Madonna closes its season against rival

WEIRTON — During recent years, the Madonna-Clay-Battelle football game, traditionally played on the last week of the season, has been an important meeting of two teams vying for playoff positions.

This time, neither team has an opportunity for the postseason, so the Friday night matchup at Jimmy Carey Stadium is for pride and school spirit. It’s also a special event for the seniors, who will be recognized prior to the 7 p.m. kickoff.

Last year, it was a 40-6 Madonna win that solidified the Blue Dons at No. 8 in the final rankings and not only a playoff berth but home field advantage in the first game.

Madonna, which will be honoring five seniors — possibly six — in pregame ceremonies, has a record of 3-6 while the Cee Bees are 5-4. Clay-Battelle is ranked 20th, but even with a win, several teams ahead of them must lose in order for them to climb all the way to 16th.

“Clay-Battelle is a very good football team,” said Madonna coach Darrin Hicks, who is in his third year at the helm. “They have some very good athletes, but they have been up and down like we have been this year.

“They will be hard to defend and difficult to prepare for because they come at you from so many different formations. One time they will be in the wildcat, empty with only the quarterback in the backfield the next time and perhaps a tight end the next time. They move around and are very multiple.”

The Cee Bees opened the season with two junior quarterbacks who have done well with the strengths they provide. Seth Casino got most of the snaps as a sophomore last year but Levi Carrico pushed hard in the preseason and coach Terry Wilson has used both.

Wilson has a couple of big, athletic backs in junior Sean Hays and senior Nathan Swaniger.

Traditionally, the Cee Bees have been big up front. While the line has some size, it isn’t jumbo. Three seniors lead the Cee Bees blockers. They are Noah Watson, Dylan Statler, and Billy Arnett. Junior Kasey Latocha also plays up front.

Hicks said the Cee Bees are multiple on defense as well using both the three and four man front. He said they have some good athletes, are well-coached and have a strong kicking game.

Special teams has been sort of an Achilles’ heel for the Blue Dons as several opponents have run back kickoffs for touchdowns and have been successful returning punts.

Last week, Conotton Valley stung the Blue Dons with a long return for a score on the opening kickoff. While they were able to overcome it in the second half and force the game into overtime, playing from behind isn’t what Hicks wants his team to do.

The teams have played three common opponents. Clay-Battelle lost to Cameron 36-0 while the Dragons beat Madonna 46-0. Notre Dame walloped the Blue Dons 54-0, but the Cee Bees rose up against the Irish for a 50-0 win. The Cee Bees shut out Conotton Valley 20-0, but the Rockets beat Madonna 15-12 in three overtimes.

“We have to cut down on our internal mistakes,” said Hicks. “We have to put our best foot forward if we want to win this game for our seniors.”

Playing their final regular season game for the Blue Dons are seniors Gavin Dietrich, Luke Beatty, Garrett Cook, Alec Cook and Dylan Austin. Hicks said James Todd could be added to that list depending upon an eligibility problem that needs to be resolved prior to the game.

Dietrich had a huge game last week on a wet, sloppy field at Conotton Valley, gaining 201 yards and a 20-yard touchdown. He also threw the ball seven times, completing five of them for 51 yards and one interception.

Sophomore Tom Sessi, who gained 30 yards on the ground last week with five carries, leads the Blue Don rushing attack with 652 yards on 123 rushes. Freshman Santino Arlia leads Madonna in passing completing 48 of 114 for 504 yards and four touchdowns. Arlia’s lone pass completion last week was a 25-yard scoring toss.

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