MADILL — The Madill football family ran across Alumni Field like a herd — a group eager to celebrate 10 games without defeat.
Madill also ran away with its district-deciding matchup against Pauls Valley on Friday, outscoring the Panthers 34-7 in the second half en route to a 55-28 victory. When the team and coaches settled underneath the scoreboard for a memory maker of a photo, it was symbolic of the end of one season and the beginning of another.
With the win, Madill draws Star Spencer at home for the first round of the 3A postseason. It's the first district title in coach Milton Cooper's second year at the school.
"This is huge for our program, winning the district championship," Cooper said. "What we've got to do is knock that door down and get past that first and second round. That's the goal that we've set."
If the Wildcats are to knock down that door, much will fall on the shoulders of quarterback Paten Bond. The senior did his part again for Madill on Friday, rushing for 238 yards and four touchdowns and throwing for 122 yards and two scores.
Bond, who's battled a high ankle sprain for a majority of the second half of the season, said he came into the game at about 90 percent. After a physical contest with the Panthers (5-5, 5-2 District 3A-4), however, Bond said he was 75 percent by game's end.
Pauls Valley kept the game close for two quarters, trading touchdowns with Madill to head into the locker room tied 21-21. But the Wildcats were able to get key contributions from all over the field after halftime.
The two teams traded rushing touchdowns in the third quarter to keep the game knotted before Madill rolled off 27 consecutive points to lock up the district championship. After Bond's 5-yard touchdown run put Madill ahead 34-28 in the third, the Wildcats were able to force Pauls Valley to punt for the first time in three possessions.
That defensive stop changed everything, as Bond found Ke'van Davis for a 34-yard screen pass touchdown to put Madill ahead by two scores.
"We knew we had to get a defensive stop and keep scoring," Paten Bond said. "The offensive line picked it up. They made sure they got their blocks, and we just kept clicking."
With Pauls Valley quarterback Joe Kyle Foster knocked out of the game in the second quarter with a head injury, Madill's defense continued to exploit the Panthers' inexperience in the passing game. Safeties Joe Avery and Samuel Bond came up with interceptions on consecutive Pauls Valley offensive plays in the fourth quarter.
Davis finished with six catches for 112 yards and two touchdown catches, and running back Christian Gentis had 90 yards rushing and two scores. Gentis got stronger as the game went on, rushing for 76 yards in the second half, including a 29-yard TD to ice the game.
Page 2 of 2 - "Even though when I'm out, they know they've got to keep playing," Bond said of the team's resilience without him in the lineup at times this season. "When one person's out, they've got to keep going."
The Wildcats are going back to the playoffs, this time as district champions in a season of close calls and hard-earned victories.
"It's not over yet," senior lineman Levi Holliday said. "The goal is five more weeks down the road."
Erik K. Horne