By Jonathan Deal
“Bigger, faster, stronger.”
That’s how Tanner head coach Laron White described Madison Academy’s advantage over his team Thursday night. In a battle of defending state champions, the Mustangs handed Tanner an emphatic 48-6 loss.
It was Tanner’s first loss since falling to Elba in the 2011 state championship game and first regular season loss since a 2009, snapping a streak of 35 victories.
“That’s one of the best teams we’ve played since I’ve been here,” said White. “
Madison Academy did what Tanner had done to so many teams last year on their way to a state championship. The Mustangs used a power running game complemented by a few play-action passes to jump out to a 21-0 lead that proved too much for Tanner to overcome.
Malik Miller put Madison Academy on the board first on a 1-yd plunge to cap a 6-play drive on the Mustangs opening possession. Tanner responded with an eight play drive that included a first-and-goal for the Rattlers. A penalty backed Tanner up and the drive ended with a fumble on fourth down.
Fumbles would become a common theme for the defending 2A champs. Tanner fumbled five times on the night and quarterback Jonathan Fletcher threw two interceptions.
“We had some chances early on, but penalties and turnovers cost us,” said White. “It came to a point where they were bigger, faster and stronger than us.”
Kerryon Johnson was all of those things for the Mustangs. The All-State running back found a seam in the opening minutes of the second quarter to give his team a 14-0 lead on an 89-yard touchdown run.
Madison Academy made Tanner pay for another turnover just before the half on another touchdown, this time off a 36-yard play-action pass.
Tanner responded after a halftime with a solid drive that resulted in an 11-yard touchdown pass from Fletcher to Townsend.
That was as close as Tanner would come, however, as the Rattlers had no response for the Mustangs’ potent offense. Madison Academy rushed for 374 yards behind the legs of Johnson, Miller and Malik Martin.
Hayden Stephens led Tanner with 76 yards rushing, but had two fumbles.
Tanner will have rebound from a rare defeat quickly with a tough road game against Red Bay next week.
“We’ve just got to go back to work,” said White. “Hopefully, we’ll learn from this loss and get ready for a big game next week.”