Madonna getting right back at it
By RALPH COX
Football Xtra Writer
WEIRTON — Two old rivals knock heads at Jimmy Carey Stadium Saturday night when 4-4 Wheeling Central comes to Weirton for the annual joust with once beaten Madonna. With it being the final home game of 2017, Madonna will honor 11 seniors playing the final home game of their high school careers prior to the opening kick at 7 p.m.
The seniors that will be honored are Ryan Ekey, Chayce Lemley, Vince Pulice, Chase Smith, Jimmy DiMarco, Hunter Baird, Max Fiedorczyk, Joey Garan, Zak Tokash and Mac Raymond.
Madonna (7-1) fell a couple of spots to a tie for 7th with Cameron in this week’s West Virginia Class A rankings after absorbing their first loss last week. Steubenville Catholic Central handed the Blue Dons a 43-7 defeat to make their record 7-1.
The Maroon Knights, a perennial power, doesn’t have as good of a record this year but still go into the game ranked 14th.
Wheeling Central, which knocked off Obama Academy of Pittsburgh 27-0 last week, brings a fast and dynamic team to Weirton, according to Blue Don second-year coach Darrin Hicks.
“They have one of the best programs in West Virginia with a lot of state championships,” he said. “Wheeling Central is having another good season even though it is not the record they are accustomed to. They have represented themselves well considering their strength of schedule.”
Hicks said the Maroon Knights feature a running back (Branden Price) that is “electric with the football in his hands. I have not seen a faster or more dynamic runner all season. They move him around a lot from running back to wide receiver, and we have to know is location at all times.
“They also have a talented quarterback in No. 11 (sophomore Curtis McGhee) and an offensive line that is solid. I’m also concerned with a couple of players that play fullback or tight end in a sort of H-back offense. They are very tough and continue to do good things each week.”
Hicks said the Maroon Knights appear on film to run the football a little more than in the past, but when they throw it usually results in a big play. They pick their spots to throw pretty well.
The Maroon Knights have what Hicks calls a full motor defense with inside linebackers that are extremely tough.
That defense will have it’s hands full with Blue Don junior Donavan Kirby, who joined the 2,000-yard rushing club last week when he gained 152 yards against Catholic Central. That gives him 2,049 yards with 281 totes in eight games. Kirby needs slightly more than 100 yards to establish a Madonna single season rushing record held by Luke Myers with 2,150.
“Our kids put the Steubenville Central game to bed last Friday and came back to practice Monday focused and ready to work,” Hicks said. “I can’t take anything away from Central last week, but we saw a variety of internal mistakes on the film of the game. We saw some things where we can get better, and we had a spirited 60-minute practice on Monday.
“Our kids are very resilient. Regardless of the outcome, they come back ready to work, and I’m not surprised at that.”
Hicks said his keys to victory are the same as the previous eight games.
“We have to eliminate our mistakes, run the football and stop Wheeling Central from running, eliminate the turnovers and create turnovers, be strong with special teams and be in position to win the game in the fourth quarter,” he said.
Central is the only common opponent for the rivals. It beat the Maroon Knights 35-14 in the first game of the season.
“This should be a good game,” Hicks said. “It is two Catholic high schools that have been rivals for some time. We’re excited to have the opportunity to play these guys again. I am 0-1 against them, but I just want to be 1-0 after Saturday.”