the beginning of the year.  A lot of people were talking about Clear Fork.  We aren't satisfied with that one.  I told the kids that over the break years ago we beat Ashland 13-0 and came back the next day and got beat by the exact same score 13-0, so we're not satisfied.  If we can win (Friday) we are hoping to have a two game lead on everybody in the league," said Rickert.

          The Rams lead Lexington and Wooster by two.

          Madison scored three more in fifth, one in the sixth, and three more on the seventh off the Clear Fork bullpen.

          Lampert only allowed on base runner to get to third base in the first six innings as he kept the Colt hitters off balance all day.  Rickert says he has been outstanding all year.  "He was fantastic.  He really hasn't pitched a bad game all year, but he's had some tough luck.  He was pulled in the New Albany game after leading 1-0 in the fifth and he didn't end up getting the win in that one and he pitched a heck of game against Mt. Vernon, but we left 12 guys on base in that game.  So, he really hasn't had a bad outing all year.  He got a win in relief against West Holmes and (Thursday) he was ready to go," said Rickert.

          Lampert struck out 12 hitters and walked none in the victory.  Rickert says he had pin point control.  "He threw 102 pitches and he threw 81 strikes.  That was incredible, that was just being dialed in all night long.  He was able to throw four pitches for strikes.  He has a nice two seam fastball that bites into the ground," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "Sometimes it looks like it's a fastball and guys swing and you wonder why they are constantly beating it into the ground.  A couple of the hits they did get were little dribblers they hit out there because he is doing that.  It has become such an effective pitch for him and he has a nice curveball and he threw his change up."

          Madison (7-1,5-0) had 11 hits off six different Clear Fork pitchers, plus those Colt hurlers walked nine and hit another three batters.  Rickert thought they showed pretty good patience at the plate.  "We left them loaded a few times, once with our three, four, five hitters up.  I think the best part of the day was, and I told the kids out here, we have been really patient all year with our bats.  They are becoming more mature and not swinging at bad pitches and getting themselves out.  (Thursday) we got production out of Zane Harris with two hits and Kyle Blust had three and those are two guys that have been struggling, so if we get them hitting the baseball we will be much better,' said Rickert.

          Clear Fork (5-3,2-3) will be at Madison for game two of the series on Friday.  Lefty Travis Born is expected to get the call for the Colts and Bo Curvin for Madison.  Rickert expects a challenge.  "(Friday) is a big game.  We said if we could start out 6-0 we would be feeling pretty good about ourselves, but (Clear Fork) is a really good baseball, team and we know what is going to be in store on (Friday)," he said.

 

Published 4/18/14

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Madison and Clear Fork to Lock Horns

 

          Madison and Clear Fork are two of the real contenders for the Ohio Cardinal Conference softball title and they face each other in back to back games on Thursday and Friday, if the weather finally allows as games between the two have already be cancelled twice this week.

          Madison (4-1,4-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com softball coach's poll in the large school division, and shares first place with Ashland in the "OCC," has only been able to play five games and has not played since last Thursday. 

          Coach Tim Niswander says the weather has made things difficult, but they were able to get out on a field on Wednesday.  "It would be nice if the snow would stop and the rain would stop and Mother Nature would let us get outside and play a little bit.  It really gets old being in the gym all of the time.  If you can't get outside and play there isn't much opportunity to get outside and practice.  Our kids actually did get outside (Wednesday), we had to go to a different field.  They practiced really well (Wednesday) and they are chomping at the bit to get out and play some softball," he said.

          At (7-2,2-2) Clear Fork, #3 in our big school poll, has had a good season too and Niswander says since he has taken over the Madison program this has been one of their biggest rivalries.  "Anytime we play Clear Fork it's a big deal.  They are a neighboring school.  Our kids are always familiar with each other.  A lot of our kids talk to each other away from the field and we see each other out and about.  At least one of their kids was in the little league that I had when I was down at Lucas.  One of their kid's grandmother is the aid in my classroom at school," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "So, we are familiar with each other a little bit.  Both programs are solid.  It's what makes it fun.  You go out no matter what year it is you know they are going to be pretty good programs and it is going to be a good challenge for the kids on both sides of the coin."

          Clear Fork middle infielder Taylor Kline led the entire state in steals last spring and Niswander says the speed of the Lady Colts makes then difficult to deal with.  "That is one the things we have been able to work on in the gym is how to handle that speed a little.  We shorten the bases and put base runners on when we take infield because it forces our kids to catch the ball and get rid of it faster because it is difficult to simulate that kind of speed if you don't have that kind of speed.  I think we have some kids that can run, but they are our varsity infield and they can't run while they are fielding the ball.  Even at that Taylor (Kline) might be one of the fastest kids in softball that I have ever seen.  She is certainly an issue to prepare for, but Clear Fork is pretty solid all of the way through and you have to be able to play against everybody," said Niswander.

 

Published 4/17/14

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Madison Takes Lead

 

          Madison won its sixth straight game overall and remained unbeaten in the Ohio Cardinal Conference after a (7-3) win over the West Holmes Knights on Thursday afternoon.

          That puts the Rams in first place after Clear Fork handed Wooster their first conference loss (3-1) on Thursday.

          Josh Smith picked up the win and Hunter Ackerman had two hits for the Rams and coach Doug Rickert says he and his kids believe they will be successful.  "We feel pretty good about ourselves right  now.  We are 4-0 in the league.  It is the first time we have been 4-0 in the league in a while.  We've hit the ball okay, better than we did last year and we are throwing the ball a lot better.  We have gotten about everything we have asked for, made a couple mistakes.  We have won six in a row since losing that first one, so we are pretty happy," he said.

          The Rams are a confident team and Rickert says this has been a team that has been very good in clutch.  "It has been really weird.  It's like watching the Indians last year and we are kind of like them.  It is a gritty bunch and they don't think they are going to lose when they go out there.  We have done a lot of with two outs," he told Swankonsports.com after the win Thursday, "(Wednesday) night in the eighth it's tied and we have two outs.  We draw a walk, we draw another walk, at 0-2 we get hit by a pitch, they go 0-2 on Galco and he fights and fights and fights and lines a single up the middle, and we get another base hit and all of the sudden we score three runs.  (Thursday) we kind of did the same thing with two outs we scored a couple again.  It is kind of a never say die kind of team.  They are a really a tight nit group, enjoying themselves and playing really well."

          Rickert says this is a group that is hungry and they want to get some things the Rams haven't had in a while.  Madison hasn't won an "OCC" title since 2006.  Rickert says this could be the year.  "It's really weird.  We talk about it.  We preach it and want your kids to buy into everything.  These kids they took their lumps for two years.  They got beat up and they were young.  I threw them out there to the wolves and they played a lot of really good baseball teams.  The league was good.  It was tough on them.  They are hungry now.  They think it is their time.  You know, so far, so good," he said.

          However, Rickert has been around for a while, and he knows winning that league title won't be easy because this is a deep league.  "We just got done playing West Holmes and I was overly impressed with them.  I know they have been good over the last couple of years.  They have a couple guys back this week that didn't get to play last week.  They swing it well and they played good defense against us.  They have a deep pitching staff.  We saw five different guys throw.  They are going to be a very tough team to play week in and week out in this league.  We are glad to get through that because they are going to beat some teams.  Wooster is off to a good start, I talked about Clear Fork time and time again, Lexington has their one and two pitchers back, Ashland is better, Orrville has good pitching.  There is no one you can sleep on in this league and it has been like that since I have been in coaching.  When you have a little of that killer instinct and not thinking you are going to lose that goes a long way," said Rickert.

 

Published 4/11/14

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Lady Rams Share First

 

          After two weeks of conference play the Madison Lady Rams, the defending "OCC" champion, are unbeaten in conference play and share first place with Ashland.

          Coach Tim Niswander is very pleased with his team's position here early in the season.  "That's kind of where you want to be five games into the season.  We'd like to be 5-0, but were 4-1 and 4-0 in the "OCC."  That's one of our goals  to compete for a league title and we knew we had to come and play every night.  So far, it's still early, we haven't gotten into the meat of the schedule yet, but the kids have taken care of business so far so no complaints," he said.

          Madison (4-1,4-0) beat West Holmes (10-3) on Thursday after escaping from Millersburg with a (12-10) win on Wednesday.  Katie Clever homered and Amanda Kolmansberger doubled twice for the Lady Rams on Thursday.  Niswander says they have to keep their focus, which they did a better job of doing on Thursday.  "(Wednesday) we were at West Holmes and we had one mental error in the field, and it should have been an out, and it opened up the flood gates and they ended up having a nine run inning out of it and they made a game out of a game that we were pretty much in control of at that point.  It didn't seem like a big deal at the time in a 7-1 ballgame.  It can be an impact when you lose your focus a little bit and they can catch up to you in a hurry.  I thought the kids went out Thursday night and did a great job of maintaining there focus throughout the game and playing good solid defense all of the way around.  It was a good win Thursday night," said Niswander.

          This is not your father's "OCC," on maybe your mother's in this case.  Unlike the past when only a couple of teams could win the title, Niswander says now there are many.  "West Holmes has big expectations.  I think they are much improved form a year ago.  They have already beaten Clear Fork, which is a big win.  Mansfield Senior is not the Mansfield Senior people are used to seeing.  They are much more solid than they used to be," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "In their first game against Lexington this year they lost 4-0.  Against us in two games they made three errors in two nights and all of those where in the first game, so they are much improved.  Top to bottom this league is very competitive.  There are some great players and some great coaches and you have to bring you "A" game every night or you will get beat and there is no doubt about that."

          If Madison is to have another great season Nisawnder says they need to continue to improve and he believes they will.  "We are playing a lot of young kids, so every night is a learning experience.  Every time they are in a situation that they haven't seem before or they didn't realize when they were in the gym earlier in the year what they were going to see when things started flying.  Every rep we get a little bit better.  We have a freshmen pitcher and a freshmen catcher and they are learning.  They are learning when to take chances and when not to.  Our older kids have done a great job of guiding those younger kids, showing them the ropes, and being very good with them.  There are times when an older kid can get on a  younger kid and it seems like they are yelling at them and our kids have not been that way at all.  It has been a great learning experience and they have been great leaders for us so far," said Niswander.

 

Published 4/11/14

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Madison Blasts Mansfield Senior

 

          Madison is off to a good start when it comes to winning the Ohio Cardinal Conference softball title after back to back wins over rival Mansfield Senior this week.

          The Lady Rams beat Senior High (15-0) on Tuesday afternoon and (12-1) on Wednesday to share the "OCC" lead with Ashland and Wooster, who also swept their series this week.

          Madison (2-1,2-0) lost its opener to North Central Conference favorite Bucyrus (7-5), but coach Tim Niswander says they didn't play too badly in that game.  "We played Bucyrus the first game and they are very experienced, a pretty good team, and I think they are going to have a really, really big year.  We fought with them tooth and nail.  We kind of got a late start because we really didn't start hitting until the fifth inning, but once we got rolling we made a game of it," he said.

          Niswander says they really got their offense in high gear against the Lady Tygers.  "Came back (Tuesday) against Mansfield Senior and got a big win 15-0.  We played well all of the way around.  We got good pitching and good defense and hit solidly. We came out (Wednesday) and I told the kids we needed to make sure we got a good jump on it and let them know we were ready to play," he told Swankonsports.com after the win Wednesday, "Our first five batters went bunt single, bunt single, bunt single, home run, home run, so I don't know if you can ask for a much better start than that.  Last year, Mansfield Senior actually gave us a couple of pretty good games and they are much improved than they were a year ago.  They are going to win some games this year.  They may make a little bit of noise in the conference race.  They are going to rise up and bite somebody that doesn't expect it."

          On Wednesday, Paige Whisler allowed only four hits and struck out four Lady Tygers.  Katie Mullings and Katie Clever both had home runs and Bailey Kiser had three hits, including a double for Madison.

          Niswander also teaches at Madison and he says understanding his players and what their day is like is a big plus.  "That is a big battle and you see it when you are in the building with the kids everyday.  There are a lot of things that go on between eight and three o'clock that affect what happens at five o'clock.  You really have to get them to snap back and get their focus on softball sometimes.  When you get a big lead like we got (Tuesday) night and (Wednesday) it is kind of hard sometimes to get them to stay in that mode for two solid hours.  Our kids did a pretty solid job of that the last couple of nights," he said.

          No matter how good a start you get you need to continue to get better.  Niswander identifies a couple of areas where they must improve as this season unfolds.  "We need to hit the ball more consistently.  I say that with us scoring 31 runs in our first three games.  We have stung some balls, but there have been other times when we have given away some at bats.  We kind of want to hit the first decent pitch we see instead of laying off the pitcher's strike and waiting on a hitter's strike we jump on it and get ourselves out.  We need to tighten up our outfield, which did play a little bit better (Wednesday).  Our infield has played very, very well.  We have a freshman pitcher and catcher and the two of them have had three pretty good nights so far," said Niswander.

 

Published 4/03/14

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Madison Beats Tygers in "OCC" Opener

 

          Bo Curvin struck out eight and Madison scored eight times in the second inning and went on to pound the rival Mansfield Senior Tygers (12-1) in Ohio Cardinal Conference action at Madison on Tuesday.

          After losing to Mt. Vernon (5-2) in non-conference play on Monday, the Rams were able to get more key hits against the Tygers.  Rickert says he thought they had a good chance to win on Monday night.  "We felt we should have won (Monday) night.  We left 11 runners on base against a very good Mt. Vernon team.  We threw Blake Lampert and he gave up one earned run and when he left the game we were down 2-1.  We probably could have thrown Blake another couple of innings, but he threw 70 pitches, and we were being very couscous, he is a senior, and we don't want to do anything to hurt him," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "Our relief pitching walked a couple of guys and gave up a big hit.  We left the bases loaded and runners at second and third late in the game.  We hit the baseball (Monday) night, we just didn't get the hit when we needed it.  (Tuesday) night we were able to string some hits together.  (Monday) night we had eight hits and I think they were all singles and (Tuesday) we were able to get three or four doubles and that makes a big difference."

          Madison collected 11 hits and three doubles on Tuesday night.  Rickert says they are a team that has to hit the ball and be able to put some hits together.  "We about as slow a baseball team as their is.  It is tough sometimes to get some of those doubles.  It also makes it tough because we can't steal like we would like to.  We have to do some other things like hit and run and bunt this year and that is a little different than what we have done in the past.  We were finally able to string a couple of hits together.  We put two up in the first and then had a real big second inning where we scored eight and that's nice because then Bo (Curvin) can go out there and settle in and throw the ball and it makes it a lot easier on our defense," said Rickert.

          The Rams travel to Arlin Field on Wednesday, weather permitting, for the rematch.  Rickert says they will have to play well because the Tygers are not the push over that they have been in some past years.  "We beat them 12-1 and that's what we feel we can do and that's what we want to be able to do.  They have got some ball players that are back.  I think a lot of times when you play Senior High he saw kids play and then when they were a junior or senior they were gone.  Now they have started these young kids and they have some kids that can play.  They swing the bat a little better and they play defense a little better than they have in the past.  (Tuesday) night was a tough night for them because we were able to hit the baseball, and with the wind and everything else some balls blew over their heads.  They are a better team and they are a team that can beat you if you don't bring your "A" game," said Rickert.

 

Published 4/02/14

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Madison Ready to Compete

 

          Madison is ready to compete for an Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball title this spring,  It seems all of the clues are pointing in that direction.

          Coach Doug Rickert says they went on their normal trip to Dayton last weekend and played some solid baseball, but he has been around long enough to know that can be an illusion.  "We were able to go down to Dayton and get three scrimmages in, one on Friday night and two on Saturday.  We looked pretty good.  I am being cautious because we have looked good on this trip before and then came back and weren't as good as we thought.  You are never as good as you think you are and you are never as bad as you think you are.  We played well.  We didn't hit the ball as well as I wanted to, but I guess that can be expected.  We threw the ball really well, the defense was good, and we did get some timely hits.  We don't have a great deal of depth right now, but they guys we have in there are pretty good players," said Rickert.

          Typically hitters are behind pitchers early in the year and Rickert says that is because most times they don't see enough live pitching.  "You are in the gym all day hitting off a tee or live pitching from your coach or you can hit off a machine.  Everybody can do that.  I don't know anybody that can't do that.  Any kid that plays baseball can go in there and hit when somebody lobbing it in there or they are hitting it off a machine that is throwing it the same speed every time.  It's just timing it up," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "When you go out there against a guy that actually pitches and he can change elevations and throw change ups and he can throw breaking balls and he can throw it where he wants to now it's a whole different ball game.  I think sometimes where you are in a gym too much and not hitting off live pitching you can develop bad habits.  I think it is really important to continue to see live pitching.  That is what we try to do as much as possible, but the weather really hasn't cooperated."

          It's nice to have a good heater if you are a high school pitcher, but Rickert says it can be more important to have a good change up.  "We threw one our pitchers and he throws 81, 82, which is a pretty good fastball for high school.  Then we came back with a kid that throws about 56 and he threw three innings and he gave up no hits and he struck out four and nobody could touch him.  He throws slow and slower, that's his two pitches and that can be tough sometimes for high school kids to stay back on and square up.  If you are a pitcher and you can throw the fastball at 82 and come back with a change up at 70, 72 and throw in a breaking ball at 75.  I think a good change up with good arm action is the hardest pitch to hit.  Kids that develop a good change up are really good pitchers," he said.

