Mother Nature did her best to derail the best football season in Madison history.
She failed miserably.
Tyler Hoffman ran for a game-high 156 yards and four touchdowns Friday as the homestanding Patriots celebrated their first state playoff win with a NCHSAA 2-A victory over Mountain Heritage, 62-7.
As is usually the case, Madison was one of the Western North Carolina communities hit hardest by snow Tuesday and Wednesday.
As a result, the Patriots (11-1) barely touched their practice field to prepare for a second consecutive game with the Cougars (4-7), who also had their share of weather-related challenges. Madison won 35-7 on Oct. 26 in Burnsville, which was the regular-season finale for both Western Highlands Conference teams.
In addition to Hoffman's four scoring runs (1, 10, 21 and 43 yards), Cole Cuthbertson (58), Daniel Nash (5) and Deryck Hilemon (2) also carried for touchdowns. Sam Cauthren caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Rogers, and Adam Gonzalez had a 35-yard interception return for six more points.
Cheyenne Bunner converted eight of her nine extra-point attempts.
"We played hard, and I was real worried after the bad weather kept us from practicing much," Patriots coach Mark Gosnell said.
"I'm so proud of this group for the way they've stepped up. There was a lot of excitement in our locker room (on Friday). Just to see the kids that happy is great."
The WHC and Smoky Mountain Conference have four of the 12 remaining area teams in the NCHSAA playoffs.
Madison returns home next week to host fellow WHC team Owen (6-6). The Patriots beat the Warhorses, 14-7, on Oct. 5.
"I wish it was different, but it's like we're playing a Western Highlands Conference tournament in the playoffs," Gosnell said.
"It's hard because you pull for teams like Owen if you're not playing them. You want to see them do well in the playoffs. The coaches have relationships with each other and so do the kids."
Speaking of Owen, the Warhorses (6-6) leveled their record at .500 with Friday's easy 35-6 victory at Draughn.
Sophomore Jager Gardner continued his breakout season with 172 yards and four touchdowns. Cole Leighton capped things off by rumbling 49 yards for a late fourth-quarter score.
Owen took advantage of five turnovers from the Panthers, who fell to 5-7. Friday was just the second playoff win since 2007 for the Warhorses.
Longtime Owen coach Kenny Ford said the key moment of the game was in the first quarter. Draughn took its opening possession inside the Warhorses' 5-yard line, but failed to score on four downs.
"We stopped them, and I feel like that was real critical for the rest of the game," Ford said. "This is a different ballclub right now. I'm really pleased with these kids. We've been through a lot, but I'm really enjoying this group."
WNC receivers reach 1,000 yards
WNC has its first two 1,000-yard receivers of the season.
Erwin junior Jonathan Allen (1,169 yards) and Swain County senior Greg Tisho (1,026) hit the benchmark in Friday's NCHSAA playoff wins for their conference championship teams.
Allen's 183-yard, three-touchdown performance helped fuel a 41-34 comeback victory over 3-AA opponent Asheville High for the Warriors (8-3), who have now won a playoff game each of the past five seasons under coach Mike Sexton.
Tisho is just the second receiver in Swain County history to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in a single season, joining Benjie Shuler, who played collegiately for Tennessee. The Maroon Devils crushed East Wilkes, 62-28, in a 1-AA game Friday.
Cherokee senior Logan Woodard (1,170) became the latest WNC quarterback to pass for more than 1,000 yards in Friday's 69-20 NCHSAA 1-A playoff loss at Murphy.