DERRY, N.H. — Saturday represents far more than simply a game to Pinkerton linebacker Matt Madden.
It is the moment Madden has dreamed of each of the 371 days since he was stranded powerless on the sidelines, leaning on crutches a week from surgery, watching his Astros fall to Exeter in the Division 1 state championship game for the second straight season.
“I just felt so helpless,” he said. “I couldn’t help my teammates, and when we lost it made it so much worse. You never forget an awful feeling like that. But that’s what drove me to come back stronger. This isn’t just a game for me.”
Now healthy and Pinkerton’s leading tackler for the third straight season, Madden leads his Astros back into the Division 1 title game for the fourth straight season, as they travel to face unbeaten, top-seeded Concord tomorrow at 1 p.m.
“We can’t wait,” said Madden, also the team’s starting fullback. “It’s hard to believe that it’s really my last high school football game, but it is so I want to go out with a win. Concord is a very good, tough team. They are undefeated after all. But we feel like we match up well with them. You have to play for a reason. We all play this game for some reason, and we want to win.”
A four-year starter, he heads into the title game with a team-best 85 tackles — giving him 330 for his prolific career.
“Matt is the heart of our defense,” said Pinkerton coach Brian O’Reilly. “He has been so crucial to our success over the last three years. He took the injury last year hard because I think he felt like the outcome (in the title game) would have been different if he were out there, and that’s how great players feel.”