          The Rams open the season on Monday at Mt. Vernon and then open "OCC" play against Mansfield Senior the next two days, weather permitting.  Rickert thinks this is a team that is ready to compete for the conference trophy.  "I think our practices have shown that.  We were young and when you go out there and play a lot of freshmen and sophomores it's hard.  This year some of those kids that have been playing are finally seniors and most of the other kids are juniors.  We still have a few freshmen and sophomores that have to play.  They have done it now for a while.  I think sometimes what people don't realize about Madison is the schedule we play.  When you are going out there with freshmen and sophomores and you playing on the weekends Perkins, New Albany, Canton Central Catholic, St. Ignatius, those aren't easy ball games.  You better come to play.  So, we took some lumps.  Last year we got better.  We beat everybody in the league except for Lex. We won the sectional tournament and got beat by Perrysburg in a real good game.  I thought defensively we got a lot better at the end of the season and we look a little better defensively now.  I think we can turn it around and we hope to contend.  I think these kids can make a run and compete for a conference title," said Rickert.

 

Published 3/26/14

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Madison Will be Back

 

          Madison made it all of the way to the regional softball final last spring and this year their goal is to do the same kind of thing.

          Coach Tim Niswander, in his second year with the Lady Rams, says their approach might be different, but their goal of success will be the same.  "I think we will be very different.  We only lost three kids, but the three kids that we lost were the middle of our order and they were pitcher, catcher, center field, so replacing them is obviously priority number one.  I think we have kids certainly capable of doing it," he told Swankonsports.com, "I think we are going to be a little faster than we were a year ago and maybe not have the same type of power.  That will force us to change the way we play a little bit.  We are in the same boat as everybody else, you lose kids, you do what you have to do to replace them, and you make tweaks a long the way.  The thing with high school sports is you have to be able to adjust to your kids you can't force them into doing something they aren't capable of doing."

          Paige Carper was a key on the mound and in the middle of the Lady Rams lineup last year and Niswander says there is a competition to find a player that can take the mound for them.  "I think that was the key to us a year ago.  We had a great pitcher, Paige Carper did a tremendous job for us a year ago, and Bailey Tysner, who was our second baseman got some varsity innings and she is one of the contenders to take that pitching spot.  Alexis Sneed, who is also a sophomore, lettered for us as a freshmen is a that mix, as well as Paige Whistler, who is a freshman coming up.  I don't know if we have that Paige Carper type kid there is going to be a difference between a senior, four year starter, and freshmen and sophomores," said Niswander.

          Cold temperatures from last week are being replaced by some rain this week and Niswander says the weather always makes it difficult on softball teams.  "We were outside twice last week, but we couldn't get on our infield.  We were doing some outfield stuff and we did some infield drills in the grass just trying to get the kids out of the gym and outside a little bit.  We hit as well.  As a football coach it seems like two a days in the summer just goes on and on and on forever, where as softball is seems the minute you start you have to be ready to play games.  We don't have a lot of time to get ready." he said.

          With the success they had last year, Niswander says they really believe they can be in the Ohio Cardinal Conference race and have a chance at tournament success again this year.  "Our goal last year was to get to Akron and we came up just a hair short.  We have eight returning starters when you count our DH and some injuries.  We have eight kids that started for us a year ago that are coming back and we have kind of used that as a rallying point.  Last year was great and we were happy where we were and it hadn't happened in a really long time, but the goal is to make that an every year thing and not every once in a while or every 18 years as the case would be.  We are really trying to build a program that consistently can make runs deep into the tournament." said Niswander.

 

Published 3/18/14

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Madison Counting on Solid Season

 

          Over the last 20 years Mansfield Madison has had a very consistent baseball program, but the last two years really haven't been Madison like, except for the tail end of last season when they caught fire and got to the division one district tournament.

          Coach Doug Rickert thinks with some continued development they can be a real contender in the Ohio Cardinal Conference this spring.  "We think it can be a special season.  We have a lot of kids returning.  We think we have a deep pitching staff.  We think our pitching staff is even a little deeper than we originally thought.  The kids are working extremely hard right now.  We had a our first full inter-squad on Saturday and we thought everything went really well there.  The weather has not been good.  We have not been able to get on the field.  We have kind of been in leftfield and doing some inter-squad stuff there with a portable mound and stuff.  We are excited.  I think this is one of the better teams we have had in the last several years," he said.

          Not unexpectedly the weather has not been really contusive to baseball this late winter so far.  Rickert says they haven't been able to do a lot outside so far, but you have to adapt.  "You are not seeing live pitching all of the time.  You are working on the stuff you can in the cage, but you just aren't seeing live pitching.  If you aren't throwing the ball outside, if you are fielding the ball outside, it's a big difference.  I mean you need to throw the ball in the wind.  You can't do anything with pop flies in a gym.  You can only do so much with that.  We have been in the parking lot quite a bit trying to do as much as we can with that.  We have been throwing the ball into the wind," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "We lined up a bunch of our outfielders into the sun the other day, just standing in the sun trying to catch some fly balls.  There are a lot of little things you can do in a gym and I think we do as good a job as anybody preparing the kids.  Its tough, but you can't make excuses about it, you just do the best you can.  A couple of years back St. Ignatius won a state title and they don't even have field, so they practice all of the time in a gym."

          With some solid pitching returning this year and some improved hitting, Rickert believes if they are going to be competitive they must be better fielders and it has to start at the beginning of the season.  "We gave up a lot us unearned runs last year.  We were not very good defensively.  We threw the ball pretty well last year.  We didn't hit the ball like we wanted to until game 14 of 15 and we swung the bats pretty well after that.  That came with youth, but the defense wasn't very good and then at the end of the year was really good.  We made 50 some errors in our first 14 of 15 ballgames and then we committed eight the rest of the season.  It starts behind the plate.  We started a sophomore there last year that I think has gotten much better in (Kyle) Galco.  He has really come on for us and become a leader.  He is about 195 pounds now.  The football season went well for him.  I think it starts there.  We have to be better at blocking balls.  We have to better at holding runners.  And then we can't allow the extra base.  When I guy takes second base and then he scores.  And two out walks and leadoff walks, little things like that.  We are really concentrating on eliminating some of those unearned runs and then swing the bat a little better than we have in the past and I think we will," said Rickert.

          Madison begins its season March 31at Mt. Vernon and also plays New Albany, Sandusky Perkins and Norwalk in an aggressive non-league schedule.  They begin Ohio Cardinal Conference the next day with the first of two against Mansfield Senior.

 

Published 3/11/14

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Madison with a Chance

 

          The planets seemed to be lined up right for a possible Madison upset of Mansfield Senior in the division one super sectional tournament at Galion High School on Friday night.

            Madison is coming off one of its better efforts of the season in a (61-33) win over Marion Harding on Wednesday night in a first round game and Mansfield Senior's off court news has been headline material on this website and every other media outlet in the area.  Use of an illegal player forced the Tygers to forfeit a win over West Holmes and it gave the Knights the Ohio Cardinal Conference title.

          Madison (6-17) had lost to Marion Harding (69-61) in the regular season, but coach Tim Mergel says they were chomping at the bit this time.  "We did a better job of keeping the ball in front of us.  I think it always helps when you get off to a good start.  I think our freshmen Tyrell Asian had our first nine points and got us a pretty good lead.  We did a much better job of keeping them off the offensive glass, which is always a key for us.  We were patient on offense and able to knock down some shots.  When we got that lead we were able to take care of the basketball," said Mergel.

          With 32 minutes of quality basketball Madison earned its first tournament win since 2011.  Mergel says the potential for this team has always been there.  "It has always been there for us, we just haven't been able to put together four solid quarters.  They came out focused and they knew after the Marion game the first time that they felt we were the better team.  They were out to prove that (Wednesday) night and we were able to accomplish that," he said.

          There has been a swirl of controversy around Mansfield Senior this week, but Mergel says they are concerned about that a bit.  "Whatever is going on with them we have kind of put that in the back of our minds.  Throughout the season whenever they went to the their bench it was just the same person and they really didn't miss a beat," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "Athletically they are superior and it's going to be a challenge for us.  Loosing Benson inside is going to hurt.  They still have athletes that they are going to bring at you.  They are still going to bring the same defensive pressure that you see night in and night out with every Mansfield Senior team."

          Mansfield Senior (14-7), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coach's poll in the large school division, beat the rival Rams in both regular season meetings (86-45) in early December and (61-48) in Mid-January.  Mergel says they had their chances in that second game and this time they have to take advantage.  "The second time we played we down six midway through the fourth.  I think we missed all of the front ends of one and ones and we missed some wide open looks.  I think you can contribute a little of that to Mansfield Senior's defensive pressure.  Hopefully we have some legs underneath us here later on in the season and hopefully we can step up and make a couple of shots.  It should be a great atmosphere.  Anytime you get Madison and Mansfield Senior together there is going to be a memorable moment or a couple," said Mergel.

          The Madison coach says he hopes his kids want to make a statement in this game.  "This is one of those games that as a Madison kid that you never forget and you kind of want to put your stamp on it individually and as a team.  It's nothing out of the ordinary.  It's tournament basketball.  They know what's at stake and it's time to go out and play as hard as you can every second you are out on the floor," he said.

 

Published 2/28/14

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Defense the Key for Madison

 

          Can it be some late season magic for the Madison Rams?

          If they start to play some more consistent defense they could find themselves with a decent tournament run.

          They meet Marion Harding (3-19) in a first round tournament game in division one Wednesday night at Galion High School and if they win that they play Mansfield Senior, a team in turmoil after having to forfeit a win over West Holmes, costing them the Ohio Cardinal Conference title, and allegations of other off the court problems.

          Madison (5-17) has played some good basketball, including a three point loss (57-54) at Lexington last week and a win (54-47) over talented Orrville 10 days ago.

          Coach Tim Mergel says to win in the tournament they have to be able to put a full game together.  "I thought we would win some more ball games this year, but it just didn't work out and its kind of a credit to our league as a coaching staff and a team we have to be prepared to play each and every night playing in the "OCC."  Our kids have to understand that we have to put together four solid quarters," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "At times we were able to do that, but most nights it was three quarters and we lose it at the end.  We have to do a better job of putting together 32 minutes of basketball and it starts on the defensive end of the floor.  I think we are playing some better basketball as of late we just have to be more consistent through four quarters of basketball."

          They lost a regular season game to Marion Harding (69-61) and Mergel says they just have to play better defense.  "We gave up 69 points to them when we played them the first time and that's the most points they have scored all year.  That was a little bit disheartening for us.  People like to use the excuse that we were down two starters, but it comes down to the will and drive to play defense no matter who you put out there.  Marion likes to put their head down and go at people.  We have to do a better job of defending the basketball.  We put them on the free throw line 33 times and they made 26.  When you look at the final score that is a huge gap they made up, so we have to do a better job of playing defense and not fouling," said Mergel.

          Officials may allow for more physical play in the tournament, but Mergel says they have to play smarter if they are going to win this time.  "Tournament play sometimes is a little more physical, but the bottom line is we have to be better fundamentally when it comes to defensive side of the ball.  You have to understand when you pick up that quick first one that you have to be a little smarter and not get the second.  We have definitely had situations when we have picked up a quick two and we have to do a better job of being smarter in situations.  It's about bearing down and moving your feel and being disciplined," he said.

 

Published 2/26/14

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Madison Finding Some Things

 

          Sometimes it has seemed like Madison has been taking baby steps when it comes to improvement this season, but they took a big leap forward last weekend.

          On Friday night they beat a solid Orrville team (54-47) on Friday night in Ohio Cardinal Conference play and then lost a tough one to Willard (41-36) in non-league play. 

          Coach Tim Mergel says they have continued to work and believe in the process even when the wins weren't coming.  "I think all around it was one of our better, if not the best performance.  We seem to be playing our best basketball hear at the right time even though we came up a little on the short end Saturday.  Our kids could have went one way or the other and they chose the positive way because it has been a rough year.  We have lost some close games that we shouldn't have.  It would be easy for the kids to kind of shut down, but they haven't they have responded in a positive way.  They are still working hard," said Mergel.

          Shot selection has been getting better for the Rams and they are also playing better team defense too and that is giving them at chance to win.  "I just think it is guys buying into when we are trying to do.  Guys passing up the okay shots for great shots.  For us, it really wasn't from an offensive standpoint it was more from a defensive standpoint in what we are trying to accomplish defensively as a team and not as individuals, but as a team.  It has been tough all year when you have some freshmen and sophomores on the floor that aren't quite up to par.  They have to get up to speed it just took a little extra time for them.  They stayed confident and they stayed strong and we are playing better basketball as the result of that," he said.

          Madison (5-15,2-10) plays a Thursday night Ohio Cardinal Conference game at Lexington (12-8,6-6), a team they beat (46-40) at their place earlier in the season.  Mergel says the Minutemen have been maturing too.  "As far back as I can remember Lex has always has some size to them and it is no different this year.  You look at their improved play over the last couple of weeks and I kind of pinpoint it to improved guard play with Joey Zahn and Barkett handling the ball really well and Yassey, the sophomore, has just been playing tremendous for them.  I don't think it's any secret when their sophomores have played better that they are a better basketball team.  It kind of takes younger kids a while to grasp varsity basketball concepts and speed of the game.  They are clicking at the right time as well," said Mergel.

          Ashland (9-11,4-8) plays at Madison on Friday night.  They beat Orrville (65-52) on Tuesday night.  They beat Madison (69-49) the first time they played.  Mergel says they have a lot of firepower.  "They have guys that played a lot of varsity basketball last year.  When the on button is on for them they are a very, very hard basketball team to stop.  Anytime they get out in transition they are a difficult team to stop," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "They have two shooters that can light it up in Vipperman and White and Trey (Smith) can handle it outside, he is about as quick a guard as you are going to see in the "OCC."  They have had some ups and downs this year, but once they find that groove they are a tough team to guard.  If they get going at the right time they are going to be a tough tournament draw for anyone."

 

 

Published 2/19/14

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Madison Readies For Marion Harding

 

          Madison plays the team they are going to open the tournament with in two weeks in Marion Harding on the road on Tuesday night.

          In a good performance, but still a loss, on Friday night the Rams played pretty will in suffering a set back against Ohio Cardinal Conference co-leader West Holmes (65-58) in league action.

          Coach Tim Mergel says for the second time this year they got off to a good start against West Holmes, but they weren't able to sustain it.  "We were able to pretty much dictate the tempo in the first half and had some guys step up and hit some big shots.  In the third quarter we came out a little flat and I think we had eight turnovers in the quarter.  Brady Arnold kind of did his thing.  I thought Cody Harris did a nice job on him, but he stepped up and made some plays.  They got the job done in terms of execution and we missed some free throws.  The effort was nice, we just have to find a way to finish games off," he said.

          Marion Harding (2-16) has been a school that has enough talent to stay in games, but just not enough to win them.  Mergel says they have had a lot of tough luck this year.  "They have a couple of kids that can really throw it up.  They are tough team to a gauge because they don't play in a conference and they play everywhere around and they play all kids of different teams.  When you look at them against the bigger schools like Dublin Scioto, they played Jonathan Alder, who has a very good record, they played them to the wire.  Then you throw in the Africentics and the Galions and the smaller schools.  They are in a lot of games," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "They have been in eight or nine one, two possession games.  We know better than to take anyone lightly with what our record is.  We know how good we can be and I think they are in the same boat, they just missed out on a couple of games."

          Madison (4-13,1-10) plays host to Orrville (11-7,6-5) on Friday night in "OCC" play.  The Red Riders were a (62-49) winner in the first meeting with the Rams and Mergel says they play with great effort and discipline and that's why they are good.  "Sly does a great job over there at Orrville.  Their kids do such a good job of buying into the system and they play extremely hard.  They got the move in over there from Rittman and he has done nothing but help steady their ball handling situation.  They have had a great year and they are a tough guard because they play the game so hard.  You have to be disciplined as a basketball team to have success against them.  It has to be four quarters against them, and of course, we know that," he said.

          Of course, Orrville beat Mansfield Senior (55-54) last week.

 

Published 2/11/14

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Madison must be Sound on Defense

 

          Madison plays such a tough schedule that they have to be at the very top of their game, considering their current talent level and experience, if they are going to win games.

          And that will be the case again this week as they travel to West Holmes on Friday night for an Ohio Cardinal Conference clash.

          Last week, they lost to Wooster (58-43) on Friday night in "OCC" play and coach Tim Mergel says they just couldn't keep the bigger and stronger Generals off the boards.  "You look at Friday night versus Wooster and we didn't shoot the ball particularly well.  It was a four point game somewhere in the fourth.  We just physically got beat up.  What we were able to do last time against Wooster was keep them off the glass and this time their bigs, Daugherty and O'Brien, really exposed our weaknesses on the glass.  They kind of had a field days cleaning up missed shots for them.  Defensively I thought we were good, but we just didn't finish out possessions," said Mergel.

          On Saturday, unbeaten Ontario downed Madison (67-44) and Mergel says the Warriors are a team that makes the extra pass and then cashes in on their opportunities.  "Ontario is a well coached basketball team.  I just think they play very unselfish.  Good teams play the game unselfish and teams that aspire to be good have to get that point and that is kind of where we are," he said.

          West Holmes (13-4,9-2) comes to Madison (4-12,1-9) on Friday.  In their first meeting Madison lead (15-4) after the first quarter only to fall (59-50) and Mergel says with Brady Arnold, the likely "OCC" player of the year and improving supporting cast the Knights your between a rock and a hard place.  "When you look at those guys the first thing obviously is Brady Arnold, but that is a cast that he plays with that really knows their roles and Brady kind of carried them a little bit.  Those guys have gotten comfortable with they roles and hit open shots against teams that pay too much attention to Arnold," he told Swankonsports.com, "They are getting in rhythm at the right time coming up on tournament basketball.  Their coach has done a great job over there stepping in his first year.  Not to sound bad on West Holmes, but I think they have over achieved and that is a credit to their coaching staff and they way their kids have stepped up and preformed for them."

