Undefeated Blue Dons staying humble

CARRYING THE LOAD — Madonna’s Donavan Kirby rushes against Mathews on Friday. (Photo by Michael D. McElwain)

WEIRTON — The 5-0 Madonna Blue Dons have made a remarkable turnaround after three straight 2-8 seasons, and second-year head coach Darrin Hicks now has to caution his kids about complacency and looking ahead.

The Blue Dons host winless Parkersburg Catholic today at Jimmy Carey Stadium, and it would be easy for his club to look ahead to the remaining games with Van, Steubenville Catholic Central, Wheeling Central and Clay-Battelle.

The Crusaders are a team that has only 15 players on the roster with no seniors and only two juniors. The Crusaders were shut out in it’s first two games but has scored 12 points in each of the last two and battled Valley Wetzel before losing 20-12 last week.

“We have seen improvement on the films each week,” Hicks said. “They changed to a Bear defense last week against Valley and seemed to have success with it in the second half.”

The Bear defense was devised by coach Buddy Ryan when he coached the Chicago Bears. It is a five-man front with a player covering all of the interior offensive linemen. Because it was devised for the Bears, the name has stuck over the years, Hicks said.

Hicks added that one of the keys this week will be recognition by his defense of where the speedy Crusader backs are lined up and what they like to do out of each different alignment.

“We talked with the kids at practice on Monday about the tremendous effort that has gone into our season so far,” Hicks said. “I think they understand as a group the things that have happened that made the success happen, and that if they want to be able to continue to grow they have to get better each week.

“We talked about that being the sign of a good football team. We’re happy about the past, but when Monday comes we want to turn the attention to the next week’s game and continue the work ethic we’ve had so far.”

Despite the record and lack of numbers, Hicks feels the Crusaders have some talented players.

“They have four or five guys that are pretty exciting football players,” he said.

Hicks thinks sophomore Jeb Boice is the best athlete. He said Boice is seen on film playing quarterback, running back and receiver.

“He’s multidimensional and can be electric with the football in his hands,” Hicks said. “Another player that is very good is Alex Schriner. He also plays a couple of positions mainly quarterback and running back. Other guys that do good things with the football in their hands are Aidan Stotts and Ty Sturm, the wide receivers.”

The Crusader roster also includes three fair-sized linemen in Joel Strophel (6-3, 225 pounds), Jalen Brunny (6-1, 200) and Josh Cowan (6-1, 205). They are sophomores along with the three Hicks mentioned.

“Their linemen have pretty good size and all are athletic,” Hicks said. “Parkersburg Catholic doesn’t have a large squad in terms of numbers, but they get the most out of the guys they have. They seem to have gotten better as the season goes on, and I think they are getting more confidence each week.

“They are extremely multiple. They line up with a one back spread, power formation with two tight ends, the wing-T, three wide receivers and have used four different kids at quarterback. They do a lot of moving around to work those athletes in different positions to confuse the defense.”

The Blue Dons had a lot of good things happen last week as they celebrated homecoming with a convincing 27-13 victory over Mathews. The Mustangs vaulted out to a 13-0 lead with two long touchdown runs in the first quarter, but the Madonna players maintained their composure and dominated the final three quarters.

Junior running back Donavan Kirby continued to be the workhorse and carried the ball 45 times for 339 yards, one yard shy of the single game school rushing record set by Connor Arlia. He also scored all four of the Blue Don touchdowns.

Kirby now has 1,298 yards rushing in the first half of the season and has his sights set on the Madonna all-time rushing record of 2,150 yards held by Luke Myers.

Kirby leads all rushers in the 11-school Herald-Star/Daily Times coverage area and is also the leading scorer in the area with a total of 100 points. He has scored 16 touchdowns and reached the end zone twice for two-point conversions.