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Hillcrest's linebacker corps of seniors Jake Fife and Cade Madson approach every game as a test to earn respect. With more than 100 combined tackles in five games, Fife and Madson are playing their last season punishing opposing offenses and changing the nature of Hillcrest football.
"We don't have the great history of other teams," Madson said. "For us, it's about improving and beating previous records."
Fife and Madson want to finish their Huskies careers with Hillcrest in the playoffs, somewhere the program hasn't been since 2002. Hillcrest finished with four wins last season, but topping .500 isn't enough. Fife and Madson want to leave their mark.
"Playoffs are the goal," Fife said. "All I think about is football and making this team better."
It's leadership through example. Hillcrest has started with the basics to rebuild the program. For Fife and Madson, that means getting stronger, teaching fundamentals and working as a cohesive unit. It started with the weight room, where they would challenge other members of the team to lift and get in better shape during the offseason.
"You need to have the strength to play football," Madson said. "If you do the things off the field right, then you can make good things happen on the field."
Hillcrest coach Casey Miller thinks Fife and Madson are natural leaders who are changing the culture of football at the school.
"They push everyone to play better and get everyone moving in the right direction," he said.
The Huskies' defense is designed for Fife and Madson to stop offenses. It's based on trust that the defensive line will squeeze the opposition, the corners will plug the pass and Fife and Madson will stop anyone who gets past their teammates. Because of this defensive strategy, plays are funneled to Fife and Madson, who make brutal stops.
"There is nothing more invigorating than laying the hit on someone," Madson said.
Fife's defensive prowess has grown over the years. Everyone seems to know about the hard-hitting middle linebacker. The opposition has two options with the 6-foot-3 senior run the other way or send extra blockers.
"He's got a reputation out there," Miller said. "He plays to leave a lasting impression for Hillcrest. Together, these guys follow the plan and make the right defensive plays."
Their toughness has proven to be their greatest attribute. They quickly erase any doubts about their tackling ability.
"They've done a good job of fighting," Miller said. "If we want to be treated with respect, we need to do it on the field, and they're getting it done."
Jake Fife is being recruited by Weber State, Southern Utah and BYU.
Cade Madson boasts better than a 3.0 grade-point average and has completed six AP-level courses.
Madson recorded his first interception against Riverton this season.
Fife forced two fumbles against Tooele last week.