Unbeatens Burlingame, Madison to settle Game of the Week

By: Conor Nicholl for Kpreps.com
Oct 12, 2018

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Burlingame coach Jeff Slater addressed his team during their annual spring meeting. The Bearcats had reached three straight Eight-Man, Division I sub-state title games. Burlingame graduated multi-year all-state starting quarterback Dalton Sporing and classification defensive player of the year Tristan Lee, among other standouts.

Burlingame needed to replace 89 percent of its receiving yards, six of the top seven touchdown leaders and four of the five highest tacklers.

The Bearcats returned three decorated players in senior running back Seth Greenwood, senior center/nose guard Keller Snesrud and senior Montana Giffin, who played extremely well at quarterback when Sporing missed part of last season with an injury.

Slater labels Giffin one of the top-five eight-man quarterbacks. Greenwood, a standout in all three phases, is on pace to break the school record for rushing yards. Snesrud, by far the team’s biggest player at 6-foot-3, 285 pounds, has 172 career tackles.

“It was very simple,” Slater said. “The blueprint that we have put forth in the weight room in the offseason and our offseason program was going to stay the same. It was a matter of that’s staying the same, our expectations are staying the same, our preparation is going to stay the same, but are we as players, are your guys going to keep the standard the same as far as weight room percentage?”

Burlingame produced 90 percent weight room attendance and has had multiple new players emerge to support the talented trio. The Bearcats have again opened 6-0 and lead the classification with 362 points.

“I kind of view the east, everybody kind of in the same situation,” Slater said. “Everybody’s got a couple horses like us, and then your four through 10 guys are really key as far as the development.

“From a talent standpoint, we may not be the most talented team, but if we can get those four through 10 guys playing at their ceiling and getting the absolute most out of them, that allows you to be successful on Fridays,” he added. “And it’s really been a pleasant surprise watching some of these kids who have never been in those roles.”

They have permitted 90 points, tenth-best in Division I against the class’ easiest schedule, according to Prep Power Index. Last week, though, Burlingame pulled off a quality road 54-42 win versus Maranatha Academy (4-2).

“Our schedule certainly set up nice at the beginning of the year,” Slater said. “To work out some kinks with losing everybody we did, so that’s kind of helped us a little bit. Last week, that was a big-time game for this team to be able to go on the road and win one and have to earn it and play well.”

On Friday, Burlingame plays host to unbeaten Madison in a matchup that will decide the Lyon County League and District 3 title. Both squads are 3-0 in districts. This marks the first matchup between the teams since ’15.

“Going into this year, I thought there was a possibility that there was going to be a collision course Week 7, and here we are,” Madison coach Alex McMillian said. “I know the Lyon County League title means a lot to these kids.”

The Bearcats’ last regular season loss came to Madison, a 54-8 loss in the ’14 season finale. Slater remembered walking off the field and seeing the Bulldogs celebrate with the league trophy and wanting to earn the title.

In the last four years, Burlingame is 39-3 and 13-0 in league with three straight conference crowns.

While Madison is a traditional power with recent state titles in ’10 and ’11, the Bulldogs took a dip before improving under McMillian, in his third season.

He went 3-6 and 5-4 his first two years and has led the Bulldogs to their fourth consecutive fall of wins improvement. In a quirk in 2017, Burlingame and Madison tied for the Lyon County League title.

Madison went 4-0 in conference, and the Bearcats were 3-0. However, the Bulldogs paid little attention to the league crown, mainly because of a 1-4 finish to the season and Burlingame’s overall dominance.

“I remember last year we were kind of thinking, ‘Man, it would be really nice to play those guys, so we can try to win that league title outright,’” Slater said.

This season, Madison has outscored teams, 312-48 with the No. 2 scoring defense in Division I. The Bulldogs won at Maranatha, 32-22, in Week 4. Maranatha scored on the game’s first offensive play but Madison eventually took away the deep ball. The Bulldogs have allowed just 25 rushing yards a game.

“I don’t think a lot of people expected us to be where we are today,” McMillian said. “That’s just kudos to the kids’ hard work in the offseason and us getting all on the same page coaching-wise. Burlingame has been kind of the team to beat the last few years.

“And I am trying to get the Madison football tradition back to where it once was,” he added. “And I knew once I got here, I got to hear all about Burlingame. I have had my eyes on them for a long time, so we finally get to match up. We are both undefeated, so it will be a big game.”

Against Maranatha, Madison forced four fumbles and intercepted four passes, three from senior defensive back Austin Watts and one from sophomore defensive back Nasun Wasson. Watts has picked off six passes this year.

In the last two weeks, Wasson, with five total interceptions, has three more picks and Watts has one. Last year, Wasson had four interceptions against Lebo in one game. Wasson has also focused on self-discipline without McMillian asking him.

Every time he fumbles or doesn’t do his job, he goes off to the sideline and does 10 push-ups. Wasson leads a deep backfield with 359 rushing yards.

“He lacked tackling last year and coming up and setting the edge in run support and things like that,” McMillian said. “Both him and the other corner Colton Fife have really worked on their game in terms of run defense, and so they are kind of doing a much better job both in pass coverage and run defense.”

Every Wednesday, Madison walks through formations, tendencies and plays with its defensive backs. Madison has tried not to run its base defense so frequently, and looked to mix in other looks with man and zone coverage.

“If our defense has a good idea of what they are doing, then they are one step ahead of the offense, and that’s what we try to stress to our kids,” McMillian said. “And I think they have bought into that. If I am lining up against our defense, and they are calling out our plays before we are getting ready to run them, that’s kind of intimidating.”

Giffin has completed 33 of 70 passes for 670 yards with 11 scores against no interceptions. He has thrown just one pick in his career, and especially played well in the Bearcats’ win over Maranatha.

Greenwood has delivered 96 carries for 811 yards and 16 scores, along with 13 catches for 203 yards and three scores and 196 special team return yards. A starting linebacker, Greenwood has 35 tackles, seven for loss, two interceptions and three non-offensive touchdowns. The Bearcats have eight non-offensive scores.

“Seth is probably the most fundamentally sound football player I have ever coached,” Slater said. “From an IQ standpoint, his preparation, it sets himself up to be really successful on Fridays. He takes the film room very seriously. He is very humble. His work ethic is off the charts. He’s the type of kid that all coaches really enjoy coaching.”

Senior receiver Trevin Lewis is the leading receiver with 14 catches for 404 yards and five scores. Slater coached the sprinter in track and talked to him about coming out this fall.

Senior defensive end Jordan Bowers had never played high school football and is tied for the team-high with eight tackles for loss and 33 stops. Senior tight end/defensive back Lucas Masters had played junior varsity three years and now starts both ways.

Junior guard/defensive end Colton Hill saw some time last fall with 26 tackles and has emerged with a team-best 37 stops and eight TFLs. Junior guard/linebacker Phillip Kidwell has 36 tackles.

Junior wide receiver/defensive back Cole Thomas had five tackles last year and is up to 27 this fall.

Junior Kade Kline had two interceptions and a fumble recovery in the season opener and suffered a collarbone injury. He is expected to return next week. Snesrud missed some time but returned last week and earned the team’s Lunch Pail player of the week award.

“These guys have sat on the sideline during big games the last three years, and we have experienced some big-time atmospheres and some big-time road games,” Slater said. “And it’s their opportunity, and I think we are making the most of our opportunity. It’s a lot of question marks going into the season, but a lot of these guys have stepped up and answered those questions to put us in the situation we are now.”

 

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