          If they are going to have a chance to pull the upset, Mergel says they have to be very disciplined on defense or they are going to give up a lot of layups.  "They do a good job with their open offense.  They set a lot of back screens.  As good as they have been one thing that maybe they are deficient on is their aggressiveness to the basket.  They just don't have that post presence, but those kids play extremely hard.  They are very well coached and they play within the system very well.  They are just a tough match-up because they play the game so hard.  They set of their cuts well and when they cut they cut with a purpose and that is hard to get kids to understand sometimes on a backdoor that cut makes the defense soften up a little bit an that is where they exploit you.  Friday night we are going to have to be disciplined on the defensive end in order to get the job done," said Mergel.

 

Published 2/06/14

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Madison gets two Very Good Teams

 

          Okay its been a bad week weather wise and your kids haven't been in school and in much of a routine and then you play a very talented Wooster team on Friday night and then, oh yeah, you get to play the unbeaten Ontario Warriors on Saturday.

          That is the assignment for the Madison Rams this weekend.

          There wasn't any school at Madison until Thursday, but coach Tim Mergel says his kids have had a pretty good week of practice in getting ready for this weekend.  "You get pretty prepared for it during Thanksgiving break and Christmas break.  That's one thing you can't control is the weather.  The thing with our kids with Christmas break you are kind of out of rhythm for a couple of weeks, but then you expect to be done with it, then here comes Mother Nature.  It's difficult because kids don't have much of a choice, but to sit around because when the roads are bad they are not going to be out driving, or at least you hope they're not.  When you do get a chance to practice and they come in you ask kids that have been laying around all day to come into the gym and work hard," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday evening, "It takes a little bit to get them motivated.  Our kids for the most part this week have been pretty good.  We have had some talks about getting a little bit tougher.  I don't think there is a better way to get tough than sitting on you butt all day and then the coach is getting on you to work hard.  It has been a pretty good week for us."

          Madison (4-10,1-8) hits the road for Wooster (6-9,5-5) in Ohio Cardinal Conference action of Friday night.  Wooster beat Madison (45-43) on a tip in at the horn back on December 27.  Mergel is rightly concerned with the Generals height.  "It starts with their bigs.  You talk about Daugherty and O'Brien inside, they are 6'7" and 6'6".  You have to have the ability when you play them to get the best amount of ball pressure you can without getting beat and try to limit their inside touches.  The first time we played them we jumped out to a big lead.  I don't know if we excreted ourselves too much, but the ball pressure just wasn't there in the second half and they were able to get the ball down low to O'Brien.  We missed a couple of check out situations and they were able to get some offensive rebounds," said Mergel.

          Wooster's record may not be very good, but Mergel says don't be confused they are a very talented team, just check what they have done against the area's best.  "They play very, very well at times in taking Ontario down to the buzzer and they have Norwalk beat and Norwalk sneaks one out on them.  It's a team Friday night that we are seeing that if we don't care of business it is going to be a long night," he said.

          Ontario (15-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coach's poll in the large school division, will be at Madison on Saturday.  Mergel says they have to make the Warriors earn everything they get.  "They have a little bit of everything and Joe (Balogh) does a great job with them.  He made a great comment in the paper in that this is the team that he is most comfortable with and he lets them play and those kids do such a great job of moving the basketball and finding the right guy with the extra pass.  They have a great post/perimeter guy in Cameron Mack.  They have a strong guard in Boatwright, you have a quick guard in Shelby and you have a kid that can shoot it outside in Wagoner.  They are skilled at every position.  We have to make life as difficult as possible for them in the half court and limit their transition because when they get out and go they can put up points in a hurry," said Mergel.

 

Published 1/31/14

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Playing Hard is the Key for Madison

 

          Madison used tremendous intensity against their arch rival last Saturday and it almost got them an upset win over the Ohio Cardinal Conference leaders.

          The Rams (4-9,1-7) played one of their better games of the season, but lost to Mansfield Senior (61-48) in their new gym.  Coach Tim Mergel really liked the effort, but he says they had a real chance to win and should have taken advantage of it.  "You could definitely see improvement in our ball club.  For whatever reason we played with much greater effort on Saturday than we did on Friday and it showed.  It was a fun basketball game with a great atmosphere. Anytime when Madison and Mansfield get together that is what you hope for.  I was satisfied with the effort, but not satisfied with the result we had some missed opportunities," said Mergel.

          There is still a lot of youth on this year's team and Mergel says that is why it is so difficult to predict what you are going to get from the Rams.  "That is what's tough with this team you know.  I have talked with some coaches that I have worked with in the past, some veteran guys, and they talk about not knowing what you are going to get every night and that's what has been difficult for us," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "On certain nights we put together great efforts and then on other nights we kind of sleep walk.  I have to do a better job of motivating my guys and getting them to bring that effort every night.  If we bring it like we did on Saturday night there is no reason we can't win more ball games."

          On Friday night, Madison hosts Clear Fork (3-7,1-5) in "OCC" action.  The Rams were the victims of Clear Fork's only conference win (70-57) in December.  Ridge Winand scored 32 points in that game and Mergel knows they have to control him better this time.  "That is where they got us in trouble the last time we played them.  Guys like Ridge Winand got out in transition and he is a very, very athletic guard.  Chrastina is good handling the basketball.  We have to limit their touches.  We have to limit them in transition," he said.

          Madison's only win in conference play came at home a couple of weeks ago against Lexington (46-41) in the first game in Madison's new gym.  Mergel knows winning on the road is going to be much more difficult.  "They are a lot like us.  We play a lot better at home than we do on the road.  We have to be able to match their intensity.  They aren't going to be real happy losing to us for our first conference win in quite some time.  they are going to go out there with something to prove and we have to be able to match their intensity.  Scott Hamilton does a great job over there of getting the most out his talent.  There is no question in my mind that his kids are going to be ready," said Mergel.

 

Published 1/21/14

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Madison Gets Win in New Building

 

          Maybe it was a change in scenery that led the Madison Rams to their first Ohio Cardinal Conference victory, but it was more likely better, and more consistent, play on both ends of the court.

          On Saturday night, the Rams (4-7,1-5) beat Lexington (46-41) in the first boys’ game to be played in a new gym, that is part of a school construction project in the Madison district.  Coach Tim Mergel says that it might have been a factor, but probably not.  “That seems to be the case and it was certainly great to open up that new gym with a win and against Lexington, someone that is just across town, made a little more special.  It was just good to get a conference win, that’s what we told our kids.  It was a memorable win at that.  We were able to get off the shied in the conference a little bit, which was nice,” he said.

          Although they didn’t shoot well early in the game, Mergel says the defense was more consistent than it had been this season.  “We talked after the game on Friday night, it was just our overall effort.  We played a half a basketball game on Friday night.  We struggled offensively against Lexington the first half, but our defense was much, much better, then we kind of got rolling the second half.  I thought our ball pressure was the difference.  We were able to get some turnovers and some easy buckets.  Vantillberg hit a couple of big threes.  It just all started with our defensive effort to put pressure on the ball, which limited their inside touches,” said Mergel.

          Madison lost at Orrville (62-49) on Friday night.

          This Friday, the Rams hit the road to play Ashland (2-7,1-4) at Arrow Arena.  Ashland seems to have more talent than their record would indicate and Mergel believes sooner or later they are going to find their stride.  “I think they are really, really good.  They lose an all-conference player in Delaney last year and I knew that would affect them, but they have talent over there and right now they are just kind of in a funk.  We definitely don’t want to see them come out of it against us.  At any given time they are going to start playing good basketball we just hope it isn’t Friday night,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We will do everything we can to keep them down.  They are a very talented group.  You have the White kid that can shoot it and handle the basketball.  Trey (Smith) can handle the ball and Vipperman can shoot it.  The Dickinson kid inside is a smart basketball player.  They are going to play much better basketball, it’s only a matter of time.”

          On Saturday night, the Rams get a rematch with arch rival Mansfield Senior (8-1,6-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the large school division, the “OCC” co-leader, this time at their place.  In December at Pete Henry Gym it was (86-45) Tygers.  Mergel says there are a number of things they have to do better, but one of them is handle the ball.  “You have to pick what you want to take away from them.  With Benson inside, he is a handful.  You have to be able to handle their pressure.  If you can control the tempo in the half court against them you are going to be more successful.  Whatever turnovers you have, if they are dead ball turnovers, that is what you want because you can at least get your defense set up.  Lexington doubled down in the post and they dared them to shoot outside and Senior High didn’t hit that night.  The first time we played Senior High I think they went 11 for 18 from the three point line and when they do that is gets a lot tougher for you,” said Mergel.

 

Published 1/14/14

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Making Adjustments a Key to Madison’s Improvement

 

          Madison opens a new gym on Saturday night when they host Lexington as part of a double weekend in Ohio Cardinal Conference action for the Rams.

          They led “OCC” leader West Holmes (15-4) after the first quarter last Friday, but they couldn’t hold the lead, and lost to the Knights (59-50) in a league game. 

          Coach Tim Mergel says they couldn’t make adjustments to what the Knights were doing.  “We come out and pretty much are able to do whatever we want to do.  West Holmes made some adjustments and we didn’t counter adjust very well. We went through about a six minute drought in the second quarter where we just couldn’t put the ball in the basket.  Our Achilles’ heel all year has been our overall shot selection and knowing the difference between a good shot and a bad shot.  You have to give West Holmes credit they didn’t show any panic.  They didn’t have any panic on their faces.  They have a couple of seniors over there that kind of took it on their shoulders and finished it out,” said Mergel.

          When things start going the wrong way for the Rams, Mergel says players think they have to make a big shot to curve that momentum and what they really need to a great look.  “Our guys have confidence and it’s not a bad thing to be confident, but whenever a West Holmes or a Wooster makes a run at us we have guys that think they have to hit that big shot to stop the run and that is not always the case.  You have to get great shots and not settle for good shots.  It is a maturing thing and you look at teams that are senior dominated and how they go about their game is a little different than what we do.  It starts with me at the top and we have to do a better job of preparing our kids and putting our kids in better situations in practice,’ said Mergel.

          Madison (3-6,0-4) travels to Orrville (6-4,3-2) on Friday night for a meeting with the Red Riders.  Mergel says Orrville plays as hard as anyone in the league.  “When I saw them last year they had a couple of young kids that really stood out to me and they are very well coached and very well disciplined.  When you work hard it covers up a lot of deficiencies and I think that is what Orrville does,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They have seniors that understand how to play the game.  Some of their deficiencies are covered up by how well and how smart they play.  We know what we are getting ourselves into.  They have a senior over there in the Summers kid that can go at you in any direction.  Kind of like the West Holmes situation we know that Orrville is going to make some defensive adjustments and we have to adjust to that.”

          Lexington (6-4,2-2) will be at Madison on Saturday night.  Mergel says they are a team that really understands what they have to do to win.  “Scott does a great job over there at Lex.  They have a bunch of seniors over there that have played the game extremely hard and they play it well and they mix in a couple of sophomores who are very talented basketball players.  I think they are starting to understand their roles.  When a team can buy into what each individual’s role is that is a team that is very dangerous.  You can tell by Lexington beating Senior High and taking Ontario to overtime and getting a couple of wins last weekend that they starting to hit their spurt,” said Mergel.

          When the Minutemen come to Madison Saturday night they will be the first to play at the new gym associated with a school construction project.  Mergel says it is something Madison is proud of.  “It is a fantastic gymnasium.  I will put it right up there with any gym in the area.  It’s going to fun and I know the kids are excited.  It’s definitely something to look forward to and something this community can be proud of,” he said.

 

Published 1/08/14

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Madison Gets Ready to Play on Monday

 

          Madison is maturing and they are getting closer, but the Rams are still looking for the secret to closing out wins.

          They led for most of the way last Friday before giving up a stick back in the final ten seconds to lose to Wooster (45-43) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

          Coach Tim Mergel says they have already talked about what they need to do in certain situations based on what happened against Wooster.  “We keep saying everything is a learning situation.  We are going to learn from it.  We spent a lot of time Saturday watching film and just dissecting that fourth quarter.  We talked about things we could have done better and situations we could have avoided putting ourselves in.  It was a good learning experience and as players and coaches we just have to be that we are going to come out on the positive end of things in the near future,” said Mergel.

          Monday games are few and far between during most seasons, but there are more this year than some because Christmas and New Year’s Day fall in the middle of the week.  Mergel looks at this Monday game at Olentangy Orange as kind of a good thing.  “Being on Christmas break the kids are kind of off schedule anyway so I don’t think the Monday game is such a big deal anyway.  I think if we were in school it would be a much bigger task to get the kids prepared,” he told Swankonsports.com on Sunday, “Like I say Olentangy is in the same boat, they are playing on the same day.  Preparation wise it gives us an extra day, two days, instead of going Friday-Saturday we are going Friday-Monday, so we have an extra two days to prepare.”

          Mergel says Orange features a lot of young players, just like the Rams.  “Last year when we played them they had eight seniors on their team.  They were senior dominated and liked to get the ball out and ran an open offense.  They had a really skilled player on their team that put up 20 on us.  This year they have guys that are searching and identifying their roles.  They are big at 6’7” and 6’6” they are just all sophomores, so they are young team and right now they are struggling for experience.  They are making some of those youth mistakes that we tend make ourselves,” said Mergel.

          From a physical standpoint Orange is a lot like Wooster, so Mergel says that made their preparation a little easier.  ‘It was kind of good that Wooster and Olentangy are back to back because they are very similar in what they do.  They like to run a lot of screens for their bigs and a lot of block to block down low for their bigs.  It wasn’t difficult to prepare for Olentangy knowing we had Wooster the previous Friday, so it made it easier for us,” he said.

 

Published 12/30/13

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Madison Facing Athletic Wooster

 

          When you are a division one school you often play a tough schedule and that is the case this year with the Madison Rams. 

          They have already played Ohio Cardinal Conference co-leader Mansfield Senior, Northern Ohio league favorite Norwalk and talented Clear Fork.  This week they have a Wooster team that at least in terms of athleticism, matches those teams.

          Last week, Norwalk (5-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the large school division, routed the Rams (81-54) in a non-conference game.

          Coach Tim Mergel says they got behind early and could never get over the hump.  “In the first half Norwalk came out strong and we had a couple of turnovers.  We battled back and I think there was one spot close to the half where if we had a good possession we cut it to 10 and we felt pretty good, but we had a turnover and they went on a 6-0 run and it was 15 at the half.  The second half we came out a little flat and you could see the difference between a really good basketball team and a team that aspires to be one.  They were very unselfish and they found the open man and they shot the ball well all night,” said Mergel.

          Christmas is Wednesday and that mean no practice right in the middle of the week.  Mergel says the way the holidays fall makes it a little difficult, but you have to work around it.  “I think it’s a little bit difficult, but every team in the state is in the same boat as we are and as coaches it is our job to get our guys prepared no matter what happens.  When you have coached as long as I have you are always put in spots and circumstances come up that you don’t often foresee, but we know Christmas is right in the middle of the week.  It is our job to get these guys prepared, but Christmas time is a time to be with family and enjoy the holidays and we don’t forget that with our players,” said Mergel.

          Madison (2-4,0-2) plays at home against Wooster (2-5,1-2) in “OCC” play on Friday night.  Looking at the Generals record you might think mediocre, but Mergel says there is no way that is true.  “There is no question and we look at our own schedule and we can hang our hat and say we have played a top 10 team in division one and a top ten team in division two.  Wooster is right there they have played Mansfield Senior, Norwalk and they also played a very, very good and athletic Ontario team.  They have battled in all of them expect for the Senior High game.  They are going to bring a little bit of everything,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday. “They have a point guard that is athletic as all get out, they have a kid on the outside that can shoot it, the have two big men inside that present a handful of problems.  You have to pick what you are going to take away from them.  They have had some bad breaks and their record is no indication of the kind of basketball team they are.”

          Wooster has the big kids in Daugherty and O’Brien, but Mergel says they have perimeter kids that can hurt you too.  “That is what is tough.  You can go zone and try to limit their inside touches, but they have guys that can get into the paint.  The Blair kid can dribble penetrate, but the same time can shoot the ball well.  So, it’s going to be a tremendous task for us.  It has kind of prepared us by going against Senior High and going against Norwalk, but we really haven’t seen tow bigs that try to set down in the paint and beat you up, so it’s going to be a challenge for us.  Our guys are not buying into the fact that that 2-5 record means anything because they know, and we played Wooster last year, and it’s going to be a challenge for us,” said Mergel.

 

Published 12/24/13

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Decision Making Must be Better for Madison

 

          Madison is still a work in progress and they have the talent to make a lot of shots, but they must learn what is a good shot.

          Last week, they went to Clear Fork and lost to the Colts (70-57) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game.  Ridge Winand scored a career high 32 points for Clear Fork.  Madison coach Tim Mergel says they let Clear Fork get too many easy shots.  “At times we looked pretty good.  We took some bad shots, which led to Clear Fork getting out in transition and that definitely hurt us.  We just shot the ball at some inopportune times.  We just have to understand the difference between a good shot and a bad shot.  We were able to make a run in the fourth and cut it to six, bur had to foul in the end and that was the outcome.  We played good in spurts, we just have to be more consistent,” said Mergel.

          Madison features a freshman point guard and some other kids with limited varsity experience and Mergel says they are still learning what shots they should be taking.  “It’s tough because what goes on in their minds and what goes on in the coach’s mind can be different.  I have to do a better job of communicating that to our kids,” he said, “We are pretty good at kick outs for three pointers, but we are not very good at stepping up into them,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “It’s just little differences like that and getting the kids to understand.  We should be looking to shoot the basketball if we are set and in position ready to shoot.  When we have to rush, even if it is for just fraction, we shoot a lower percentage.”

