WEIRTON - The Madonna Blue Dons are on a roll with an 8-1 record, seven straight wins, the Class 1A Ohio Valley Athletic Conference championship and the lofty No. 5 spot in the West Virginia Class A rankings.
They clinched a playoff spot with the 48-6 victory over Toronto last week, and they are pretty much assured of home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but if they want to solidify that they truly are one of the better Class A teams in the state, they need to knock off unbeaten Clay-Battelle, which invades Jimmy Carey Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday.
The game was originally on the Blue Don schedule as a Saturday night contest. However, the schedule was drawn up months ago before anyone knew that the Weir High football team wasn't playing this Friday. So, to facilitate the planning for the playoffs, which begin with a Sunday morning meeting at the WVSSAC offices in Parkersburg, the game was moved to Friday.
The Cee Bees are big and physical, according to Madonna coach Doug Taylor, who said that seems to be the description of the Clay-Battelle football team year in and year out.
Taylor, who has scouted the Cee Bees twice, said one of his concerns is the two big tackles they have.
"They are a typical Clay-Battelle team and our major concern for us, particularly on the defensive side, are their two big tackles," he said.
He was referring to Hunter Six (6-0, 305) and Dustin Varner (6-5, 325). Both are juniors. Six has a freshman brother on the roster that goes 6-feet 4-inches and weighs in at 285 pounds.
"Those two big tackles pretty much plug up the middle when they are on defense," Taylor said. "They make it difficult to run inside. On offense, Clay-Battelle likes to use their big line to do a lot of power running.
"They have a couple of big and physical backs and their quarterback, Trent Haught, has good size."
Haught is a 6-2 junior, who has a good arm, according to Taylor. The Clay-Battelle roster lists Haught at 170 pounds, but Taylor said he appears to be bigger than that.
"We've seen him be the lead blocker when they run a sweep," he said. "Their main running back is Shayne Hinkle (5-9, 160), who is a hard runner that likes to cut back. Clay-Battelle is a physical team with good skills. I got to seem them twice and I was impressed with them both times."
Taylor said he also is concerned about the play of senior Statton Shriver at inside linebacker. He noted that with opposing teams needing to double team the two big tackles it frees up Shriver (6-0, 190) to fill holes and make a lot of tackles.
It will be the final home regular season game for four Blue Don seniors. They are Garrett Hypes, Quintin Hukill, Charlie Kotten and James Fulciniti. They will be honored prior to the game Friday night.
"We want to send these guys out with a win," said Taylor.
The teams have beaten four common opponents - Bishop Donahue, Valley, Cameron and Notre Dame.
"You can't really tell much from comparative scores because there's a lot of variables with how teams match up against each other," Taylor said. "I'm sure the Clay-Battelle coaching staff feels they match up better with us with their power run game."
Taylor said his keys to victory include just playing Madonna football.
"We have to keep doing what we've been doing," he said. "We have to continue to do what got us here and defensively, we need to make sure we are gap sound and be sure they don't go on drives behind their big line. We can't let them push us around."
What they have been doing is scoring a lot of touchdowns and playing the stingiest defense of the 11 teams in the Herald-Star/Daily Times coverage area.
Junior quarterback Ross Comis is closing in on a double double (1,000 yards rushing and passing). He has 1,127 yards on the ground (second among area teams) and has thrown for 944 yards.