WHEELING - After four and a half hours - over two of which were due to lightning delay - the Wheeling Central Maroon Knights were able to grind out a hard-earned 28-22 win over the Weirton Madonna Blue Dons Saturday at Wheeling Island Stadium on the back of junior C.J. Burch.
"There's no doubt the rain hurt us," said Madonna head coach Doug Taylor. "We had momentum and we were pumped up. It's how you finish the game though.
"They had the same rain delay we did, and they came out and beat us up for about two quarters. The kids fought hard, drove down with under a minute left, and that shows the amount of heart and pride we have."
Burch, who lined up at quarterback, tailback, and wing for the Maroon Knights , carried the ball 36 times and racked up 267 yards on the ground to go with three touchdowns to will his team to victory.
"I knew how good he was," said Taylor. "We watched him last week, and he's a great athlete. He's got good feet and he's pretty fast. I knew he was going to be a presence to be dealt with, and he didn't surprise us."
Not that Blue Dons' signal caller Ross Comis didn't match his intensity. Comis completed nine passes for 145 yards and a score while also running for 141 stripes and a touchdown to lead his team within a fourth quarter onside kick of pulling off the road win.
Wheeling Central 28, Madonna 22
Madonna 7 7 0 8 - 22
Wheeling Central 0 14 0 14 - 28
M: Hypes 36 pass from Comis (Green kick)
WC: Burch 1 run (Cottrell kick)
M: Comis 1 run (Green kick)
WC: Nolte 6 run (Cottrell kick)
WC: Burch 3 run (Cottrell kick)
WC: Burch 1 run (Cottrell kick)
M: Hypes 1 run (Pass good)
RUSHING: Madonna 32-224-2 (Comis 14-141-1, Ossman 9-31, Hypes 4-15-1, Nero 3-32, Biondillo 2-5); Wheeling Central 51-323-4 (Burch 36-267-3, Naumann 7-22, John 4-21, Nolte 4-13-1).
PASSING: Madonna 9-18-145-1TD-1INT (All by Comis); Wheeling Central 1-4-5-0TD-0INT (All by Burch).
RECEIVING: Madonna (Hypes 3-86-1, Biondillo 2-28, Ossman 2-17, Guio 1-15, Bowser 1-(-1)); Wheeling Central (Pleva 1-5).
FIRST DOWNS: Madonna 16; Wheeling Central 16.
PENALTIES: Madonna 7-36; Wheeling Central 8-50.
FUMBLES-LOST: Madonna 1-1; Wheeling Central 0-0.
"Our kids played well, I thought we threw the ball well, and I thought we ran the ball pretty well too," said Taylor.
With the game tied at 14, Wheeling Central began the game's most important stretch with with 10:17 left in the fourth quarter. Taking the ball at their own 33, the Maroon Knights marched 67 yards on 7 plays to take a 21-14 lead. All 7 plays were runs, with 6 being by Burch. In the end Burch ran in form three yards out and Bradley Cottrell knocked home the extra point.
On Madonna's next possession, Wheeling Central's Braxton Nolte got to Comis for a sack and forced a fumble. Nolte's teammate Coty Knecht pounced on it and the Maroon Knights were in business at the Blue Dons' 33-yard line.
"We have our blocking schemes set up for certain things, and they beat us on the inside blitz a couple times," said Taylor. "They were able to get pressure before we were able to get the edge. Give credit to Wheeling Central, that was a good game plan for them."
Five plays later Burch plunged in from inside the 1 and Cottrell put the P.A.T. through for the 28-14 Wheeling Central advantage with 3:04 left.
Madonna didn't not go away softly though. WIth about two minutes left Comis broke loose for a 68-yard scamper that put his team at the 3-yard line. Comis left on the play with cramping, but backup quarterback Garrett Hypes, who also had three catches for 86 yards receiving, plunged in two plays later from a yard out. Comis came back in as the holder on the extra point and hit Nate Guio for a 2-point conversion on the fake to make the score 28-22 with 58 seconds left.
"I've talked about it before," said Taylor. "We really have a luxury back there. We probably have three of the best quarterbacks together on one team.
"You're looking at Comis, Hypes, and (Anthony) Antinone does a good job of running that option and the short passing game for us. I feel confident in any one of those guys. If someone goes down we just throw another in and I feel confident in them."
The Blue Dons' comeback hopes were dashed when Wheeling Central's Michael Pleva recovered the ensuing onside kick to preserve the victory.
Madonna took a 7-0 lead with 3:24 in the first quarter on a Comis 36-yard scoring toss to Hypes. Matthew Green punched in the point after.
The lightning delay then interrupted play.
Out of the delay the maroon Knights marched 70 yards on 13 plays with Burch going in from the 1-yard line. Cottrell's extra point tied the game at 7-all.
Madonna answered right back with a 6-play, 65 yard scoring drive. The big play on the drive was a 39-yard Comis to Hypes hook up. Comis pushed in from about an inch out and Green kicked the Point after the the 14-7 Madonna lead.in the second quarter.
Wheeling Central came right back, traveling 80 stripes on 9 plays. A Burch 41-yard run was the big play and Nolte went in untouched from 6 yards for the score. Cottrell's extra point tied the score at 14 and set up the second half fireworks.
Madonna dropped to 1-1 and hosts Fort Frye Saturday.