          On Tuesday night, Madison (1-3) plays host to Loudonville (0-2) in a non-conference game.  The Redbirds are coached by former Lexington, Lucas and West Holmes coach Kelly Seboe, known for his patient style.  Mergels says not this year.  “They have some athleticism and they are bringing a different style of ball.  They are getting up and down the floor and they are pressing you up and down the floor.  They are going to shoot it a ton and they are going to hit the offensive glass.  They are going to trap you at different times defensively.  It is a little different Loudonville that we are used to seeing.  They are a little different team that I am used to coach Seboe having, but he is committed to this and his kids have bought into it and they get after it open down the floor,” said Mergel.

          Norwalk (2-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the large school division, comes calling on Friday night for another non-conference game.  Mergel says he will have no problem getting the players excited to play the Truckers.  “I think it is two plus years that they haven’t lost a regular season game and they have a couple of staples on their team in (Ben) Haraway and (Jeff) Thomas and the Hull kid can shoot it.  They are definitely not accustomed to losing.  It is going to be a battle for us.  To motivate our kids I don’t think we will have to do anything for that game on Friday.  Hopefully we are going to take care of business on Tuesday and then get a chance to take on a quality team in Norwalk on Friday,” said Mergel.

 

Published 12/17/13

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Madison Feeling Better

 

          Madison earned its first win of the season last Saturday when they knocked off Galion in overtime and now if they can start playing better defense they have a chance to be pretty good.

          After falling behind early against the Tigers, Madison railed to beat Galion (63-61) in overtime.  Coach Tim Mergel says it was not only he win, but they way it happened has improved their outlook.  “I don’t think there is any question that a win helps, but the way we won was what I thought was the most important.  Galion came out on fire and they got out to a big lead and our kids didn’t put their heads down and they know we have the firepower to get back in game and down the stretch we got back in and found a way to win,” he said.

          When comparing this year’s Rams to last year Mergel says this is a team that has a lot more potential on offense, but needs to get with it on defense.  “That is the difference from last year.  Last year we had a tough, hard nosed group of kids that really grinded it out defensively.  We were just ineffective scoring the basketball.  This year we have guys that can fill it up, but we have got to get better on the defensive end.  We are going to put up more points and hopefully we can outscore them to say the least, but we have to get better on the defensive end,” said Mergel.

          A big bonus this year for the Rams on offense is the ability of freshmen point guard Tyrell Ajian to break down a defense, according to Mergel.  “Everybody knows about Bryce Luckie, he has been around, he is a three year letterman, but Tyrell Ajian, the freshman point guard, he has given us the ability to create some separation and get some penetration and that opens up some guys like Cory Vantilberg and Billy Buckley and even Bryce.  He has been an added luxury for us.  Those shooters can definitely feed off of him,” he said.

          Madison (1-2,0-1) will be at Clear Fork (1-1,0-0) to face the Colts in Ohio Cardinal Conference play on Friday night.  Mergel says the Colts have two really good players that can score and score a lot.  “I was able to see them twice.  I’ll tell you they have two basketball players that are just outstanding in what they do in Kadin Chrastina and Ridge Winand.  I watched them against Shelby in a scrimmage and then against Crestview.  Their ability to get to the basket is uncanny.  They can really get the ball to the basket.  They are a pretty unselfish basketball team.  They know their roles,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They are a typical Clear Fork team in that they are going to come out and they are just solid all of the way around.”

          Winand is headed to Ohio State to play baseball in the spring of 2015 and in Mergel’s opinion that has made him more relaxed.  “He definitely looks more physical.  I think one of the big things for Ridge, and I’m not speaking for him, I just think with him going to Ohio State for baseball at the next level, I think that has taken some pressure off of him for basketball and I think he is going out there and playing more free.  He looks more relaxed.  He looks for more comfortable.  If the game against Crestview is any indication he is definitely playing like he is more relaxed,” said Mergel.

          Winand had 32 points in a win over Crestview (80-46), but he was held to just eight on Tuesday night when the Colts lost to Mt. Vernon (67-45) in their first loss of the season.

 

Published 12/11/13

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Madison has to Fight Back

 

          Sometimes, no many times, a game against Mansfield Senior can be like a prize fight and instead of punches there are baskets scored and if you are the opponent you have to score too.

          That is the assignment of the Madison Rams on Friday night as they travel across town to meet Mansfield Senior at Pete Henry Gym for an Ohio Cardinal Conference game.

          Last week, Madison led for almost the entire game before losing to Shelby (62-61) in their opener.  Coach Tim Megrel says they have to learn from the result.  “We didn’t do anything to help ourselves in the fourth quarter that’s for sure.  Just by watching the film and getting the guys to understand the mistakes we made are fixable we are going to learn from it.  It just hurt being in control the whole game and not being able to execute in the fourth.  It’s definitely better to come away with a win.  I think it’s a game that will help us in the future,” said Mergel.

          At the beginning of last season, Madison was very young and they still are when compared to many other teams in the league, but Mergel says they are gaining valuable experience.  “As painful as it may be sometimes we are getting valuable experience.  We have guys that we were getting partial minutes last year and they are going to be logging those long minutes.  Guys are going to get a little more comfortable.  You saw it a little bit last Friday night, but the eyes were a little wide open for some of our guys, some had the jitters.  Every minute they have on the floor is going to help,” he said.

          It will be Mansfield Senior’s opener on Friday night.  However, Mergel says it’s not hard to figure out what they Tygers strategy will be.  “It’s the easiest team to scout and the hardest to beat.  The just bring so much to the table and this year with their size it is going to be a challenge for us.  They are going to the typical Mansfield Senior they are going to bring the ball pressure at you,’ he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They are going to shoot it up there and they are going to rebound the basketball, that’s for sure.  We have to get five guys committed to defensive rebounding and limiting them to one and done.  We have to do a better job of not standing around on offense and get the basketball moving and be able to break them down when they pressure the ball is going to be a key to victory for us too.”

          Mansfield Senior tends to score points in bunches and Mergel says you just have to be able to fight back.  “As long as I have been part of the Madison-Mansfield Senior tradition there is always the runs.  That is one thing that we preached to our kids is there is going to be a run and we have to be able to answer it.  You can’t have those possessions where two turnovers turn into four in a row or five in a row.  You have to be able to stop the bleeding.  You have to be able to hold your composure a little bit, but there are going to be runs and the sign of a good basketball team is the ability to answer the run,” said Mergel.

 

Published 12/6/13

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Madison Ready for a Test

 

          Madison did not have a very good year last season.  The Rams were 2-21 and scored only 19 points in a tournament loss to Ashland, but this year brings an injection of enthusiasm to the program.

          Second year coach Tim Mergel says has a seen a lot of good things in the preseason, but you really don’t know anything until they start playing for real.  “We have definitely taken steps forward as far as practice wise and attitude wise and enthusiasm and even in our scrimmages.  Form scrimmage one to our last scrimmage on Saturday we have definitely taken steps in the right direction.  We still have a younger team, but a lot can change when you flip those lights on on Friday night,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “So, I’m excited to get started and I know the kids are itching to get started playing these games that mean something.  We will see.  We have taken positive steps, but then again when the ball gets thrown up and everything matters it is going to fun to see who steps up.”

          Even if you have won some quarters in scrimmages and looked like you know what you are doing, Mergel says it could all fall apart if you aren’t careful.  “The score means something it doesn’t reset after each quarter.  Then you get in some tough situations when the score gets a little tighter and there is some pressure and it is our job as coaches to get these kids prepared for Friday and Saturday night and the grind of basketball season.  I feel pretty comfortable with our group.  We have a great group of kids.  Even though we are young I think we have a very high basketball I.Q. and we are just now learning to play the game hard and at the level we have to play in order to compete,” he said.

          Madison plays at Shelby in a non-conference game on Friday night.  It will be the first varsity boys’ game in Shelby’s new gym.

          Mergel says they haven’t had much success against Shelby in recent years and they need to play well if they are going to win on Friday against the Whippets.  “The season opening jitters is obviously a concern.  Going against Shelby we don’t have a very good history with them in the past several years opening up with them.  I know that’s on our kid’s minds because they have been hearing about it throughout.  Just getting through the opening night hoopla with Shelby going into a new building.  Coach Schwemley does a tremendous job of preparing his kids each and every year, so the challenge is definitely going to be there for us.  It would be nice to get that first win, but it won’t be easy,” said Schwemley.

          Shelby will likely start five players that have never started a varsity game before on Friday night.  Mergel says that will make it difficult to prepare for them.  “That is what is difficult for us over here as coaches is not knowing a whole lot about them.  I was able to go over and watch them play a foundation game against Clear Fork.  They have some kids that definitely opened my eyes.  Coach Schwemley does a great job of preparing his kids and they always know what is going on.  They are always in the right spots and they seem to make the right plays the majority of the time and they always play hard.  Even though they don’t have a whole lot of experience coming back he has been there long enough that his kids know his system and they run it well,” said Schwemley.

 

Published 11/26/13

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Hard Work Paying Off for Madison

 

          Last year was a struggle for the Madison Rams on the basketball court and that may be putting it mildly.  That’s kind of like saying getting on beaches on D-Day was a little bit of a struggle.

          The fact of matter was not due to a lack of trying, but the Rams couldn’t shoot straight, sometimes it looked like they were trying to make it through one of those obscenely small rims you see at fairs or festivals and they didn’t even get a stuffed toy as a prize.

          Second year coach Tim Mergel says during the off season they worked together a lot as a team to make themselves better players.  “It wasn’t where we wanted to be, but on the flip side of that we were able to get some really young guys some good experience.  We also played in a lot of tight games, which is going to help.  We had a lot of core guys that played a lot of spring basketball and that kind of carried over during the summer.  I think we had a pretty good summer with our group.  That core group has stuck together.  We got a little bit stronger.  Having a year under your belt of varsity experience as young as we were is definitely going to benefit us,” said Mergel.

          Basketball is a sport that requires a lot of fine motor skills and Mergel says just playing a lot can make a difference when it comes to enjoying some success.  “When you look at a couple of the past teams we had here when I was under Doug (Rickert).  We are talking about Mottayaw’s group and the Josh Gullett group.  Those guys just played basketball a ton, with Mottayaw’s group particularly,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “There were just six or seven of those guys that just played basketball every day.  Unquestionably you just saw it on the floor and how comfortable they were with one another.  Hopefully we get a little bit of that this year.”

          When you struggle putting the ball in the basket like the Rams did last year just having the ball in hands and shooting can help, but Mergel says you have to do it playing fast.  “We have started a shot club here at Madison for guys if they reach a certain level they get different types of awards.  We had a pretty good turn out for that, but not only just shooting, but putting yourself in those game situations.  You can go out and shoot 500 regular set shots, but when you get into the game it’s a whole other speed, so you have to practice at game speed,” said Mergel.

          Yes, improved offense for the Rams will be a key, but Mergel says they have been working a lot on defense too.  “That is an area of concern for us.  I have always been a big defense guy.  I might have switched the gears a little bit this year.  There is no doubt I have always put and emphasis on defense, but last year we struggled so much scoring the basketball I kind of turned my attention a little bit to offense, but I never forget the defensive end,” he said.

 

Published 11/12/13

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Madison Stadium Project Under Way

 

          Hitting the streets to come up with the funding has been going on for a year and now the site work has started for a $730,000 stadium renovation project in the Madison Schools.

          Before next school year a new surface of field turf for the football field will be installed and the running track renovated at what will now be called Ram Field at Star Tech Stadium.

          At a news conference held in the high school library on Thursday head football coach Sean Conway says it is a love affair between the community, the district leadership and the students at Madison.  “Bottom line, I love Madison… I love it.  I love our students.  I love my players.  When you love somebody you want what’s best for them and because what you have done you have given us those that,” said Conway.

          More than half of the cost, 55% to be exact, will be covered by the Madison Athletic Booster Club.  “It’s what we love to do.  It’s what we like to do.  That’s what we are committed to do just improving our school system, our athletic events, our athletic fields, and making sure our kids, your kids, have the best they can have,” said booster club president Joe Klupp. 

          A sizeable donation for the project came from Star Tech, a business process outsourcing company with a location in Mansfield.  “This isn’t just about the kids of today this is about the kids of the future.  On behalf of the donors I want to thank you guys for allowing us to part of this vision.   This will mean so much to the community for years to come,” said Star Tech Director of Site Operations Tom Luther.

          Like most districts in Ohio, Madison Schools, are trying to save every penny they can.  Superintendent Lee Kaple says this is something that could not have been accomplished with district funds.  “With school budgets the way that they are and the constraints we have financially this is something that wouldn’t be possible for these youngsters, for our boys and girls, unless you made it happen.  The assistance provided by businesses and people in the community has enabled us to accomplish far more than we would have.  As the superintendent I can’t tell you how proud I am to tell people I am the Superintendent of Madison Schools,” said Kaple.

No district funds will be used to the stadium project.  “I want to point out and make sure we understand this is all privately donated.  This is through our booster organization, Madison Athletic Boosters, and the private donors,” said Athletic Administrator Kirk Manns.

Many of the Madison student athletes were in attendance for the news conference, some in uniform.

Head track, and assistant football coach, Andrew Saris, emphasizes that he wants to make sure that everyone realizes where this project had its roots.  “Not just the current teachers, the current coaches, but the past teachers, the past coaches, the past athletes, the past students here, because I think they set the precedence,” he said.

Jason Stone chaired the stadium renovation committee that sought donations for the project.

A number of other companies and individuals have donated to the project including Milliron Industries, Richland Bank, Newman Technology, McDonalds of Mansfield, Blevins Fabrication, Sons of Herman, Baumberger Heating and Cooling, Lifetouch, Pro Auto Body, MT Business Technologies, Wallington & Bauer, Baker’s Collision, Caldwell Concrete.    

         

           

 

 
 

Madison Meets Padua in Volleyball Regionals

 

          Two of the top three division two volleyball teams in the statewide coach’s poll meet in the regional semi-finals on Thursday night at Ontario High School.

          Mansfield Madison faces Parma Padua Franciscan.

          Madison (24-2) rallied to beat Norwalk in a tremendous match in last Saturday’s district final 25-19, 24-26, 12-25, 26-24 and 15-10.  Madison coach Brian Votaw says no one game them a chance to beat Norwalk, except them.  “It was a great win for us.  I think not many people believed we could pull it off.  Some people thought we would lose in three, some people went out on a limb as said we might win a set.  I just told my girls it doesn’t matter what other people say if we don’t believe that.  If we believe we belong and can play well that’s all that maters.  The game still has to be played on the court.  Whatever they project is fine, but my girls just refused to believe that,” he said.

          Votaw, in his first year as the Lady Rams coach, says it was a very gusty performance by his players against Norwalk.  “I think the fact that we came in right away, right off the bat, and took for first set off of them and played pretty well in the very first set.  In the second set we had a 23-19 lead.  It showed a lot of character by our girls because we blew that lead.  It’s pretty tough to blow a lead like that, so instead of 2-0 it is 1-1.  Then in the next set we got blown out.  We just couldn’t get things together in that third set.  In the fourth set we are down two sets to one and 24-22, so we were on a big emotional rollercoaster from being two points away for a 2-0 lead to being one point away from losing the entire match,” said Votaw.

          Madison finished third in the final statewide poll and Padua (25-1) was number one.  Votaw says Padua never has a down year.  “They have a tremendous program with a very good history.  They have a good tradition and just seem to get players that keep coming there.  If you are a player in their area and you want to play volleyball that is the obvious school to go to.  That history and that tradition just keeps feeding the program,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “As far as what they have out on the court they have a dominating outside hitter, the have a great setter, a great libero.  They have three very talented people at three key positions.  Just like Norwalk you are not going to find any weaknesses there you just have to out play them, out scrap them.  Hopefully you get some breaks some balls land out when they are suppose to land in.”

          Madison has won a regional title six times, including three times since 2008.  Padua won back to back state tiles in 2008 and 2009, so both have a great history of success.

          Votaw’s coaching philosophy will be the same against Padua as it was against Norwalk.  “We know we have pretty talented middles, pretty talented outside, we have done a good job setting and I will put our defense up against anybody no matter where they are ranked and where we are ranked.  I think if we just play well defensively and keep putting the ball up that puts them on the defensive themselves.  If you keep digging and swinging, digging and swinging, digging and swinging eventually the chances just seem to fall in our favor, which we kind of like,” he said.

 

Published 10/31/13

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Madison Knows it will be Physical

 

          Madison knows they are the underdog in the “Battle of Mansfield,” but they are going into the game knowing what they have to do to be successful.

          Last week, was not one Madison’s best games.  After winning two of their last three games, the Rams were throttled by Ashland (42-0) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game.  Coach Sean Conway says things didn’t go well and feels that he didn’t have the players prepared for the game.  “We definitely struggled against Ashland.  Ashland is a very good football team, very well coached.  Coach Valentine and his staff put a great plan together.  We suffered some injuries that were tough for us to overcome.  As a head coach I have to do a better job of preparing our team.  I have a lot of respect for Ashland, they deserved to win, they were the much better team that night, and now it is our job to get ready for the Battle of Mansfield,” said Conway.

          Injuries are something every football team must deal with, but it seems Madison (3-6,2-4) has had more than its share,  Conway says they are going to go with what they have and understand no one is feeling sorry for them.  “It has been a very tough year when it comes to that, but no one is crying for us.  Believe me if I was playing Mansfield and they had a bunch of injuries I wouldn’t cry for them,” he told Swankonsports.com on Sunday, “We are going to go in with our kids, we are going to be confident in our kids, and we are going to prepare them to play their best football.  We are going to leave it all on the field and play one of the best football teams in North Central Ohio.  We are excited for the opportunity to do that.”

          Mansfield Senior (9-0,6-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com football coach’s poll in the large school division, has won each of its games by at least 10 points, except one.  Conway says they have great talent combined with quality coaching.  “They are very talented at every position.  They are big physical guys up front and they are as blessed in the skilled department as any team we have seen this year.  But, I also think they are well coached.  I think coach Bradley and his staff do a great job.  You have a lot of respect for what they do because they have good athletes, but they also put those athletes in position to be successful, so credit those coaches for the job they are doing over there,” he said.

