WEIRTON - As the Madonna football team prepares for Saturday's West Virginia Class A state championship game with Wahama, the Weirton community is showing its support for the Blue Dons.
"The support from the community is real nice," said Madonna senior Garrett Hypes. "Today we're eating at Mario's Restaurant and yesterday Undo's had us up. It feels great to have the community have our back through it all.
"It means a lot that they support us through this whole thing."
DINING OUT — Members of the Madonna football team ate dinner at Mario’s Restaurant in Weirton Wednesday. Mario’s provided dinner for the Blue Dons, who play for the West Virginia Class A state championship Saturday in Wheeling against Wahama.
-- Fred Younce
Added head coach Doug Taylor, "It's really important knowing the community supports you. I think it's important to the team that they know the community supports them, and to know they have an obligation to give something back to them as well."
Hypes is joined by the team's three other seniors - Charlie Kotten, James Fulciniti, and Quintin Hukill - in being humbled by the Weirton's support the Blue Dons.
"It's great to see all these people supporting us - both Madonna fans and people who aren't Madonna fans," said Kotten. "For people to appreciate how well we're doing is great to see."
Added Fulciniti, "I think it's great that everyone in Weirton supports us as we go for the state title. It's great having everyone behind as as we're preparing for the game, and knowing they care about us."
Continued Hukill, "It's great to have the Madonna family behind us."
The seniors, who were freshmen during Madonna's last state title run, are being counted on to provide extra leadership in Saturday's game, set for 7 p.m. at Wheeling Island Stadium.
"If you look back they were part of the 2009 team," said Taylor. "They were freshmen so I think they know what it takes to win it.
"We're looking to their leadership to lead this team to get another one."
Added Hypes, "There's a lot more pressure on us this time. When we were freshmen the senior class had a great work ethic and carried the team the whole year.
"It wasn't much that we did, but this year we're all in the loop so we all have our own load to carry. It's a great feeling."
Continued Hukill, "My freshman year I had a great ride going to the state championship game that we won.
"This year I want to make a difference. I'm the one who's at the front. It would be a great way to go out."
Said Kotten, "Our freshman year most of us didn't see much playing time. It was great to win a state title, but you don't know that feeling of being a starter.
"Now that I'm a senior starter it's just such a great feeling to know I was a part of getting us this far in the playoffs. It's great to see how well we're doing and we have a great chance of winning it."
Fulciniti, who transferred to Madonna as a sophomore, remembers watching the 2009 team from the stands.
"I think it's great coming to Madonna and making it all the way to the state championship," he said. "When I was at Weir High my freshman year I remember going to the game and thinking I wish I could be in the state championship game, and here we are."
For this group of seniors winning a title as freshmen was great, but winning one in their final year much more.
"It would mean a lot," said Hypes. "It would feel great to go out with a win and be one of the few senior classes in Madonna history to win a state title."