WEIRTON - With 7:37 left in the third quarter of the West Virginia Class A semifinal football game at Jimmy Carey Stadium, Williamstown tied Madonna at 21-all with a four-yard touchdown pass, and all momentum sat on the Yellowjackets sideline.
Madonna senior Will Bowser snatched momentum back with a huge kickoff return as the Blue Dons rolled to a 42-28 victory and a berth in the West Virginia Class A final next Saturday at 7 p.m. at Wheeling Island Stadium.
"That's a very good football team, and we knew it," said Madonna head coach Doug Taylor. "The fact that they were able to come back and tie the score, it wasn't surprising for us. We didn't panic, we have some good athletes, and some mature kids, and they were able to come back and win."
Will Bowser catches a pass during Friday's 42-28 win over Williamstown.
On the Williamstown game-tying touchdown, Bowser was called for a questionable personal foul, and the Blue Dons were flagged for a roughing the holder penalty, leaving the Yellowjackets to kickoff from the Blue Dons' 30-yard line. Williamstown sent an onside kick toward the home sideline where Bowser jumped up to claim the ball at the 22, and raced 78 yards for a touchdown, and Madonna led 28-21.
"We knew from the start they were going to try something sneaky from the 30, but I just found a hole and got lucky I guess," said Bowser. "I was just trying to get the ball, and I didn't know where I was going from there."
The Bowser score began a run of 21 consecutive points for the Blue Dons as the Yellowjackets were only able to manage a meaningless score with under a minute left in the game.
"The onside kick, whether that was the right call for them or not I'm not sure, we were able to return that for a touchdown," said Taylor. "I'd like to say we called a return on that, but it wasn't. It was just pure athleticism. He got th onside kick and was able to return it. That was a big play for us. The next series we got it back and was able to score so that was huge.
"That was definitely the turning point for us to get rolling."
Added Madonna quarterback Ross Comis, "It was awesome. You saw us going crazy. It was a shift in momentum. Will's one of those guys that just unexpectedly makes a crazy play. Whether it's on defense, on offense, or, in that circumstance, on a kick return.
"Will's a big time player, and these seniors we just keep rolling and we're not going to stop until we get that championship next week."
Continued Blue Dons lineman Josh Martin, "We fought through the adversity. They were kicking from the 30-yard line and we fought through that adversity. It was nice to see him run all the way like that."
The late hit call against Bowser that preceded the return one most in Jimmy Carey Stadium believed was questionable at best, but the Blue Dons went about business and moved forward.
"We asked the official, it is what it is, they're in charge of the game, and they thought it was late hit," said Taylor. "We have to live by it, but nothing was really said. We just told them we have to play the ball on the kickoff, get what you can get, and to just make sure you field it clean."
Added Bowser, "I thought it was clean, but the refs do a good job throughout the game, and it was there call based on what they see."
A teammate was key to helping Bowser move forward from the call, allowing him to step up and make the game-changing play.
"Big Josh Martin came over, gave me a hug, and said 'calm down Will, you'll get them next time' so he really helped me out there," said Bowser.
Commented Martin of what he said to Bowser, "I was trying to calm him down. I was hugging him. He was freaking out screaming at the refs. I just wrapped him up, and said 'stop, just calm down, it's all right, you'll get it, and don't worry about it'.
"Then he returned that kick. I was just happy for him."
Comis added that Bowser is the type of player that seems to get stronger when he faces adversity.
"Sometimes Will let's it get to him, but the next play he just comes back hard," said Comis. "He gets mad at himself, but it's not a bad mad. He plays hard the next time.
"It was a risky play for him to come out and get that, but it definitely paid off."