          West Holmes three weeks ago gave Mansfield Senior its toughest battle before losing (23-17) and they did by running the ball, something Madison tries to do.  Conway says they have to be physical.  “We want to score points and however that comes about that’s what we want to do.  We obviously rely heavily on the run and we are going to try and establish the line of scrimmage on Friday, but I think Mansfield runs the ball very well.  They have one of the better backs we are going to see and they do a heck of a job establishing the line of scrimmage.  The one thing that you can always say about the battle of Mansfield is it is going to be physical.  Our goal is to be physical with Mansfield they same way I’m sure their goal is to be physical with us,” said Conway.

 

Published 10/28/13

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Madison Must Keep the Ball AND score

 

          A key in controlling an explosive offense is to keep the ball away from it.  The Madison Rams must do that when they visit Ashland to play the Arrows on Friday night and they must score when they have it.

          The Rams (3-5,2-3) played one of, if not their best game, last week when they downed the Orrville Red Riders (20-10) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game.

          They were able to run the ball against a tough Orrville defense, Juwan Howard had 108 yards and a score, and they forced six Orrville turnovers.  Coach Sean Conway was pretty pleased.  “I think it was probably our best performance of the year.  I really thought our kids played inspired football.  I thought our coaches put the kids in great position to be successful.  Anytime you can win a historic game in school history being the last home game on the grass at Ram Field, that is pretty special,” said Conway.

          Madison will be installing field turf before next season.

          Conway says it was kind of old fashion football last week.  “It was more low scoring than anything.  It was kind of two teams wanting to establish the line of scrimmage.  There was a lot of good defense.  I thought special teams came into play,” he said.

          Ashland (5-3,4-1) railed with 20 unanswered points last week to beat Clear Fork (36-35) in a conference game.  Conway says they are hard to stop when they get going.  “They do a great job of spreading the ball around and doing so many good things from their spread formation.  They are difficult to defend.  They have a great coaching staff and all the way around they are a great football team,” said Conway.

          Of course, the Rams are working on stop that spread.  Conway says they better be good tacklers.  “I think all we have to do is play fundamental football and try to do a good job of working on what we do and trying to do the right things in space.  I think that’s what they do.  They do a good job putting their kids in space, getting the ball, and letting them make plays.  We have to do a good job defending them in space,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday.

          Yes you want to keep the ball away from the Ashland offense, but Conway says it doesn’t do you any good if you don’t score when you have the ball in your possession.  “We are going to try and play ball control and they know that, but they know they score in bunches and quickly, so we are not going to just hold the ball we are going to have to produce when we have the ball,” he said.

 

Published 10/24/13

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Madison Faces Another Big Challenge

 

          Madison lost a tough one last week to Clear Fork and they return home to Ram Field on Friday night to face the Orrville Red Riders.

          Last week, Clear Fork’s Kadin Chrastina scored three times and the Colts beat Madison (24-22) in Ohio Cardinal Conference action.  Madison threw the ball better than they had all season completing nine passes for 155 yards.

          Madison coach Sean Conway says they did some good things, but Clear Fork made the big plays at the crucial times in the game.  “I credit coach Carroll and Clear Fork they are good football team and have done a great job.  They use the quarterback in ways that are very difficult to defend.  They did a very good job.  We didn’t get breaks, but that was because of the performance that Clear Fork put together, they didn’t allow us to get breaks,” he said.

          Again the Rams (2-5,1-3) ran the ball well against Clear Fork as Kalvin Gordon gained 181 yards and scored twice.  After a four game losing streak the Rams beat Lexington (47-34) two weeks ago and Conway feels they are showing improvement.  “I hope so.  I really think we are taking good strides.  We are in games and we are competitive.  The last couple that we have lost, the Wooster game and the Clear Fork game both, I felt we were competitive,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Our coaches put a good game plan out and our kids executed it.  We are really just being snake bit by some injuries and we have been snake bit by some turnovers.  When you combined those two it is not a good mix.”

          Madison has three turnovers against Clear Fork.

          Orrville (4-3,1-3) won its first four games of the season, but they have lost their last three to Mansfield Senior (45-0), West Holmes (28-23) and Ashland (30-10) last week.  Conway believes the Red Riders have some good players.  “I think they have some very good backs.  I have been very impressed with their performance in their games.  They are a smaller school, so they definitely have depth issues.  The kids they have out there will compete with anybody.  They are fun to watch.  I have to tell you it’s a huge challenge for us,” he said.

          Orrville has been paced this season by their running game and a pretty good defense.  Conway calls them physical.  “I have been real impressed by their defense and watched them and see how they compete and fly to the football and how physical they are.  No matter who they play I think it is going to be a tough task for that team,” he said.

 

Published 10/15/13

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Madison Wants to be Physical

 

          Madison is coming off its first Ohio Cardinal Conference win of the year and now they hope to get on a roll as they play at Cleat Fork on Friday night.

          The Rams (2-4,1-2) built a 34-7 lead and went on to outlast Lexington (47-34) last week as Kalvin Gordon ran for 198 yards and three touchdowns and Juwan Howard 112 yards and a score.  Coach Sean Conway thought it was good overall effort for the Rams.  “I thought our offensive line really did a nice job of establishing the line of scrimmage.  Our running backs are really doing a nice job, not only running the ball, but blocking for each other and kind of buying into the team concept.  I thought our wide receivers and quarterbacks also played well, blocking for each other and managing the game well.  So, a lot of positives, but a lot of things to work on as well,” said Conway.

          The win also broke a four game losing steak for the Rams, but Conway knows this week will be a difficult challenge.  “I think you feel better and you get re-energized a little bit after win, but it is short lived because we have Clear Fork coming up this week and with the respect we have for that football program and for coach Carroll and his staff you really can’t feel too good about yourself for too long.  Our focus has quickly shifted to Clear Fork.  Everything we are doing right now is solely focused on them,” he said.

          This year Clear Fork is throwing the ball more with quarterback Kadin Chrastina and wide receivers like Ridge Winand, but Conway thinks they really aren’t too far away from the old Clear Fork.  “When you think about Clear Fork you think of a down hill power running attack.  I think people sometimes look at them this year and see all of the athletes that they have with kind of a spread look and think they are not a down hill running team, but I think in reality they still are,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I think their strength is still running the ball right at you with their quarterback and their skilled players.  I really do think they may be doing it a little differently, but the mentality is still very much there.”

          Madison always wants to be physical and Conway believes that is what Clear Fork wants more than anything too.  “How well you play defensively in your schemes against your opponent’s offense is always and obvious key to the game.  I think the intangibles will be big.  I think special teams will play a big role.  I think the turnover battle will play a big role.  What I always talk about is how physical you are.  I think when people think about Madison and I think when people think about Clear Fork the word physical should come up and I think whoever wins that battle is probably the team that wins the game,” said Conway.

 

Published 10/9/13

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Consistency Still the Issue With Madison

 

          Madison beat Shelby on the first week of the season, but since they have lost four in a row, including their first two games in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.

          Wooster beat them last week (48-24) and coach Sean Conway says he continues to see some good things, but they are not nearly as consistent as they need to be.  “Well, I don’t know. I think we are seeing a lot of kids with a lot of potential who in sports are playing a lot of great football, but spots isn’t good enough.  We need to get better at all phases of the game.  In a way we are getting closer because some kids are really emerging as good football players, but we are still inconsistent.  It comes with experience, it comes with time, and it comes with repetition and we need more of that,” said Conway.

          Madison is a running team and running back Kalvon Gordon racked up 234 yards against Wooster, but it wasn’t enough.

          It may sound obvious, but Conway knows they need to get a win from a confidence standpoint.  “I think a win would go a long way in building the confidence and have these kids feel a little bit better about what they are doing.  You can preach if you do these things wins will takes care of themselves, but the kids still want to feel that way.  I think a win would go a long way in helping us become a better football team,” he said.

          Madison (1-4,0-2) hosts Lexington (1-4,0-2) in a rivalry game on Friday night at Ram Field.  Conway says the Minutemen are a lot like his team.  “I think they are a lot like us to be honest.  I think they have played really good teams.  I think they have had some injuries.  I think they have a couple of players that would play on any team, one of which is their quarterback and defensive back, Trent Richwine.  I really think he is a great player.  I think Temple at the line of scrimmage is a force.  I think they are solid all of the way around,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I just think in the “OCC” you could lose games where in any other conference you could win games.  It’s a rugged league.  They are playing good teams.  I believe Lexington is a very good, classy, well coached football team and it’s going to take our best effort to beat them.”

          Madison wants to run and Lexington perhaps less, but Conway feels the game is going to be won and lost up front.  “I think if you are a consistent football team and you don’t make mistakes and turn the ball over and you win the line of scrimmage.  Those are always the things that dictate wins and losses.  The line of scrimmage battle and the turnover battle are the two biggest keys to this game,” he said.

 

Published 10/3/12

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Madison Hurting Themselves

 

          Madison has the athletes to be successful on the football field, but they haven’t been able to execute well enough when the Friday night lights are on.

          As a result they have lost their last three games, including their conference opener against West Holmes (42-14) last week.  Coach Sean Conway says they have to get going before it’s too late.  “I think West Holmes is very good football team and they are very well coached.  I think they did a great job executing and I think we didn’t.  I think that it is on us to get better and do a good job this week against Wooster,” he said.

          Conway says it’s fumbling that is hurting them, but it also is missed blocks and other assignments.  “We are working on every area.  I don’t think it is one thing in particular, ball security is definitely something that sticks out, but we are working on everything.  I think if you are an offensive lineman who are working on your drive blocking, you are working on you pass protection.  If you are a wingback you are working on you kick out block and securing the ball.  I can go through every position at some point.  We are just trying to get better at fundamentals and kind of put four quarters of football together and see how we do,” said Conway.

          Madison players are used to winning and this year they have not, but Conway says their attitude toward the game is still pretty good.  “I think our moral is still pretty good because we are playing younger kids that are excited to be out on the field and gaining experience.  Our seniors are such good character kids they understand that if we can sure up some things and stop making some mistakes and turning the ball over out luck could drastically change.  I think the kids see that we are close.  We have to make sure we fix those mistakes so we can have success,” he said.

          This Friday night the Rams (1-3,0-1) are at Wooster (0-4,0-1) in a game where somebody gets their first conference win.  Conway says the Generals have a lot of pieces to the puzzle.  “I think they are a lot like us.  They have a lot of potential.  Right now, they are in a position where they need to maximize their potential.  They are a lot like us in that regard.  They are very athletic, very fast, and very well coached,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Coach Haas, he and I have a long history, he was one my football coaches in college and now we are coaching against each other.  I have such respect for him for what he has done for me in my career.  It is a little bit of a different feeling because you usually don’t have a relationship like this with somebody you are coaching against.  I wish him the best, just not this week.”

          Wooster had an 80 yard touchdown against Ashland last weekend Conway says they have the potential to make those kinds of plays.  “I am very impressed with their athleticism.  Their wide receivers, their running backs, their defensive backs, their skilled positions on both sides of the ball their skill level is very comparable to a Mansfield Senior and we all know how great that skill is.  I think Wooster has so much potential it puts teams that defend them in a very difficult situation,” said Conway

 

Published 9/26/13

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Madison Working to Get Better

 

          Sloppy play against a good team led to a second straight loss for the Madison Rams last week. 

          They fumbled seven times, losing three, in first half last week as Mt. Vernon beat the Rams (34-21) in game that was not that close most of the way.  The Yellow Jackets led 14-0 after the first quarter and 27-7 at the half.  Coach Sean Conway has seen the act before.  “It is the same story.  We are doing our bet to address it and the kids are doing their best to work through it, but for whatever reason it is not going the way we want it to go.  We start conference play and we have a very tough week and our focus is there,” said Conway.

          Madison has some young players, but Conway isn’t making any excuses.  “To be honest it doesn’t matter how much of it is due to youth or inexperience.  I think that plays a role, sure, but the bottom line is it is our job to fix it no matter who is out there,” he said. 

          With the relative lack of success, Conway says some of the players are trying to do too much.  “I think our kids are getting frustrated with our play and when they are frustrated they go out of there way to make something happen and when they do that sometimes they forget about the fundamentals and make mistakes.  We need to tell them to just play the next play and not worry about anything other than that play.  Hopefully we continue to get better,” he said.

          They did start to put some things together in the second half and Conway says they do have some players that are making some big plays.  “Mt. Vernon is a pretty good football team.  They have a great running back.  They have a great quarterback.  We did a lot of poor things, but I think that was because of the respect I have for Mt. Vernon,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We had a another quarterback come in because the first left because of injury and Austin Finley played great and wide receivers Frank Douglas and Alec Keen played great.  Running back Juawn Howard played well.  We have seen some good things, but we are struggling and we need to get better.”

          West Holmes (3-0) will be at Madison to begin the Ohio Cardinal Conference season on Friday night.  The Knights have averaged more than 50 points a game over their first three.  Conway says they know what to expect.  “It will be a good challenge.  They are very well coached and they are a physical football team.  I think they have one of the best players in the league in Brady Arnold.  I mean we are in the “OCC” so every week is going to difficult.  We have to play it one week at a time and see how we do,” said Conway.

          With Arnold at quarterback, the Knights are throwing it more.  Conway says they have to contain him.  “I don’t know what the percentages are.  They have a dangerous tight end, number 45. Arnold can hurt you in the return game.  He plays some quarterback, he plays some running back, and he plays some receiver.  He makes them very dangerous,” he said.

 

Published 9/17/13

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Madison Not Executing

 

          Madison has the talent, but so far not the results they are looking for early in this high school football season.

          Last week, they dropped a (21-10) decision to the Galion Tigers, the favorites in the North Central Conference, to even their record at 1-1 for the year.  They had beaten Shelby (54-6) the week before.

          Coach Sean Conway is not questioning the effort of his kids, but he says the execution has not been good.  “It was disappointing to not get a “W” and stay on the winning track.  We made some mistakes that we have to correct this week.  The kids fought hard and I am proud of their effort, but there are some things we have to eliminate.  There are different aspects of the game that we need corrected and we are going to work on doing that,” he said.

          Trailing by 11 in the fourth quarter last week against Galion, Madison turned it over while going in for a score.  Conway says there have been too many of those kinds of things.  “I just think we play sloppy football and we make a lot of mistakes and it goes back to us being inconsistent.  We have shown the ability to compete with a lot of teams, but we have also shown the ability to be very sloppy.  That inconsistency needs to be addressed and we need to do a better job,” he said.

          The errors that the Rams are making are something that Conway hopes can be ironed out during practice sessions.  “My hope is that more repetition and more practice will make us a better football team,  I just think it will come down to everybody being on the same page and with a focus and an intensity that we play with.  Right now, we just aren’t playing with it and it’s my job to see that we do,” he said.

          Madison hosts Mt. Vernon (1-1) on Friday night in non-conference play.  Conway says the Yellow Jackets, who have scored 81 points this year, have an offense that can light it up.  “Mt. Vernon is an explosive offensive football team.  They have a very, very good running back in J.D. Orr, who has gone for a bunch of touchdowns and a couple of 100 yard games already,’ he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “He is definitely someone that needs stopped.  I am also very impressed with Fitzgerald the quarterback.  He is a dual threat from the quarterback position.  That makes them very difficult to defend.”

          To stop an attack like Mt. Vernon’s, Conway says you have to be solid in all aspects of defense.  “You have play assignment football.  You have to play physical.  It makes you defend the entire field.  That is tough for us.  We are going to do our best to see we do that Friday,” he said.

          With conference play beginning all over next week, Conway says they want to build a foundation with a win.  “We are treating it like it is the most important game of the year and we are going to practice like it is the most important game of the year,” he said.

 

Published 9/12/13

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Madison Faces Athletic Galion

 

          Madison put things together in the second half of their opening night win over Shelby, but they are going to need four solid quarters to beat “NCC” favorite Galion at Heise Park on Friday night.

          The Rams spanked the Shelby Whippets (54-6) last week totaling more than 340 yards on the ground and throwing only three passes.  Coach Sean Conway says they adapted well at halftime.  “We made some adjustments and the kids took to the coaching very well and went out and performed.  We were happy we had a good second half and hopefully things will improve from there,” he said.

          Madison’s defense only allowed a 60-yard, fourth TD pass to the Whippets.  However, Hawkins says they will be stressed a lot more trying to cover Galion’s explosive line-up.  “I think Galion is doing a fantastic job.  I think coach (Chris) Hawkins is one of the more recognizable coaches and one of the more respected coaches in the area with his success throughout the years.  He has such a high octane offense led by Darien Watkins, probably player of year in the area.  It’s a very formidable opponent and we will have to play our absolute best to compete with them,” said Conway.

          Watkins is one of the top multi dimensional Qb’s in North Central Ohio.  Conway claims they don’t know what to do to contain him.  “I don’t know what to do.  He is extremely gifted.  He has some great speed and great strength.  He is savvy there at quarterback.  We are still trying to figure out what our approach is going to be.  I don’t see a whole lot of weaknesses in the kid,” he said.

          The Galion defense is outstanding too and somewhat overshadowed.  Conway says they are aggressive.  “I think their front seven and their entire defense really is very good.  Watkins and some of the other kids play both ways.  As good as they are on offense they are that good on defense.  There scheme has been to really get after it, be physical, fly to the football, and they really take to that,” said Conway.

          Madison looked good at times last week, but Conway says they have to quit shooting themselves in the foot.  “The first thing we have to do is eliminate some mistakes on our end.  I think if we go and play mistake free football we are going to have a chance.  Right now, we are making too many screw ups here and there, or coaching blunders here and there and I have to correct those.  Once we do we will be a competitive football team,” said Conway.

