WHEELING - Madonna scored two third-quarter touchdowns and the Blue Dons' defense stymied the Greenbrier West running game to win the West Virginia Class A football championship, 24-14, Saturday night at Wheeling Island Stadium.
The victory was little sweeter because the Blue Dons lost a heart-breaker in the title game last year.
A year ago Madonna quarterback, Ross Comis, a Kennedy Award candidate, scored five touchdowns in the 43-42 overtime loss to Wahama. This year, Comis, who has run for 30 touchdowns this season, was a part of all three touchdowns as his team marched to victory.
PERFECTION — The Weirton Madonna football team finished the season 14-0 and a state championship after 24-14 win over Greenbrier West Saturday night at Wheeling Island Stadium.
TACKLED — Madonna's Travis Brown and Gabe Hypes tackle Greenbrier West quarterback Malik Boatwright.
Comis led all rushers with 129 yards with a season high-35 carries. He went to the air only seven times, but connected on five of his passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns, both of them to Will Bowser.
"It's not about who scores and everybody knows that," said a jubilant Comis, who was named Madonna's Player of the Game. "It's all about our team. The feeling is unbelievable. Last year we didn't get what we wanted, but we did this year."
Comis said the Blue Dons held a candlelight meeting Friday night during which each of the 15 seniors on the team spoke about what they were going to do to win the championship.
Class A Championship
Madonna 24, Greenbrier West 14
Greenbrier West 0 0 7 7 - 14
Madonna 7 0 14 3 - 24
M: Comis 1 run (Green kick)
G: Cox 2 run (Isaacs kick)
M: Bowser 43 pass from Comis (Green kick)
M: Bowser 34 pass from Comis (Green kick)
G: Boatwright 1 run (Isaacs kick)
M: Green 22 field goal
Rushing: Greenbrier West: 44-166-1 (Cox 9-47, Grimmitt 2-45, Boatwright 25-38-1, McClung 8-36, Madonna: 37-144 (Comis 35-129-1, Nero 2-15).
Passing: Greenbrier West: 1-8-6 (all by Boatwright), Madonna: 5-7-123-2td (all by Comis)
Receiving: Greenbrier West 1-6 (Cox 1-6), Madonna: 5-123 (Bowser 3-90-2, Nero 2-33)
First downs: Greenbrier West: 12, Madonna: 15
Penalties: Greenbrier West: 8-88, Madonna 11-116
Fumbles: Greenbrier West: 0-0, Madonna 1-0.
"It was the best experience I've ever had with anybody and I know I'm really going to miss these guys," Comis said.
Madonna scored on its second possession of the first quarter when Comis finished off a long drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak. Matt Green split the uprights even after a Madonna 5-yard penalty giving the Blue Dons a 7-0 lead, which they ended up taking to the locker room at the half.
"Our line started to take over there," said Madonna coach, Doug Taylor, who got the customary drenching after the game. "We had a little trouble earlier with 53 (Cody Loudermilk), who was really getting off the ball. We changed our blocking schemes a little bit to get some help on him. Our offensive line played well. We won it up front, no doubt.
"But it also was the senior team we had. They worked hard all year through a tough season and tonight they limited their mistakes and we were able to get the win."
Comis had the highlight play of the game, and perhaps the highlight of the season, midway through the 82-yard, 10-play first period drive when he went back to pass, scrambled, but got caught by a Cavalier defender.
However, the wily Comis somehow saw Eliott Nero behind him so he flipped the ball behind his back to the waiting Nero for a 19-yard gain and a first down at the Greenbrier West 18-yard line.
"I've been a coach for 13 years now and, honestly, anything that this boy has done over the past three years doesn't surprise me," said the jubilant and wet Taylor. "He makes plays out of nothing and he buys time to get his receivers open. He's just a great athlete, who is very deserving of a state championship
After the Madonna score, the Cavaliers went on a long drive of their own starting at their own 20 when Adam Robertson booted the kickoff into the end zone. It was the only venture deep into Madonna territory in the first half for the Cavaliers.
The 15-play drive was stopped at the Blue Don 6-yard line where sophomore Braden Isaacs attempted a 22-yard field goal that missed to the left.
The complexion of the game changed early in the second half as the Cavaliers took advantage of an illegal play by the Blue Dons on the kickoff. Madonna kicker, Matt Green pooched the kick and speedy senior, Will Bowser raced down field and caught the ball on the fly at the Greenbrier West 40-yard line.
The officials immediately threw flags because the ball must hit the ground before the kicking team can touch it. That resulted in a 15-yard penalty against the Blue Dons, who were flagged 11 times in the game for a total of 116 yards.
Robertson, Madonna's usual kickoff person, had to kick again from his own 25 yard line and Cavalier senior Malik Boatwright the ball from his own 31 to the Blue Don 46.
With the good field position, the Cavaliers drove for the tying touchdown with Cory Cox blasting into the end zone from three yards out. On the play before Cox's touchdown, the Blue Dons thought they had stopped Greenbrier at the 5 on a fourth down play, but a face mask penalty on the attempted tackle of Boatwright, who ran the ball 25 times for 38 yards, proved costly.
The Blue Dons regained the momentum on the next possession when Comis hit Bowser on a fly pattern down the right sideline for a 43-yard touchdown. Matt Green's extra point kick made it 14-7.
The Blue Dons struck again before the third period ended when Comis scrambled and found Bowser open in the back of the end zone. This strike was a 34-yarder.