BARNEGAT, N.J. - Following a pair of flags and an emotional outburst, Manny Bowen was done.
Just minutes into the Bengals’ conference game against Lakewood, the Penn State linebacker commit was whistled for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and was ejected from the game, causing the emotional four-star recruit to slam his helmet to the ground and head off to the locker room.
Offensive lineman Sam Madden and his teammates took notice and knew they had to rally around him.
“It sucks that he got out in the first quarter,” said Madden, “but he we all came together and had straight domination running the football.”
Using a steady diet of running plays, the Bengals slowly grinded out the game by keeping the football on the ground, as senior quarterback Cinjun Erskine ran for a pair of touchdowns and caught his first career touchdown to give Barnegat a 24-22 win.
The victory gave Barnegat (6-1) a spot in the playoffs for a fifth straight season and a chance to win its second straight Class B South title with a victory in two weeks.
Madden – a University of Wisconsin commit – had a big part in clearing holes for Eskine, unleashing a handful of pancake blocks that opened up large running lanes for Barnegat’s quarterback.
“First and foremost, I am giving all the glory to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” said Madden. “We wanted to establish the run because we are a run-first team. We like to run over everyone and dominate every defensive line and every set of linebackers we face. We don’t care. We want to come kick your ass and run.”
Without Bowen, the Bengals made running their top priority. Passing only eight times out of their 32 offensive plays, Barnegat chewed up clock to shorten the game. The plan proved to work in the end, especially when the Bengals chewed up half the clock on a touchdown drive to start the third quarter by shifting Madden and other linemen between positions.
“We wanted to create some mismatches on the line,” Barnegat coach Rob Davis. “(Sam)’s a dedicated athlete, and you can’t teach size. With him, we try and take advantage of that size.”
Madden worked mostly at right tackle, but rotated occasionally at left tackle and played some nose tackle. Where he’ll play at Wisconsin is still up the air (likely right tackle), but Madden can’t wait to start after taking his official visit two weekends ago during Wisconsin’s 52-7 win over Maryland.
“It was a blast,” said Madden. “Coach Woods, Coach Andersen, Coach Brown, my relationship with them has been growing very well. I try to get in touch with them whenever I can. It was a lot of fun getting to spend some time with them.”
The three-star recruit – rated the No.73 tackle in the country by Scout.com - was one of seven official visitors on campus that weekend (five players who were already committed and two (defensive tackles Elu Aydon and Olive Sagapolu) who committed before leaving campus). The Badgers also had a handful of unofficial visitors who were already committed, meaning nearly half of Wisconsin’s 2015 recruiting class was sitting together watching their future program.
“Elu and Olive are two great kids and two hard workers; any time they had down time they were on their iPads watching film,” said Madden. “All the commits like to make it fun, have the comedy routine off the field and make it fun. They made the weekend a lot of fun.”
Madden’s current Twitter moniker is aptly named “NEVERSATISFIED,” a true representation of how the 6-7, 340-pound linemen has spent his senior season leading the Bengals while preparing for his freshman season in Madison.
He’s continuing to work on dropping his weight and increasing his speed all the while pushing himself to achieve extraordinary high expectations.
“Even if I fail at the high expectations, I’m going to achieve more than if I set my expectations super low,” said Madden. “If you expect low things, you’re going to be low.”
Not surprisingly Madden finds ways to self-motivate himself. Having all the plays on his left wristband, Madden’s right wristband has pictures of his family. On the outside are the pictures of his two grandmothers, including his mom’s mom who died of breast cancer.
Flip it open and there’s a picture of his grandparents, parents and brothers, all things he carries with him to find that extra gear when he needs it.
“I just look at this picture whenever I am tired,” said Madden. “It makes me want to play harder and reminds me that people are counting on me.”