 

Published 9/3/13

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Madison Looking to Come of Age

 

          Madison has replaced many of the veterans they had last year with new kids as they get ready for the 2013 season opener on Friday night at home against the Shelby Whippets.

          Coach Sean Conway says they have made some progress toward being a sound team, but they need to make more.  “I think they are coming together they are just coming together slower than we really want them too.  We just have a lot of inexperienced players playing at different position,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “I do like way our kids are firing off the ball.  I do like a lot things we have seen out of our backs.  We are just a little inconsistent.  We just need to sure some things up and hopefully we get them all sured up before we play Shelby on Friday.”

          Yes they have tweaked some things, but Conway says they are not going to change their approach to football.  “We are going to try and establish the line of scrimmage.  We are going to try and take care of the ball.  We are going to play ball control football and try to be physical.  We might change little things here and there, but we are not going to reinvent the wheel.  We are going to try and run Madison, physical football and hopefully that takes us where we want to go,” said Conway.

          In replacing four of five offensive lineman Madison is going to be a lot younger up front.  Conway says those kids know what they have to do.  “We have to control the line of scrimmage.  We have some new guys up front who have some giant shoes to fill, but I do think they are capable of doing a great job for us, it’s just a process and we have to be ready for it,” he said.

          Shelby has a new coach in former player Eric Will.  Conway believes that he will turn the Shelby program around.  “I expect a very intense football team.  I have seen them scrimmage.  I have seen the way the kids take to coaching.  There is definitely a new energy there and a new intensity there.  I think they should be very proud.  I think he is getting the most out of the kids.  I think he has put together a heck of a team and I’m very concerned about Shelby because I think they have some great potential,” said Conway.

          Shelby is just 1-19 over the last two years.  Two of those losses are to Madison.  Conway thinks a good start is important to them, but no more than any other game.  “I think anybody we play we are going to try and get off to a fast start.  I obviously know that Shelby is coming off a couple of tough seasons, but I have got to tell you that they are headed in the right direction.  I don’t think this is a weak team.  I think this a team that is going to respond to adversity.  I think it is going to be a four quarter war.  I hope Madison wins it.  I just think it’s going to be a great game,” he said.   

 

Published 8/27/13

© Swankonsports.com

 

 
 

Madison Still Looking

 

          Madison was a tremendous football team a year ago who earned an Ohio Cardinal Conference co-title and made the Rams first playoff appearance since 2005.

          It remains to be seen if this year’s team can perform at that same level.

          Coach Sean Conway says it is taking a while to put the pieces together.  “I think we are making progress.  I don’t think it is quick enough.  I don’t think we are satisfied with our progress.  It is getting better, but it is just a process.  I am a little nervous that it is taking us as long as it is for us to kind work the kinks out,” he said.

          The Rams have relied on some good quarterback play over the last couple of seasons and Conway has a lot of confidence in this year’s starter in Mitch Kelly.  “Right now we have a senior starting quarterback his name is Mitch Kelly.  Mitch is an athlete at quarterback.  I think he is a dual threat to run and throw the ball, which our last two quarterbacks have been as well.  Just like our last two quarterbacks I think he is a playmaker.  He is dependable.  I think he is somebody that character wise is the kind of guy that can run the offense.  I like the way that he commands the huddle.  I like him as a person.  He is a great kid.  He is the type of kid that you want to put your football team on.  He is not perfect and he is going to make mistakes.  We are going to live and learn from those mistakes and move forward.  I have no problem winning and losing every Friday night with Mitch Kelly,” said Conway.

          Madison amassed a lot of yards running the ball last year, but their defense was pretty tough too.  Conway says they are building from scratch this year on that side of ball.  “On both sides of the football I am blessed to have fantastic coaches and fantastic coordinators.  When you talk about the defense coach Massie and the guys on the defensive side of the ball have really I think put a lot of energy and time and effort into developing a scheme that we believe in and putting kids in positions to be successful,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I think they are really the reason for our success on defense.  I do think that success will continue.  However, it is not going to be easy.  We are replacing basically everybody.  Even the kids that we are returning are in new spots.  That is a pretty tough task, but I have faith in our kids and we have potential.”

          Madison hosts Akron Hoban for its final scrimmage on Thursday night.  Conway says they still have a lot on the line.  “I think everyone wants to build momentum for week one, so you want to have a good performance.  Our major thing we are trying to decide at Madison is who is a Friday night player and who is a Saturday morning player.  That is tough because we at Madison potentially have a lot of guys that could be Friday night players.  They are going to have to prove they are ready for that type of spotlight.  Our scrimmage this week is going to be devoted to those players, which of them are going to be able to take their game to the next level on Friday and which are going to need another year to develop until they are ready,” he said.  

 

 
 

Madison Not There Yet

 

          Last year about this time the Madison Rams were pretty confident in what they had in terms of personnel and it ended up in a conference championship and playoff berth.

          This year they are in a more of a rebuilding process.

          Coach Sean Conway says there have been some ups and downs during the first couple of weeks of full practice.  “I have seen a lot of good things and I have seen some disappointing things.  We are still a work in progress.  I think we are definitely going to get there.  It’s going to take a little longer then we might have hoped.  We have a lot of good kids and lot of kids working to their potential.  We have a lot of kids that are still trying to find themselves and get there.  Again it’s a work in progress, but I think it’s coming along,” said Conway.

          He says he and the coaching staff know the potential for greatness is there because they have seen it, just not enough of it.  “We have a lot of inconsistency going on.  We have a lot of kids that are inexperienced and because of that they are making the kind of mistakes that veteran players don’t normally make.  But, we have seen glimpses of them doing just fantastic things.  We are just a little inconsistent, but again I think with some reps in practices we will get there,” he said.

          With the extra practices that early August brings the Rams have been able to work on a lot of things and Conway says that is a good thing.  “I think we are working though some things and definitely the two a days have been beneficial for our team.  However, it’s really about making an effort to focus and know our assignments and execute the way we are capable of executing.  Once we do that we have the positional to be very successful,” h said.

          One thing that is very similar to last year’s Ohio Cardinal Conference co-champs is the character of the team.  Conway says that is what makes him the most happy.  “I really love our kid’s character.  I think we have great kids who would do anything for you.  I think their attitude and their willingness to take the coaching has been what you always dream to coach when you get into this profession.  Coaching a Madison kid is the best thing that I do,” said Conway,

          How much carry over from last year’s success does Conway expect?  Well, he isn’t sure yet.  “I think there is some carry over as far as kids being hungry to be successful and the kids knowing that potential is out there.  However, we are a different team.  Everyone is gone.  Everyone who is returning is at a different position,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We are brand new right out of the packaging.  It is really kind of a wait and see time right now.  We know that Shelby is working.  We know how hungry they are for some success.  I think that should be a whale of a game week one.”    

 

 
 

Madison to put in Field Turf

 

          A group of private citizens led the charge and the Madison Schools will be installing field turf and building a new running track at Ram Field in time for the 2014 football season.

          Football coach Sean Conway told Swankonsports.com that the process for making the improvements came after last football season when the Rams made the playoffs for the first time since 2005.  “After our playoff games Jayson Stone, who ended being the head of the stadium improvement committee, came up with the idea of field turf and a new track for Madison.  He pitched it to the booster club.  The booster club thought it was a great idea and put their own financial commitment towards it.  Jason and the committee went out into the community and looked for potential sponsors for this project.  In six months he and his committee raised enough money to where the school board and the booster club are ready to move forward with the project,” said Conway.

          A price tag for the project has not been set in stone because Conway says the committee is still reviewing options for the project.  “That is all kind of still being decided because of the nature of the project you can do so many different things that would affect the cost.  They are at the point right now that they are taking a look at what they are going to do with everything and try to forge ahead from there,” he said.

          Although he is not sure when construction will begin, Conway says the plan calls for the Rams to play on the new surface next season.  “We plan on playing on our field turf facility in 2014.  I don’t know the date of construction or when they plan on breaking ground.  There are kind of a lot of things that are yet to be determined.  There is a plan to unveil the project and the sponsors in the near future.  Right now they are finalizing the details,” said Conway.

          Filed turf is a synthetic surface, but Conway says it has the feel of a natural grass field and will be less likely to cause injuries.   “It is a lot different than the old astro turf.  Luckily over the last 10-15 years field turf has kind of been replacing the old carpet.  It definitely has a natural grass feel.  It has a rubber base underneath of it to kind of cushion the blows and also allow for more give on your cuts.  It is the wave that football fields are going.  In this area I know Ashland and Mansfield Senior are fortunate enough to play on surfaces like it.  Madison being one of the first couple of schools in North Central Ohio to have this type of facility is a big honor for us,” said Conway.

          Conway stresses this is not just a football facility and will benefit the entire student body at Madison, especially their athletes, no matter what the sport.  “I think this surface will not only benefit the football program, but obviously there will be a new track that will fit our P.E. classes.  All of our teams can use it for conditioning.  The playing surface can be used for baseball and softball.  Really the sky is the limit for all of things that this facility can provide the students of Madison,” he said.    

 

 
 

Madison Wins Again

 

          At the beginning of the season most people that follow softball knew the Madison Lady Rams would be a pretty good team, but there weren’t too many outside of Madison Township that thought they would be as good as they have become.

          Madison beat traditional power Lima Bath (6-3) in Thursday’s division two regional semi-final at Bucyrus High School.  They will play either Oberlin Firelands or Granville in the regional final on Saturday.  Those two teams play Thursday in the other semi-final at Bucyrus.

          Madison scored three times in the first and three times in the sixth to knock off the Wild Kittens.  Coach Tim Niswander says they are excited, but they still have some work to do.  “It is indescribable right now.  The kids are on cloud nine.  The coaches are on cloud nine.  The fans are loving it.  Right now things are going well.  We have Thursday to get back at it and focus and get back to work because the kids have set a goal and we haven’t achieved it yet, so they know they still have work to do,” he said.

          After the first inning, Madison was able to get some runners on base, but did not seriously threaten.  Niswander says the three runs they got in the sixth were the key to the game.  “I don’t want to say we got dormant because we got a hit in every inning except for the seventh.  We did hit the ball pretty well.  I don’t think it is any secret that is something we do well as a team,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “We strung some hits together in the first inning.  We had some hits throughout the game where we really didn’t string anything together and finally in the sixth inning we got things back together and scored three more runs after we had a tough inning defensively the inning before and got the ship righted and finished well,”

          Niswander says that sixth inning was crucial because they were able to get their momentum back.  “The kids were down a little bit because they were up 3-0 he entire night and then Lima Bath ties it up.  For us to be able to go right back in and answer helped calm some nerves and got our kids back to playing our game,” he said.

          Again the Lady Rams got a solid effort from senior pitcher Paige Carper, but Niswander says their defense was also a big factor in the win over Bath.  “Paige (Carper) did a great job.  To her credit she did what we asked her to do.  They really didn’t hit the ball hard a lot.  They had a couple of good shots.  Defensively we played really, really well behind her.  The kids behind her get as much credit as she does.  They played just lights out again (Wednesday),” said Niswander.

          They have really been swinging the bats over the last three weeks.  Niswander says the early runs were not something the Wild Kittens were used to in any way.  “They hadn’t given up a run yet in the tournament.  We jumped on them and the first three batters scored and we managed to get three more runs in the sixth.  We are a good hitting team and when we get rolling we can put some runs up.  Six doesn’t seem like a lot, but in a regional semi-final.  That’s a lot,” said Niswander.

          The coach says he will again take his players along as they scout Firelands and Granville on Saturday.  “We are definitely going to go watch (Thursday.)  Our kids are all going to go with us.  We will do some scouting and see what both teams are like.  Whoever the winner is we will put a plan together, practice on Friday, and figure out what we are going to do on Saturday,” he said.   

 

 
 

Madison Not Finished

 

          Mansfield Madison is a softball program that is growing and they seem to be accomplishing new things all of the time.  Lima Bath has been there and done that.

          We find out if that means anything when the two schools collide in the division two regional semi-finals on Wednesday afternoon at Bucyrus High School.

          Madison (24-4) advanced to the regionals with a (2-1) over Clyde in the district final last Saturday, recording the final two outs on a double play.

          Madison has not been a regular visitor to the regional tournament and winning a district can be very satisfying, but Lady Rams coach Tim Niswander says their kids don’t believe they are done winning.  “They had set a goal when the season began.  We have not reached that goal yet.  We practiced on Monday, we practiced on Tuesday and both days they showed up and got after it.  We have a pretty extensive scouting report on Lima Bath.  We talked about it.  We know what they like to do.  We know what they are like.  We are prepared to go over there and play.  I think the kids are ready and in no way are they satisfied,” he told Swankonsports.com on the eve of the regional on Tuesday night, “They are very, very happy with the things they have accomplished, but we have impressed upon them all year long that if they want to achieve the goal they have set for themselves then you have got to play well every single game in the tournament.  We have to come out and play in the game that is in front of us now and play like we know how to play.”

          School is over for many of the players, but Niswander says they are committed to extending the softball season as long as they can.  “It has been a great ride.  The kids are having a blast.  We are having a blast.  It has been a lot of fun and they know at any given moment the end can come.  The seniors are already out of school, our seniors last day was last Friday, they graduate this Friday.  They are kind of reveling in the fact that they still get to play softball even though they are done with school.  They are not looking for end of this season anytime soon,” he said.

          Lima Bath (27-1) has been a consistent power in Northwest Ohio for many years.  However, Niswander says they are playing this year’s Wild Kittens, not some team from the past.  “I think offensively they are very similar to us.  They have some kids that can bunt, they have some speed and they have some kids that can drive the ball over the fence.  I think they are very, very similar.  Defensively I’m not sure that they are as strong up the middle, but they are very strong on the corners.  Their pitcher is very good.  She throws in the high 50’s and she is similar to what we have.  I think we are kind of mirror images to each other.  As far as the tradition, we have talked about that.  We have played a lot of schools this year that have an extensive and lengthy tradition.  We told the kids at practice on Tuesday night they have had some trips to the final four, they have won a state title, they have finished as runner-up, but none of those kids are playing (Wednesday) night and that is really all that matters.  Tradition can get you a little bit, but it is only going to get you so far.  When we come off the field those kids are coming off their first district title in their high school careers just like you are.  They are really no different than you,” said Niswander.

          Combining for more than 50 wins this year, obviously both teams are very good.  Niswander says it going to come down to you make the big plays when they present themselves.  “We expect to be in a dogfight from the word go.  We think that they probably expect the same.  When you get to the regional level everybody is good.  Everybody has kids that can play, so you are going to have to be at the top of your game.  Much like the district final that we played in I think it is going to come down to that team that is going to make that last play or that last hit.  That will never be the determining factor of an entire game, but that is always the one that is magnified because it’s at the end.  What we expect (Wednesday) is the one that makes one more play is the one that will continue on in the tournament,” said Niswander.     

 

 
 

Madison Advances With Win

 

          Madison won its second big softball game in as many days as they defeated Sandusky Perkins in the division two district semi-finals at Buckeye Central High School on Tuesday evening.

          The Lady Rams got outstanding pitching and sound defense in the (5-1) over Perkins.

          The Lady Pirates (19-8) have excellent speed, but Madison was able to keep that speed off the bases for the most part.  Madison coach Tim Niswander thinks they did a great job controlling the game.  “Our kids did a great job keeping them off the bases.  Paige (Carper) kept them off balance.  We worked pitches we thought would be successful against them based on what we had seen already.  We made good plays behind her.  We were really only in trouble one time (Tuesday) and the kids made a miraculous play.  They got a kid in a rundown between first and second with a kid at third base and the turned and made a play at the plate and cut down the run and got us out of the inning.  Defensively we played really well again in some tough conditions because the wind was really, really blowing hard.  We thought we might have some issues in the outfield, but our kids did a great job catching the ball.  Paige did a great job moving the ball around,” said Niswander.

          Paige Carper has been a terrific pitcher for Madison and Niswander says she has great control and she changes speeds very well and that makes her tough to hit.  “She throws a number of different pitches and she can throw all of them at different speeds.  Her and I have done a lot of work together talking about softball and talking about pitching and talking about how to work kids.  We have some things in that are automatic so to speak where I will call a certain pitch in a certain spot and if she misses in a certain location and it’s not there, that no mater what I call on the next pitch she will check to something else.  She is very heady and she knows the game well.  She knows when to take something off the pitch a little bit.  She can throw her curveball at two different speeds.  She throws her drop ball at two different speeds.  She can get torqued up and throw a really good fastball,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win on Tuesday, “A lot of kids can’t catch up to it when they are seeing breaking stuff early in the count.  She just mixes speeds very, very well and she hits spots and that is a key.  You think about the old “MLB” guys and you think about Greg Maddux and he didn’t throw that hard, but he hits his spots.  Paige is a lot like that.  If we want her to throw it at the knees on the outside corner that is were it is.  If want her to go up to the chest, she goes up to the chest.  She doesn’t get a ton of strikeouts, she gets her fair share of them, but she just doesn’t give up balls that are hit very hard because she does know how to locate and move the ball around a little bit.”

          Madison (21-4), #2 in the Swankonsports.com softball coach’s poll in the large school division, will play either Clear Fork (20-9) or Clyde (21-4) in Saturday’s district final.  They play their semi on Wednesday.  Niswander says they will be there to watch.  “Our practice (Wednesday) isn’t going to be practice.  We are going to go watch Clear Fork and Clyde as a team, do a little scouting.  Let the kids watch and listen to us and what we talk about and know what we are thinking about with both teams.  Thursday and Friday we will go to work and work on the things we think we need to do to be successful against you ever it is that comes out a winner there on Wednesday,” he said. 

