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Madonna weathers St. Marys storm in win

November 17, 2012
By MIKE MATHISON - Sports editor , The Herald-Star

WEIRTON - It was the play of the game.

Madonna was facing a third-and-18 with 3:01 left in Friday's West Virginia Class A state quarterfinal against St. Marys holding a 22-14 cushion.

St. Marys called a timeout and Blue Dons junior quarterback Ross Comis suggested a play to head coach Doug Taylor.

"I wanted to run a reverse," Comis said with a laugh.

Instead, Taylor dialed up the same pass play that was not completed on fourth down the previous possession.

"I underthrew him," Comis said of the pass to Elliott Nero, who had the defensive player beaten.

He didn't do it the second time.

Comis hooked up with his classmate for a 60-yard touchdown pass and Matthew Green's PAT gave the Blue Dons a 29-14 lead and eventual victory at Jimmy Carey Stadium.

"I didn't see him at first, so I stepped up in the pocket and let it loose," said Comis.

"The defender couldn't make a play and with Elliott's speed, it was over."

Added Nero of the two plays, "We had it called before and I had a couple of steps on him (the defender), he (Comis) kind of underthrew me and he (the defender) just tipped it at the end.

"I came over and said, 'I burned him the first time, I can do it again.' Luckily, he (Comis) had enough arm on it and I scored.

"That was a huge play."

To say the least.

After that play, it was the first time all night Madonna's defense was allowed to take a breath because St. Marys running game pounded the ball at the Dons.

"That was one of the toughest I've ever been through," said Nero, who finished with four catches for 89 yards and two scores.

St. Marys held the explosive Blue Dons offense to 247 total yards.

"That was a very tough football team," said Nero.

"Big win right there. We saw on film that they were tough runners. Good defense. Great line. Just a tough football team."

Madonna will take on the winner of today's game with No. 8 Clay-Battelle visiting No. 1 Tucker County in the state semifinals next week.

The Blue Devils took its first possession 97 yards on 17 plays to hold an 8-0 lead.

Taylor told his players to "weather the storm."

"We always talk to our kids and tell them 'when you're facing a team that does something that you haven't seen before, it takes you awhile to get adjusted to it.'" said Taylor.

"When they drove the ball on us, we kept saying 'hang with it' because the game will eventually slow down.

"It'll slow down to the point where you play better. That's what we were talking about when we said 'weather the storm.' We have to let the game slow down and come to us and then we'll play our game."

Added Comis, who accounted for all four Madonna scores (two on the ground and two in the air), "We knew our defensive line would gut-up. A couple times this year it's taken a quarter or so for our defensive line to really know their place and they really stepped up tonight. That second drive we got a turnover and just played well from there."

Added Nero, "You just have to make little adjustments here and there. We ran through it at halftime. We always knew this was going to be a tough game. You're in the state quarterfinals. Every game is tough.

"We knew they were going to make plays. We knew we were going to make plays. Whoever makes more plays gets the ballgame."

St. Marys finished with 250 yards on the ground in 55 attempts. David Gray led the way with 143 yards on 22 chances.

For Blue Dons first-year defensive coordinator Brad Kessel, it was all about assignment football.

"We knew they were a good power running football team," he said.

"We tried to make sure we had our assignments where they needed to be.

"On the option, after they go downhill, downhill, downhill, they'll run counter option or load option to the strength. They are a good football team. The left side of their offensive line was the best left side of an offensive line we have seen all year.

"Without Garrett Hypes (out with a shoulder injury) to really control what we do defensively, it really put us in a bind. Our kids played well. We are proud of them.

"We told our defensive line (at halftime) that they had to start playing a little bit better. We had to stop shooting ourselves in the foot with some penalties.

"I give all the respect in the world to our defensive tackles, Garrett Bever, Josh Martin and Quinton Hukill and our ends Austin Connell, Nate Guio and Tyler Ewusiak.

"They did a nice job in the second half."