MADISON — The folks in Madison have watched their Bulldogs compete in Western Maine Class C since the early 1970’s when they moved down from Class B.
Now the Bulldogs find themselves in another stage of transition, this time moving the opposite direction. Madison is moving up a class to Eastern Maine Class B with the addition of students from Carrabec High School to their program, becoming a member of the newly-formed Class B Pine Tree Conference, which is now composed of North and South Divisions.
And although Madison will be one of the smaller schools in the PTC South, third-year coach Matt Friedman remains optimistic about his team’s move to Class B.
“We have our work cut out for us, and I think ultimately the move will help the program,” said Friedman, a former standout running back at Jay High School and Plymouth State. “I’ve spoken to people in the community that expressed some concern, and I just told them we’re going to play whatever schedule they put in front of us, and the only thing we can do is prepare our team to compete against the opponents on that schedule.”
Their preparedness was apparent in practices last week, when a combination of intensity and new mindsets were on display — something Friedman and his players believe will help them make a successful jump to the always-competitive PTC.
“Tempo,” the team’s motto for 2011, is written on the back of the shirts worn by Friedman and members of his coaching staff. It is constantly re-iterated to their players.
“We’re keeping everything ramped up and staying focused during and after every play. We feel like we need to raise our intensity and physicality and always be moving, and tempo is helping us do that,” said senior running back and linebacker Stephen Day.
Madison’s roster features a slew of experienced returners who are determined to make a difference this year.
“We only had four seniors on last year’s team, so my juniors and even some of my sophomores got a lot of playing time,” Friedman said.
Senior wide receiver and defensive back Matt Soucy has gained significant strength since his sophomore year and has transformed himself into a more physical presence. Senior Travis Emerson, who gained 25 pounds over the offseason through hard work in the weight room, made the move from running back to offensive guard and has helped solidify the line.
But for Friedman, the conversation about his squad starts and ends with his quarterback, Stephen Cusson, who started last year as a junior. The 6-foot-3 Cusson possesses a strong throwing arm, runs well and has excellent agility — a formula known to wreak havoc on opponents.
Cusson is “first and foremost a distributor,” says Friedman, which will allow Madison’s other skilled offensive players to be involved in their shotgun offense that Friedman has stuck with since working as an assistant coach at Jay.
“We have some good athletes around Stephen, and he’s got to be able to get the ball to the right person at the right time because that’s what our whole offense is predicated on,” Friedman said. “The biggest difference with Stephen this year compared to last is his composure; he feels more comfortable in different situations and it shows with the decisions he’s making.”
The biggest difference for this year’s Bulldog’s team as a whole, though, is not their experience, but rather their team unity.
“We’re more of a family this year,” said Day. “We’ve decided to work more as a team, and we’re really coming together to give it everything we have.”
2010 results: 1-7
Head coach: Matt Friedman, third year
Key players: Stephen Cusson, QB, Sr.; Travis Emerson, OG-LB, Sr.; Stephen Day, RB-LB, Sr.; Matt Soucy, WR-FS, Sr.; Logan Cowan, C-LB, Sr.; Ryan Malcolm, OG-DT, Sr.; Danny Moreshead, WR-CB, Jr.;
Outlook: With 13 seniors on the roster, Madison looks to follow up last season with a new and improved attitude, veteran leadership and ample experience. Look for the Bulldogs to mix things up with their shotgun offense, as they have one goal in mind: The playoffs.