 

 
 

Madison Brimming with Confidence

 

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Tim Niswander

 

          Madison secured the outright Ohio Cardinal Conference girls’ softball title on Monday night with a 4-3 win over arch rival Lexington in the final regular season game of the season.

          Two weeks ago, Madison trailed by a game and hoped to earn a share at best with a win over Lexington, but last week Ashland beat Lady Lex twice and gave Madison the advantage.  Coach Tim Niswander says they were not about to let that go.  “It’s a great feeling.  That is probably the goal of everybody to win their league and see what happens when tournament time comes.  Our kids set the goal to win the “OCC.”  We told them Wednesday that they had a share of it after we beat Senior High and I was actually a little surprised that they weren’t as excited as I thought they would be.  I think part of that was they knew they still had another game left against a rival and they didn’t want to share the league with anybody.  They came out (Monday) and played really, really well for the most part.  They got done what they wanted to get done.  (Monday) I saw the excitement I thought I was going to see a week ago.  The kids were really, really excited,” said Niswander.

          This game was supposed to be played about a month ago and despite the length of time they have waited to play it, Niswander says the players had the right attitude.  “Last week when we played Senior High some of the kids and I went down and watch Lexington play Clear Fork in the tournament.  We had our own tournament game on Thursday.  We have kind of gone into tournament mode.  It was a little of a concern (Monday) because our tournament game is Tuesday as to what we were going to do and how we were going to approach it,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday after the win, “The one thing that I told the kids was make sure that (Monday) every single game that you do prepares you for (Tuesday) and if you do that, and you take care of your business you will be happy with both outcomes.  They did a great job (Monday) of keeping their noses to the grindstone and doing what we do and luckily things went our way.”

          Paige Carper, the Lady Rams outstanding pitcher has gotten a lot of the attention, but Niswander says they have been able to hit the ball consistently too.  “We are hitting the ball extremely well throughout the order.  The biggest thing with us is I think we need to do is as long as we hit together up and down the order we are okay.  We have gotten contributions from everybody.  In our tournament game Thursday our eight hitter Katie Mullins hit a three-run homer.  (Monday) our number nine hitter Katie Clever comes up with two outs and hits a two strike double off the fence to plate the last two runs of the game that put us up 4-3.  Out top six kids in our order are all hitting better than .400 and all of them have a little bit of power, they can all bunt and they can all run.  The biggest thing is to be able to group hits together to score runs.  Good pitching beats good hitting and when we run into a good pitcher we have a pretty good one ourselves and we play pretty good defense behind her and that combination gives us a chance against pretty much anybody,” said Niswander.

          Madison (20-4), #2 in the new Swankonsports.com softball coach’s poll, meets Sandusky Perkins (19-7), #3 in the same poll, in the division two district semi finals on Tuesday at Buckeye Central High School.  Niswander says they need to keep the Lady Pirates off the bases.  “They don’t have a lot of power.  They do have some speed, especially at the top of the order.  They try to generate runs from those kids.  Offensively I think they are little bit like Clear Fork.  I’m not so sure they have the Anna Myers in the lineup that Clear Fork does, but I think the rest of their kids are very similar.  On the mound their pitcher throws probably in the mid 50’s.  She is a fastball, curveball kid.  She is very similar to the kid we faced from Tiffin Columbian, maybe a little bit better, but a similar type kid.  We know what we are dealing with.  We did see them last week.  We have gotten our kids prepared and hopefully we go up there and take care of business,” said Niswander.     

 

 
 

What a Week For Madison

 

          The last time Madison won a girls’ softball conference title Cleveland Indians were winning the first American League title in 41 years and the criminal trial of O.J. Simpson opened in Los Angeles, it was 1995.

          Well, they have a least a share of it this year, plus they have a division two sectional title in their hands.  They beat Tiffin Columbian (14-1) in the sectional title game at Lexington on Thursday.  Coach Tim Niswander says they were on their game on Thursday.  “When you keep other teams form scoring, you are going to be pretty successful.  Once again Paige Carper pitched very well and defensively we played very well behind her.  That has been a recipe for success for a lot of different teams for a lot of years.  We are not reinventing the wheel here. As long as we get good pitching and we can make plays things will be okay,” he said.

          Ashland beat Lexington twice (3-2 & 4-2) and that gave Madison the lead in the “OCC” standings after they beat Mansfield Senior twice.  Niswander says things well into place for them.  “We were big Ashland Arrow fans this week.  We waned to have that opportunity to win the league outright or actually we just wanted to play for the right to play for the league.  We took care of business, but the second Senior High game didn’t go quite as well as we scripted, but it was a win and secured at least a share of the conference title for us,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday night, “It is our first title in 18 years at Madison in softball.  The kids were very excited and they were excited after (Thursday) night’s tournament win.  We are going to come in Sunday and practice and try and get ready for Lexington.  We would really like to get that league stuff and try and get that league title outright.”

          Niswander says his players have put in outstanding effort, every day.  “They have had a couple of different coaches and a couple of different philosophies.  Those guys have worked hard to get the kids ready to play.  I think they were pretty disappointed last year that things didn’t go as well as they thought they would.  They came in this year and they worked really hard.  They wanted to make sure, especially for the three seniors that we have, that they gave everything that they have and left it all out on the field and see what happened.  They want to be successful and they have done all of the little things that you have to do to be successful.  Right now, things are going really well, but I have told them that this tournament is a funny thing sometimes and sometimes the breaks don’t go your way and you have to be able to play through that and make your own luck on the tournament trail.  We have to keep our nose to the grindstone.  Nothing is going to be given to us and every single step is going to get tougher,” said Niswander,

          Madison (20-4,10-3) now leads the “OCC” by  a half game over Lady Lex and Niswander says Madison want to put it away in Friday.  “I don’t think there is any question at least in softball that they are our number one rival, if it’s not, it’s Clear Fork.  I think those three teams battle each other every year.  That is the only team this year that we have not yet beaten.  Our kids want to make sure that they do that.  That they finish well and get an outright title against one of their rivals.  I am friends with Mike Hamman down there.  He is a great coach and I like him.  I have family down in Lex.  It’s a good game.  There are certainly no ill feelings are something like that,” said Niswander. 

 

 
 

Madison Continues to Have Potential

 

          Madison is a dangerous team for anybody they play, but they are also a team that some have more wins that they do.

          Doug Rickert has taken the Rams to at least the district level 12 times in his 14 years as coach.  He gets that chance against Thursday when Madison (10-16) faces Sandusky (8-10) in the division one sectional final at home.

          Wednesday night, the Rams punished cross town rival Mansfield Senior (12-0) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game.  Rickert they have been a little bit of a hard luck team, but they have been survivors too.  “We lost three tough ones in a row by one run and we lead in all of those games.  We did come back and beat Wooster in the second game.  This was the first time we have had a whole week off with playing this year.  I was pleased how we came out against Senior High (Wednesday) and hopefully we will see the same thing against a good Sandusky team on Thursday,” he said.

          By hosting the division one tournament that means they can’t get as much done on their own field as they may want too.  Rickert says they have found ways around that.  “It has been a little rough, but we went down to Fredericktown to use their facility on Monday.  Tuesday we were able to do a lot of our infield stuff before the tournament game about 2:45, watched the tournament, and them we came in there and swung after it was over and got some more stuff done until about eight o’clock.  It hasn’t been too bad for us,” he said.

          With the season beginning to wind down, Rickert says they have accomplished a lot of things that they set out to do this year.  “I think we are a better baseball team.  We look at lot better, but we still make some mistakes that we can’t make in the tournament.  I think we swing the bats better.  I think our pitching has been pretty good all year.  You look at our record and we have 10 wins.  We well we should have 15 or 16.  We have lost a lot of close ballgames.  Our goal was to beat everybody in the league and we didn’t beat Lex, we beat everybody in league.  We have a chance to finish third in the league.  Going last to third would be pretty good for us.  We want to win a sectional championship.  Those goals are obtainable.  If we get a sectional championship I think we would be happy with that and see where we go from there,” said Rickert.

          The Rams beat Sandusky (5-0) in a regular season game.  However, Rickert says that score is a little misleading and they need to play a solid game to advance to the districts.  “They had some injuries to their pitching staff and they have both of those kids back and that made a difference there.  Their one and two pitchers weren’t available for a couple of weeks there and that hurts anybody.  They threw their number two (Tuesday) night and they will throw their number one against us.  It’s a kid we have already seen.  Our game was 5-0 nothing, but it 1-0 in the sixth and we put up four runs.  It is going to be a heck of game.  They swing the bats well.  They have a lot of seniors on their team,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They beat us in the tournament last year.  Their pitcher is good.  He is going to Findlay.  It’s not going to be an easy game for us.  He is as good as about anybody we have seen this year.  He pitched against us the last time,  He is a gamer,  He is about 84 or 85 on the gun and we don’t see a lot of guys like that.”

          Rickert plans to start junior Bo Curvin against the Blue Streaks.  He says he Curvin has been consistent in his efforts this year on the mound.  “Bo has done well this year.  He has beaten Wes Holmes, he has beaten Ashland, and he has beaten Clear Fork.  Against Lexington hs only gave up five hits and got beat.  He threw against Norwalk and went seven innings and gave up two runs and we lost that game in extra innings.  He is a gamer.  We has been pitching since he was a freshmen.  He is going to have to keep them off balance.  They have some kids that swing it well and they run really well.  We don’t need them on the bases because they have great speed,” said Rickert.  

 

 
 

Madison Has a Chance

 

          Madison got a game closer to the top spot in the Ohio Cardinal Conference softball standings with a win over Wooster coupled with a Lexington loss to Orrville.

          The Lady Rams beat Wooster (10-1) while Orrville pulled the upset in beating conference leader Lexington (4-1).  Right now, Lexington is 9-2 in league play and Madison is 9-3.  They meet each other at Madison on May 20 in a makeup game.

          Coach Tim Niswander says the win over Wooster was one they had to have no matter what Lexington was doing.  “(Tuesday) night and (Wednesday) night were both most wins for us.  We knew we needed a little bit of help in order to control our own destiny and we got that (Wednesday) as Lexington got beat.  We have now put it back into our hands as far as at least being able to play Lexington for a chance at the title as long as we take care of business against Senior High next week.  I guess that is really all you can ask for at this point of the season,” he said.

          Madison (16-4,9-3), #3 in the Swankonsports.com softball coach’s poll, has been one of the area’s bets all season.  Niswander says they have been able to find a way on most nights.  “When you look back on the season unless you win every single game and win a state championship you always have ifs and buts and that sort of thing.  Legitimately we are five runs away from being undefeated right now.  One night we didn’t play defense very well for an inning and it costs us.  One night we didn’t hit very much.  The other two nights we hit, we just didn’t get a timely hit.  Those are our four losses.  Other than that we have won some close games, we have blown some games open.  We have gotten good pitching.  We have gotten good, solid, consistent defense.  We are hitting pretty well up and down the order.  It is just a matter for getting those kids to all hit together.  At this point in the season you are 20 games in and you are 16-4.  You can look at you kids at this point and say you have done a great job and I am proud of you and there is not much more I can ask from you other than to just keep doing what you are doing and hopefully things will fall our way,” said Niswander.

          One of the big reasons that Madison is in the position they are in is the play of pitcher Paige Carper.  Niswander says the Lady Rams pitcher is just a bulldog.  “Paige is a horse.  She threw 11 innings (Tuesday) night and cam out and threw seven again (Wednesday).  We have conditioned her to be able to throw every night.  We looked at her (Tuesday) night and again (Wednesday) morning and said how are you feeling?  Do you have any stiffness, soreness, tightness, any of that kind of thing and she said nope I am ready to go.  It is great to have a kid like that.  She is not the kid that goes out there and strikes out nine or ten kids a night, but she doesn’t give up many hard hit balls,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night, “A lot of the stuff she gives up are weak ground balls.  A lot of them are right back to her.  (Wednesday) after an 11 inning performance she had only thrown 13 pitches through the first two innings.  She can spot the ball.  She moves it around and changes speeds.  When she is on it makes the defense easier.  When the defense plays well behind her it makes her job easier.  It is important to have great pitching and we certainly have that and our kids are feeding off each other right now.”

 

 
 

Madison good, but Needs to Get Better

 

          Madison is a much improved baseball team, but they just can’t get over the top sometimes.

          Monday night was a good example when they held the lead for most of the game only to give up two runs in the seventh and lose at Clear Fork (5-4) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

          Coach Doug Rickert says they just have to learn how to close things out.  “We played six innings of terrific baseball.  That’s what we told the kids, but that is about our sixth or seventh one run loss.  We lost three of them by a run in extra innings.  We lost to Norwalk the other day 3-2 in eight innings.  We lost to Perkins 3-2 in eight innings.  We lost to New Albany after having a two run lead 13-12 in the last inning.  I don’t know if it’s a combination of us not knowing how to win yet because we lost so many games last year,” said Rickert.

          With the bases loaded and one out on Monday, Madison second baseman, sophomore Alec Keen, made a tremendous play to catch a line drive hit by Clear Fork’s Hunter Evans, but then threw the ball away trying to pick Rich Winand off third base.  Rickert says it was just a mistake of youth.  “Blake (Lampert) just threw a tremendous baseball game.  We played fantastic defensively.  We walked the leadoff guy on four pitches and he was the nine hitter.  We said just go out and get him, but he just couldn’t find the strike zone.  We walk Ridge (Winand) and all of the sudden there is an error and a hit batter.  We make a terrific play to catch the ball and we throw to the wrong base,” he told Swankonsports.com on the field after the game, “They guy is out at first, but he is a sophomore.  We have a sophomore there, a sophomore behind the plate, a junior on the mound, a freshman at first base, a sophomore in right field.  It will get better.  We are a good team we just have to learn how to finish it off.”

          Madison (8-15,5-5) has played its best baseball over the last couple of weeks.  Rickert is confident in the team he has this year.  “We are a thousand times better than we were last year, that’s the thing.  Our goal is to at least finish third in the league.  We have our work cut out for us now, that was a tough loss.  We were last in the league last year.  We have beaten every team in the league at least once this year except for Lex.  We get Wooster (Tuesday) night and still have Senior High.  We would like to get to 10, 11 wins after getting just four last year.  We would like to win a sectional championship.  We have won 12 of them in my 14 years.  That’s our goal to get to Bowling Green as see what happens,” said Rickert.

          Madison plays at Wooster (15-4,8-2) in “OCC” play on Tuesday.  Rickert looks forward to the opportunity.  “They are a good team.  It’s good to get good teams right now because you want to get good teams and good pitching before you get into the tournament.  We have to get better before next Tuesday,” he said.

          Madison will play either Marion Harding or Sandusky in the division one sectional tournament next week at Madison.  Rickert says they will have to play well.  “I thought we deserved the two seed and that’s what we got.  We’ve got the winner of Sandusky and Marion.  We beat both of them during the year, but they were both good ball games.  It’s going to take everything we have.  We’ll have Bo Curvin throw that game and we will have Blake (Lampert) in relief and we feel pretty good about that,” he said.     

 

 
 

Madison Holds on to Beat Ashland

 

          Madison finally found some offense and they got past Ashland in Ohio Cardinal Conference play on Tuesday evening.

          Frankly, Madison plays a tougher schedule than anyone in the area.  The have played Lexington and Sandusky Perkins, numbers #1 and #2 in the Swankonsports.com coach’s poll, twice each, over the last week.  Coach Doug Rickert says Tuesday night’s win was huge for them.  “We need that.  We have had some tough games.  We have played everybody really well.  We just weren’t hitting the baseball.  We are playing much better defensively and we continue to throw the ball well.  Last week with the Lexington series and then with Perkins.  Friday night we didn’t score and against Perkins we scored three runs total.  Quite honestly we were in all of those games.  The Perkins loss was in eight innings, it was a 1-1 game and we had plenty of opportunities and couldn’t score.  We had opportunities against Lexington.  (Tuesday) was swung the bats well,” he said.

          The Rams (6-12,4-4) built a big early lead in the game.  Rickert says they were able to hang on for dear life in the end.  “This was the first time Bo (Cervin) has thrown on three days rest all year.  It probably wasn’t his sharpest outing, but he battled through it.  We had an 8-0 lead because we did jump on them early and score.  He gave up a two-run homer in the fifth.  Then we got a little lackluster.  I thought we made a couple of errors to give them a run in the fifth.  In the seventh inning we have a 9-3 lead.  We had left them loaded in the sixth. We go out there in the seventh inning.  Bo started and he walked a couple of guys and gave up a hit.  We brought in a freshman reliever, Zane Harris, and he gets the first guy to fly out, then he gives up a hit and a three run home run.  He was able to strike the four hitter out and get a ground ball to end the game,” said Rickert.

          There is still a lot of youth on the Madison squad this season.  Rickert is pretty happy with the pitching and the defense, now if the hitting can just come around.  “We have got to hit the ball.  We have got to score when we get guys on base.  It has been weird year.  When we get a couple guys hitting, the other guys aren’t, then the others start and the other guys don’t.  We seem to get a lot of guys on base.  We don’t have a lot of power, so we have to string hits together.  We have to get bunts down.  We have only hit one home run.  I think we have only got about 10 extra base hits.  It’s nothing against our kids, we are just a little young yet,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night, “We have hit some balls hard, but we really don’t drive any in the alleys.  I think it is tough on the kids.  They have seen good pitcher after good pitcher, not only good pitchers, but good defense against us.  When you play good teams you are gong to have better defense.  A lot of times we hit the ball hard and it doesn’t go through because they make a nice play.”

          With sectional draw on Sunday, Rickert thinks they have a chance to make some noise.  “We told these kids this is a huge week.  As crazy as it sounds we have Marion on Thursday, we have beaten Ashland, we beat Sandusky 5-0 earlier.  If we can beat Marion.  We have Norwalk on Saturday along with Brunswick.  If we can win a couple of these ball games we can go in there and ask for a two seed because we would have beaten everyone in our sectional except we haven’t played Senior High yet,” he said.     

