For this 2021 semi-final playoff round, the undefeated first-seeded Madison Golden Knights hosted the fourth-seeded Eagles of the Eagle Academy II, a familiar playoff foe from the 2018 season. Just three seasons ago the Knights beat the Eagles for Coach Tommy Salvato’s first Bowl Championship since transferring from Poly Prep to Madison in 2017.
Prior to the game, Principal Jodie Cohen was proud to announce that senior wide receiver Nicholas Willensky had just signed his letter of intent for a scholarship to play for Stony Brook next season. Also in off-the-field news, junior quarterback Amir Cameron was just selected as the president of Madison’s new chapter of the national My Brother’s Keepers Alliance, a social action organization for young men of color that was started by former President Barack Obama. Not to be outdone by Madison, Eagle running back Devon Carrington also was recognized for completing a 1,000-plus-yard rushing season in which he scored 2.5 touchdowns a game, earning him scholarship looks by Pace, Monmouth and Leigh.
From the opening quarter Carrington showed why colleges were interested in him with a 20-yard rush to the 15-yard line, followed by a touchdown reception to put the Eagles up 6-0. The Knights wasted no time answering, and on their next possession gave the ball to senior captain Mikai Johnson, who outran the Eagle defense to the goal line on an 80-yard sweep to quickly put Madison ahead, 8-6.
In the second quarter, the Knights held the Eagles at their own 25-yard line, which led to Johnson’s second score of the game on a 45-yard burst up the middle. The Knights continued to press on defense, resulting in an interception by Aaron Ellis at the Eagle 45-yard line. With the ball back in Madison’s possession, Cameron connected with wide receiver Nicholas Willensky on the 3-yard line. Jaylen Cooper then ran in for another score.
With Madison comfortably up 20-6, the Eagles stunned the crowd on the ensuing kickoff when Nino Betances outmaneuvered the whole Madison kickoff team. By faking a pitch, Betances opened up a gap down the left sideline and ran for a 70-yard touchdown return to narrow the Knights’ lead to 20-12 at the half.
With an urgency for more points to stay in the game, the Knights executed a perfect squib kick to start the third quarter that was recovered on the Eagle 40-yard line. From there, Cameron drove the Knights down to the 3-yard line, where he found Damon Ennett open in the end zone to make the score 26-12.
Mid-way in the fourth quarter, the Knights put the game out of reach with another long touchdown run by Johnson. On his final rush of the game Johnson completed a 70-yard sweep for a total of 249 yards and three touchdowns on five rushing attempts to make the final score 34-12.
“He’s been doing that all season for us,” said Salvato. “As you can see, he means so much to this team.”
Advancing to the Bowl Division championship game, first-seeded Madison will take on second-seeded New Dorp on Saturday, Nov. 27 at Lincoln High School for what Salvato hopes will be the third consecutive championship for the school.