WEIRTON - In the past several years, the Madonna-Bridgeport clash has turned into dogfights with both teams going into the games either unbeaten or with one loss.
Not so this year.
Madonna goes into Saturday night's meeting with only one blemish on the record in four games, but the Bulldogs are struggling this season. They have won just one of five games.
Madonna hosts this year's contest at the new Jimmy Carey Stadium with a 7 p.m. kickoff.
While this annual game has developed into a rivalry, the Blue Dons have some extra incentive after losing a tough one a year ago with no time left on the clock.
The Blue Dons held a 21-14 lead into the waning minutes of the game at Bridgeport, but the Bulldogs scored on the last play of regulation time with a pass in the corner of the end zone. With no time left on the clock, Bridgeport's veteran coach, Rudy Vavrock, rolled the dice and went for two points to pull out a 22-21 victory.
"This game has become a good rivalry," said Madonna's second-year coach, Doug Taylor. "Actually, we look forward to playing Bridgeport because they are well coached and aggressive. I think that by playing them it makes us better."
The Blue Dons are coming off a 60-14 win over Cameron last week and now have won two in a row.
"You look at the 60 points we put on the board last week, but we still made a lot of mistakes," Taylor explained. "It may look like we were error-free, but we still have a lot of room for improvement. We still haven't played a complete game."
Taylor said the Blue Dons have only four seniors so his team is young and that could be part of the inconsistency they have shown.
"The kids keep working hard and I know we'll get to where we play four good quarters and that's what we're looking for," Taylor said. "Part of the problem, too, is that we are trying to improve our depth by playing a lot of players."
Taylor said the Bulldogs will come at the Madonna defense with multiple looks. He said they use the jet series, spread and power-I formations.
"They give us a lot to prepare for," he said.
"And they also give a lot of different looks on defense so we have to use extra practice time this week to get ready for that, too."
The Bulldogs have just 23 players with only three seniors. All three seniors are returning starters and running back, Dallas Fields, is a key player for them. The 175-pounder ran for more than 650 yards last year and is leading the Bulldogs again this season.
"They want to get the ball in his hands," Taylor explained. "He has good speed and he's a playmaker. We have to know where he is at all times Saturday."
Taylor said his Blue Dons have to keep doing what they have been doing and get better at it.
"I believe our players are taking the opportunities during film sessions, practice and games to make themselves better," Taylor said. "We just need to be consistent from start to finish and we'll be OK."