 

 
 

Lady Rams Just Want to Play

 

          Madison suffered its first loss in the Ohio Cardinal Conference play to Lexington on Tuesday night and they have been excited with the opportunity to get some revenge, but Mother Nature wouldn’t have it.

          Their home game with Lexington (12-3,6-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com softball coach’s poll in the large school division, has been rained out twice this week.

          Coach Tim Niswander admits they were anxious to get that game in the books and win it.  “We were kind of chomping at the bit (Thursday) night to get back out there.  We got rained out (Wednesday) and got rescheduled for (Thursday) and got rain again.  (Wednesday) when we got rain the kids got in the gym and we made some adjustments to some things that we thought that we didn’t do as well Tuesday night that we could do better.  We were ready to play.  Unfortunately once again Mother Nature kind of had the upper hand on us.  We have plenty of games to play between now and when we make that game up.  I think that will be a huge game as far as the conference champion is concerned,” said Niswander.

          Right now, in the “OCC” softball standings Madison and Lexington both have one loss, Orrville has two, Ashland has three and Clear Fork has four.  Clear Fork beat Ashland (5-1) and Wooster beat Mansfield Senior (14-3) on Thursday night.

          Niswander says none of the contenders are really out of the race in his opinion.  “We have to finish a game (Friday) with Orrville.  We have two with Ashland next week and obviously the Lexington game that has already gotten rained out.  Then we have Wooster after that.  When we are looking down the road at our schedule it is no different than I thought at the beginning of the year,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “ The team that wins this league is the team that is able to show up and play at the top of their game every single night because if you don’t show up and play your best anybody in that upper half can beat you.  I don’t think anybody in that group of Clear Fork, Lex, Madison, Orrville, Ashland is really out of the league picture yet.  West Holmes beat Orrville on Tuesday night, so who knows they might get hot at the right time and make a run at it too.”

          Madison (8-3,5-1), #2 in Swankonsports.com poll, is scheduled to play Orrville (7-3,4-2) on Friday.  Niswander says his team has played some very consistent ball this year.  “Our kids have worked really, really hard and they want to be successful.  We have gotten good pitching.  We have played good defense most of the time.  There have been times when we have hit up and down the order and then there have been times when top has carried us and others when the bottom has carried up.  We have played pretty well.  We have been pretty consistent.  I thought Tuesday night against Lex we had some opportunities where we could have won the game, but we just didn’t get a key hit.  It’s not like we played poorly, Lex just played really well and they got us that night.  We are looking forward to playing them again and hopefully we can turn the tables on them,” said Niswander.

 

 
 

Madison Finding Itself

 

          After a down season last spring, the Madison Rams are rounding into form again and they are going to make some noise this year in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.

          Coach Doug Rickert says they are hitting the ball pretty well and they are getting some good efforts on the mound, they just aren’t making the plays in the field and that has cost them sometimes.  “We are better than we were last year as far as our offense.  We are throwing the ball better than we did last year.  We just aren’t playing very good defensively.  The other night we finally played a game without any errors and that makes a big difference,” he said.

          Being on the more successful baseball coaches over the last 15 years in North Central Ohio, Rickert knows what he speaks.  He says they have hit it well, but the Rams (2-4,2-1) have been unlucky.  “I think what happens sometimes with us and I get a little frustrated because we are still very, very young, but a lot these kids played last year and we should be doing better.  I still think we allow one mistake to lead to two mistakes.  We have had a couple of ballgames where we have hit the ball real well right at somebody.  On the flip side they seem to bloop one somewhere and it falls,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night, “The other night we hit a couple of shots again that didn’t go anywhere in the wind or we hit it right at somebody.  It gets frustrating for the kids.  You keep telling them that things are going to turn around, but until they do, they don’t feel as confident as you do.  Right now, I think we have a pretty nice baseball team.  We are young, but pretty good.  We just can’t make mistakes.  We are not good enough yet to make mistakes and rebound from them.”

          Wednesday was a wash out do to persistent thunderstorms across the area.  Rickert says Wednesday could have been a big day for them.  “This was going to be an interesting day because we thought if we could possibly take two from Clear Fork we would be sitting at 3-1.  West Holmes was playing Lexington and Ashland was playing Wooster.  If West Holmes won and Wooster was able to beat Ashland there was going to be four teams up there at 3-1.  It would have made for a very interesting week.  These games will be played in the near future, either this week or later.  If we don’t play Clear Fork this week we have a very tough doubleheader with New Albany at their place this weekend and then we have Orrville next week.  It isn’t going to get any easier for us,” Rickert.

          Clear Fork (3-3,0-3) is winless in the “OCC,” but Rickert feels they are dangerous, especially when they step into that batter’s box.  “I think they swing bats as well as anybody.  Bo Cervin for us pitched a heck of a baseball game.  He has had two outings in the conference where he has been phenomenal.  I think Bo is one of the better pitchers in the league.  He gave up four hits and struck out eight.  When you have Winand and they have Born to hit the ball, they have some newcomers and they have Swank back and some guys that can still hit the baseball.  The Baker brothers are good baseball players.  They are a good team.  Wooster is one of the favorites to win the league and they lose a tough one 11-6 against one their better pitchers.  The second night Born loses in eight innings 4-2.  They just made some mistakes against us.  They made some errors and we put the ball in play a lot more than they did and they kicked around a little bit and we were able to score in every inning.  Rusty is so good at playing small ball against you sometimes, but when you get down four or five runs it makes it more difficult to do that,” said Rickert.

 

 
 

Madison Looking Like Contender

 

It was a non-Madison like year on the baseball field spring year, but this season looks like it could be a return to tradition.

          Coach Doug Rickert took the team to the Dayton area for scrimmage action last weekend.  He was impressed by what he saw from his still young team.  ‘Fortunately we got to go down south and play three games down in Dayton.  We played Friday and two Saturday.  We went 2-1 and played pretty good baseball.  We threw the ball well.  It was just nice to get outside.  It was really the first time we had been on the field.  We made a couple of mistakes, but it didn’t lead to the crazy innings that it did last year.  We threw the ball much better and we swung the bat better.  We looked like a whole different team,” said Rickert.

          The Madison coach says the guys he is counting on, especially in conference games, were in pretty good form last weekend on the mound..  “We have two guys back that have been throwing since they were freshmen and they are juniors now.  Both of them threw the ball well.  Bo Covin threw two innings and struck out six and Lampert threw four innings and struck out four.  We looked good.  Ackerman threw the ball well.  Josh Smith threw the ball well.  Our top four did exactly what we wanted them to do.  Some of our younger guys, some our newer guys, struggled a little bit, but that is to be expected,” he said.

          As far as hitting goes, Rickert says the group of guys that will form the top part of the Rams lineup looked liked they were ready for the season to start.  “We didn’t strike out.  We moved the baseball.  We got guys on second and third we were able to move the baseball and get a run home.  That is stuff we didn’t do last year.  Our top five hitters hit the ball extremely well.  I think our on base percentage in our top five was around .550.  We need to hit the ball a little better in the bottom of our order,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “The top of the order with Ackerman, who led off.  We had a junior in the two hole, another junior in the three hole and a sophomore in the four hole, and a freshmen in the five hole.  All five of those guys hit the heck out of the ball.  The encouraging thing is those guys are all back again.  It was really encouraging to see how our young kids hit.  We hit much better than we did last year.”

          Madison begins the “OCC” portion of their schedule next week against conference preseason choice West Holmes.  Rickert says they have to be a good fundamental team if they are going to beat the good teams on their schedule.  “We still have to play better defense.  I mean we still don’t have that one guy that is going to go out there and strike out 15, 16 guys, so we have to play really good defense.  We have to get bunts down.  We have to do all of the little things.  It sounds clique because all of the coaches talk about them.  There is not a lot of margin for error.  We don’t have a lot of depth.  I think our team is really good, but I don’t think we have a lot of depth.  We don’t have anybody right now that has shown they come from the JV and step in.  We have to avoid injuries and the guys that are here have to produce,” said Rickert.  

 

 
 

Madison Has New Coach and Bright Outlook

 

          Madison has a new softball coach this spring, but it is a guy that brings some past success to the table.

          Tim Niswander, the former coach at Lucas, takes the reins of the Lady Rams.  Niswander had put Lucas on the softball map after many years in the doldrums.

          He believes he has some talent to work with at Madison and some players that have enjoyed some success too.  “We have a good number of kids that return from a year ago.  We have three seniors up the middle.  We have a senior centerfielder, a senior catcher, and a senior pitcher.  All three of them are very, very solid, both offensively and defensively.  We do have some young kids around them.  The young kids that we do have all have experience from a year ago.  I am looking forward to us being very competitive.  We are playing a really completive schedule.  Obviously our league is great with Clear Fork, Lexington, Orrville and Ashland.  We are going to have to come and play every night.  I think we are pretty good and have the ability to compete with anybody,” said Niswander.

          Anytime there a new coach there is a spirit of transition, but Niswander says it has been made easier for him because the players already know how to do many of the fundamental elements of the game.  “We do have some experience and anytime you have experience that’s great.  Experience is becoming more and more prevalent with younger kids because of travel ball and how involved the kids are in the travel circuit in the summertime,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “It’s great to have kids back that have played, especially with number we have with me being new to Madison.  The kids at Lucas were used to me, but now I have a whole new group of kids to work with them knowing a lot of the little things has made the transition a lot easier.”

          The season starts for the Lady Rams on April 1 in non-conference play against play against Bucyrus.  Their first two Ohio Cardinal Conference games are against West Holmes on Tuesday and Wednesday of the opening week of play.  Before they get there Niswander says they need to learn patience and when to tale chances.  “I think one of the things that we are working on is patience, especially at the plate.  Some of the things that we have worked on early in the season is being more consistent defensively.  The biggest thing is we have to be more patient at the plate and hit good pitches early the count rather that taking the first strike that we see.  I think we have to find that fine line on the base paths between what is considered aggressive and what’s considered reckless.  That is something we are still trying to figure out,” said Niswander.

 

 
 

Madison Will be Back

 

          Madison only won three baseball games last year.  That is like the New York Yankees not making the playoffs.

          However, their coach believes they have the kind of talent that can make them much more competitive this spring.

          Coach Doug Rickert says they are still young, but he believes they have the talent to turn it around this year.  “I think we are really excited.  It was a rough year last year and we couldn’t wait to get back at it to see what we could do.  We were extremely young and I think we are still young.  We are going to have a sophomore behind the plate and a sophomore at second.  A freshman will be starting somewhere.  A sophomore in right field.  We are probably only going to start two seniors.  We are still going to young.  Our whole pitching staff will be back next year.  The work ethic has been incredible.  Me not coaching basketball has really helped.  I have been around the kids.  Last year I wasn’t.  Just the way the kids are working and how much bigger and stronger they got and how much better it looks.  We are pretty excited,” said Rickert.

          The Rams have some good arms on the mound, but Rickert says they have to continue to get better as they mature into their junior season.  He says they have some depth on the mound.  “We have Lampert and Curvin, who have been our conference pitchers the last two years, but they have to make some strides.  They were fantastic as freshmen and neither one of them won a baseball game last year.  It was one of the craziest things we have ever seen.  Not that they pitched really bad last year, but we need them to make the jump from their sophomore to their junior year,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Bo Curvin has spent a lot of time in weight room this year.  Even though to look at him he still isn’t a very big guy.  He has definitely increased his arm power on this fastball and he has a much better breaking ball.  Having Blake (Lampert) back and Josh Smith got about 17 innings for us last year as a freshman.  He is back and a big 6’3” lefthander.  Ackerman got to pitch for us last year as a sophomore.  Keen got to pitch a little bit.  I don’t think we have that one unbelievable stud pitcher, but what we do have I six guys that are pretty solid.”

          Madison’s biggest problem a year ago was they couldn’t score enough runs to be competitive.  Rickert says they are going to bring more power to the table.  “I think we will hit the ball a lot better than we did last year.  It was a bad combination of youth and us going against some very, very good pitching in the conference.  I do think we have some guys that can hit the long ball again.  One of them might even be a freshman.  Zane Harris has come along.  As a freshman he had to play varsity basketball.  He has played for a number of years on the Ohio Elite team.  He is 6’3” and he is lefthanded.  He has tremendous power.  He will be in the middle of the lineup somewhere.  Ackerman is back.  Last year he was our leading hitter.  He got a little bigger and stronger.  We have some guys we think that can hit the long ball and hit the ball hard.  We just have to see what happens when we get out there,” said Rickert.

          Madison has a chance to be in the mix in the “OCC” race, but Rickert says there are going to be a lot of good teams in the conference.  “I don’t think that anybody that knows the league knows that West Holmes went to the state last year and only lost one guy off that team.  They have two lefty pitchers back.  We get them right off the bat in the first week.  You can’t count out Lexington.  I think Lexington is a really loaded basketball team.  This is the year they have looked forward to really be good.  Their senior class is really dominate.  Ashland has always been tough.  Orrville was in the regional and they have there one and two back.  Rusty Staab is back at Clear Fork and I know he has some good, young talent.  It’s going to be a good, competitive league,” said Rickert.   

 

 
 

Madison Must Handle the Ball Better

 

          It’s take two for the Madison Rams and the Ashland Arrows, this time in the division sectional semi-final at Galion at Tuesday night.  The Rams are hoping the scene goes a lot better for them this time.

          Ashland beat Madison (60-36) last Friday in the final regular season game for both.  Rams coach Tim Mergel says they have to take handle the ball better and not try to force the issue so much.  “I think it is exciting because you get a couple of practice days to kind of right some wrongs that you did the game before.  It’s is definitely going to be fun to see the adjustments we make and the adjustment they make.  The big thing for us is we have to take better care of the basketball.  At the end of the first we were down two and we go five out of our next seven possessions and we turn the ball over.  With Ashland’s offense and their guard play it was tough to recover form that, so just from an x’s and o’s it’s just a chance for redemption,” said Mergel.

          Patience is likely going to be a key for the Rams (2-20).  Mergel says they are unlikely to win a game that goes in the 60’s or 70’s.  “It is no secret that a lot of times this year we have struggled to score the basketball.  Anytime that we are taking possessions away from us and giving possessions to the other team it is going to make it more difficult for us to climb out of a hole.  We have to do a much better job of controlling the basketball.  I tell our kids that sometimes our best defense our offense, just keep the ball away from them.  We need to do a better job of just being aware on the offensive end and not trying to force the issues as much,” he said.

          Ashland (13-9) has a number of good outside shooters and Mergel thought they defended them well, it was some other defensive issues that caught them.  “On Friday night I think we did an okay job of that.  What killed us was Trey Smith for them to an outstanding job for them.  He handled the ball a lot more than I anticipated.  They ran some high screen and rolls and that kind of put us in a tough situation.  That is just something we are going to have to make an adjustment on.  I thought overall with their offense we did a pretty god job with that.  We got back in transition and marked their shooters well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Sunday, “Trey had a great game for them and the Dickinson kid inside hurt us a little bit and Moore came off the bench and got some big offensive rebounds for them.  He was just active all night.  They had guys step up that weren’t necessarily high priorities on our scouting report.  That is a sign of a good team when they have guys that are role players step up and have good games for them.  Friday night, that’s what happened to us.”

          Will the fact that the game is at a neural site make much difference?  Mergel says probably not.  “When you look at Ashland you see the Isaac Whites and the Vippermans, and the Delaneys.  Those are kids that have played basketball non-stop.  They are always in the gym and they have played in about every venue you can think of whether it’s in a big house or a small facility.  I don’t think that is going to be much of a change for them as far as shooting that basketball.  Our guys have played at Galion before.  We have them on the regular season schedule.  I think we played there last year.  I don’t think it’s going to be a huge issue when it comes to shooting the basketball.  The tournament factor is going to amp up the excitement a little bit.  There may be some nerves, but once you have the opening tip I think the nerves will settle down a little bit.  Both of our teams are young and we play a lot of sophomores and freshmen, so it’s going to be fun,” said Mergel.    

 

 
 

Madison Needs Intensity

 

          Madison needs to play very hard if they are going to enjoy success on that basketball floor and that is going to be reintroduced this week during practice.

          The Rams (2-19,0-13) play Ashland on Friday night in their final regular season game and then meet the Arrows again in the division one sectional tournament next Tuesday night at Galion High School.

          Last weekend Madison was beaten pretty handily by two solid teams in West Holmes (77-47) in conference action and Willard (70-43) in non-league play.

          Rams coach Tim Mergel says the games were pretty similar in the way they played out.  “I thought in both first quarters we played about as well we can offensively, but on the flip side we played about as poorly as we can defensively.  On Friday night we are down 22-18 after the first quarter and Saturday we are down 22-17 after one.  Just based on our season long performances on the offensive end it would be tough for us to keep that up for four quarters.  Our defense didn’t hold up and obviously our offense didn’t and that’s a bad combination.  You have to give credit to West Holmes and Willard came out and played hard.  We just didn’t match them and that’s a concern for me right now going forward against Ashland are we going to match their intensity.  Hopefully we will come ready and prepared for Friday night,” said Mergel.

          With the defense not being very good, Mergel says that has to change for them to win and he says a lot of it is a matter of intensity.  “It is a combination of things.  A lot of it falls on myself.  I take a little of the blame for it.  It’s something we haven’t stressed a whole lot on in the last couple of weeks of practice.  We have really focused on the offensive end and we have gotten away from some things.  Defense is like rebounding.  It’s a pride thing.  It’s whether or not we get the job done.  I thought at times, especially on Saturday that we didn’t take pride in what we did and ultimately that falls back on the coaching staff.  We are going to try and right some wrongs this week in practice,” said Mergel.

          Ashland (12-9,6-7) beat Madison in their first contest (51-35), but they have lo