Taylor Huff

Madison's Taylor Huff dribbles the ball against Clear Fork on Friday at Madison's Ram Field at STARTEK Stadium.

MADISON TOWNSHIP — Taylor Huff celebrated her 17th birthday in style.

Madison’s ultra-athletic junior midfielder, Huff scored two goals and assisted on a third as the Rams knocked off cross-county rival Clear Fork 3-1 in Friday’s season-opener at Ram Field at STARTEK Stadium.

The highly-regarded Rams fell behind in the fourth minute and sleep-walked for nearly the entire first half before Huff scored the equalizer just before the break on an unassisted goal.

“They scored early and had us on our heels,” Huff said. “I just wanted to get a goal to let us settle down.”

A two-time All-American, Huff assisted on what proved to be the game-winner midway through the second half. The University of Tennessee recruit drew the defense before finding teammate Mariah Cook alone in front of the Clear Fork goal. Cook tapped the ball past Clear Fork keeper Torri Curry for a 2-1 Madison lead with 20:45 remaining.

Torri Curry

Clear Fork goal keeper Torri Curry makes a save over Madison's Hannah Schmidt during Friday's opener at Madison's Ram Field at STARTEK Stadium.

“I saw (Huff) going up the sideline. I was back at the 18 and I knew to make the run,” said Cook, a sophomore midfielder. “You always want to be right by her. You know she’ll give you those amazing balls.”

Huff added an insurance goal with 13:52 remaining, scoring off a Phyllis Stanfield assist.

“She took it into her own hands,” said Huff’s father and Madison coach Zac Huff. “At one point she went back to the 18 and … talked to the girls and told them to focus and settle down.”

The new-look Colts — Clear Fork lost 12 players to graduation and returned just two starters — struck first when Trinity Cook was fouled in the box in the fourth minute. Avery Wend converted the penalty kick for the quick 1-0 lead.

Mariah Cook

Madison's Mariah Cook dribbles between a pair of Clear Fork defenders during Friday's opener at Madison's Ram Field at STARTEK Stadium.

“Although we lost, I’m happy with how we played, especially (after) losing so many seniors,” Wend said. “I think we’ve really grown this summer. I thought we played pretty good considering they are such a great team.”

Veteran Clear Fork coach Brittany Bechtel agreed.

“On paper, we have no business playing with them,” Bechtel said. “The motivation of knowing that Madison is possibly one of the top teams in the state and to come back with a bunch of young players who haven’t even played varsity and to give a solid game like that, I don’t think I could be more proud of the effort.”

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I have covered high school sports in Richland County since 2000. Email him at curt@richlandsource.com or follow him on Twitter: Follow @curtjconrad on twitter.

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