WEIRTON - The Madonna locker room was a sanctuary of suspense, uncertainty and love before it was a centerpeice of celebration.
Blue Dons quarterback Ross Comis spent most of halftime on Saturday, with his team down nine points to Steubenville Catholic Central, sitting on a cold, aluminum bench while trainers and coaches catered to a torn AC joint in his shoulder.
"They taped me up, gave me Advil and I guess I just had to gut it out," Comis said.
As the first quarter ended, Comis was tackled hard from behind, landing hard on his left shoulder.
"In the beginning," Comis said, "I kept falling on it and I never had any pain so bad."
Added running back Eliot Nero, "Throughout the game you could see he was wincing in pain. You just felt so bad for him."
Right before leaving the locker room to start the second half, Madonna lineman Josh Martin, all 7-foot-2 of him, leaned over to his quarterback and delivered a special message.
"I gave him a hug and told him I got his back," Martin said. "He has the biggest heart on that field and it's an honor to play with him.
"I love him."
Comis ran 14 times for 76 yards in the second half. None was more important than his 1-yard pound for a touchdown with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter to take the lead, at 22-17, for good. He had another 1-yard scoring run at the 9:40 mark, earlier in the quarter.
"Josh just came up to me at halftime and said, 'I'll protect you.' Anytime you get a guy that's 7-foot tall in front of you, you feel pretty safe.
"The line did a great job and I was just able to get through it."
Facing a fourth-and-11 with 1:07 remaining in regulation, Comis ran in the backfield, avoiding a host of Central defenders, with time to set his feet and launch a 28-yard pass to Marcello Biondillo.
"I saw him scramble and shake a tackle and I knew he was throwing it deep to me," Biondillo said. "I made the catch on pure adrenaline."
That set up the winning touchdown.
"It reminded me so much of last year," Comis said referring to Madonna's come from behind, 21-20 victory in 2012 at Harding Stadium. "And I kept thinking, 'Why am I always getting hurt in this game?'"
Comis suffered a hand injury in that contest.
"I can't explain how good of a feeling this is now," Comis said. "These people came out and were looking for a good show and we gave it to them. I'm glad we prevailed."
With the student section pouring onto the field when the final horn rang, the real party began, back in the locker room, after the field was cleared of parents and friends posing for pictures, hugs and high-fives.
Billy Idol's 1983 hit "Rebel Yell" blared through a set of speakers with players singing along with Blue Dons head coach Doug Taylor.
"This song goes years back for me," Taylor said. "The kids heard me one day playing it in my truck. They joked with me saying, 'Oh you're into that hard rock stuff.'"
On Thursday, they serenaded him with 'Happy Birthday' in honor of his birthday.
"But I said the real song comes on when we win," Taylor said. "We're going to celebrate with some Billy Idol and that's what happened."
It may not be the hip sounds of today's generation, but the 'Rebel Yell' struck a cord with Nero.
"Coach was caught up in the moment and played it," he said. "It's a huge win for us."
And the Blue Dons still want more, more, more.