WEIRTON - The Madonna football team is feeling pretty good about themselves after coming off a thrilling come from behind 21-20 win over a ranked Steubenville Catholic Central team, but coach Doug Taylor is cautioning his troops to stay focused.
The win boosted the Blue Dons to No. 5 in the West Virginia Class A rankings and assured them of a playoff spot. So, Madonna has every right to feel good about what they are doing.
However, Taylor's concern is that this week's opponent, Toronto, enters Jimmy Carey Stadium Saturday night with a 3-6 record and no pressure so they could be free to throw everything at the Blue Dons except the kitchen sink.
"We need to be ready to stop their running game," said Toronto head coach Eric Meek. "They have so many weapons and are so big up front. They are a physical team and use that size up front.
"They run the spread very well. It's going to be a challenge."
Madonna will honor the 1987 Blue Dons on the 25th anniversary of being the first state championship football team in the school's history. The ceremonies will occur prior to the 7 p.m. kickoff.
"We talked at practice on Monday about being flat after the type of win we had last week," Taylor said. "Not everything went right in that game last week so we talked about what went right and what went wrong. And we cautioned them about remaining focused and don't get caught up in Toronto's record. We have to continue to get better at the things we do."
Taylor said he also cautioned the Blue Dons about looking ahead. Madonna hosts currently undefeated and state ranked Clay-Battelle in the season finale on Nov. 3.
"We have goals, team goals, and we can't get caught up looking ahead," Taylor continued. "We have to stay focused on the task at hand, which is Toronto. They are a team that could be over .500 if a few things had gone their way in a couple of their losses. They could easily be 5-4.
"Toronto had a fourth quarter lead erased late in the game with Connotton Valley and lost by three or four points and they got upset by Bridgeport. Coach (Eric) Meek is a friend of mine. I coached on his staff at Weir High so I know he we bring a tough football team at us and since they have nothing to lose he will throw everything at us. They will be ready.
"We have to prepare for them to do things they haven't done this season like halfback passes, reverses and flea flickers."
Taylor said the Red Knights have a young team with speed that has continued to improve as the season went by.
The Red Knights are led by freshman quarterback, Blaze Glenn and his running back brother, Chez Glenn. The Toronto stable of running backs also includes freshman Chantz Cassella and senior Joey Chadwick.
In Toronto's 62-22 win over Hundred last week, the Red Knights rushed for 393 yards with Cassella gaining 131, C. Glenn getting 121 and Chadwick running for 35 stripes in just two carries. Blaze Glenn completed four of six passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns.
"I think last week gives the kids confidence, but Madonna is a much better team," said Meek. "They are probably the best team on our schedule.
"Doug (Taylor) was offensive coordinator when I was at Weir. He's doing a tremendous job at Madonna. They are a veteran football team that is well-coached. They kind of have it rolling right now."
Toronto rolled to 515 total yards in the offensive explosion last week.
Blaze Glen has had a terrific freshman showing throwing for 1067 yards and nine scores to go with 477 yards and four scores on the ground.
"He has very good poise and carries himself unlike a freshman," said Meek. "He works really hard in the weight room. I told him its going to be nice one year when he passes for a 1,000 yards or rushes for 1,000 and we win a bunch of games."
Brother Chez Glen leads the team in rushing and receiving yards with 583 yards and eight scores on the ground with 387 yards and four scores receiving.
Madonna counters with the top team defensive statistics among the schools in this newspaper's coverage area. The Blue Dons, who held a high powered Catholic Central offense under its season averages last week, has allowed 1,079 yards rushing and 639 passing in eight games. It also has yielded 94 points.
On the other hand, Toronto's defense has given up 291 points while allowing 2,153 yards rushing and 918 passing yards.
The two teams have played two common opponents, Valley and Bridgeport. Madonna downed Valley 49-0 in the season opener and clobbered Bridgeport by 55-0. Bridgeport defeated Toronto, but the Red Knights downed Valley for one of their three victories. The other wins came over Hundred last week and Bellaire St. John.
"Our defense has played well all season long, but last week we showed how well we can play against a good Catholic Central team," Taylor explained. "We held Central under 200 total yards, which is well under what they averaged during the season. I think our defense has something to be proud of."
Taylor said his keys to success this week include staying away from penalties.
"I'm concerned about what I call nonsense penalties like procedure infractions that hurt a couple of drives last week and kept our offense from getting into a rhythm. Penalties can kill an offense. When you play good teams like we have on our schedule these last three weeks of the season, we have to stay away from penalties."
For the Red Knights this game is about sending out their seniors on a high note while also preparing for a bright future.
"We're playing our seniors Joe Chadwick, Jake Haynes, Kyle White, Zach Price, Tyler Andrews," said Meek. "We want to send them off for what they've done for our program. We also want to set the tone as we go into the off season, and prepare for the future.
"We need to keep the faith and moving in the right direction. I'm confident in time we will get another winning season like last year and contend for the playoffs.
"We are a couple plays away from being a 5-4 team with eight underclassmen starting. We need to keep working and getting better."