Blue Dons dominant against Knights
WEIRTON – A convincing 42-7 win Saturday night by Madonna over Wheeling Central ended several years of frustration and let everyone in West Virginia know who should be ranked as the top Class A team in the state.
Madonna capitalized on five Maroon Knight turnovers and the Blue Dons’ offensive and defensive lines held complete control of the line of scrimmage. The result of that was a dominating 409 yard to 180 yard differential in total yardage.
“No doubt the turnovers had a lot to do with this win,” said Blue Don third year coach, Doug Taylor. “One time they were in the red zone and were getting ready to score on us and we get an interception. Then, we were able to convert that turnover into points. Anytime you can do that, it’s big.”
The win ups the Madonna record to 3-0 while the Maroon Knights drop to 2-1.
Blue Don senior quarterback, Ross Comis, made a strong statement for All-State honors and perhaps a candidate for the Kennedy Award when he ran for four touchdowns and passed for another. He accounted for a total of 239 yards with 103 on the ground and completed 9 of 12 passes for 136 yards.
“This win definitely got a monkey of my back,” Comis said after the game. “I’ve been here four years and played them twice and couldn’t beat them. We knew this was going to be a big game to make a statement in the state. One versus two ranking in the state, so not only does this make a statement, but I think it tells people last year wasn’t a fluke and we’re back.”
Eliott Nero proved to be a thorn in the side of the Maroon Knights as he ran for 132 yards and a touchdown. He also returned a punt 58 yards to set up Comis’ second touchdown in the first quarter, and if that wasn’t enough, he caught six passes for 59 yards.
The Blue Dons capitalized early when Wheeling Central’s initial drive of the game into Madonna territory ended with senior quarterback Parker Henry fumbling at the Blue Don 40-yard line. Madonna tackle, Josh Martin, pounced on the loose football.
The Blue Dons methodically marched to paydirt using 11 plays to cover the 60 yards. Comis faked a handoff to Nero and knifed through the middle from four yards out to open the scoring. Junior Matt Green’s kick gave the Blue Dons the early 7-0 lead.
“We worked our players pretty hard this week and I think they knew the importance of the game and getting a win against Central, especially our senior group,” said Taylor. “A lot of times it is the last time you play a team that you remember and we wanted to make good memories for our seniors.”
Wheeling Central went three-and-out with the next possession forcing Henry to punt from his own 22. Nero gathered in the pigskin at his own 37 and wasn’t stopped until he got caught from behind at the Maroon Knight 5.
On the first play from scrimmage, Comis called a quarterback draw and pranced untouched into the end zone. Green missed for the only time in the game, but the Blue Dons held a 13-0 lead.
The Maroon Knights were threatening with drive to the Madonna 28 when senior running back, C. J. Burch, let the ball get loose and it was Grant Retton that got on it at the Madonna 31 for the opportunistic Blue Dons.
“They (Madonna) played outstanding,” said veteran Maroon Knight coach, Mike Young. “They jumped on us early. Our four turnovers in the first half definitely increased their effort. Hats off to them and their coaches. They definitely deserved to win this game tonight.”
Comis ran for 4 yards and Nero wheeled through the Maroon Knight defense for 53 yards to the Wheeling Central 12. On the next play, Comis showed his shiftiness by zigzagging through the Maroon Knight defense leaving tacklers grabbing nothing but air. Taylor chose to run for the two-point conversion and called Nero’s number to get the job done giving the Blue Dons a 21-0 lead.
Madonna senior Travis Brown, the top tackler on the rugged Blue Don defense, stepped in front of a Henry pass at the Madonna 10-yard line to quash another Wheeling Central threat. He found daylight on the return and wasn’t stopped till caught from behind at the Wheeling Central 18, a 72-yard interception return.
Comis scored from six yards out over right tackle five plays later and Green made good on the kick for a commanding 28-0 Madonna half time lead.
The Blue Dons just missed another score when Wheeling Central went three-and-out again forcing Henry to punt from his own 39. He got it out to the Madonna 39 with 2:10 left on the first half clock. The Blue Dons gave their version of the two-minute drill marching down the field to the Wheeling Central 11. On the final play of the half, Comis hit Will Bowser with a pass and the senior was stopped one yard short of the goal line as time expired.
Madonna went to the locker room with Comis rushing for 60 yards and four touchdowns and Nero accumulating 105 yards on the ground and another 41 receiving.
The Blue Dons got the kickoff to start the second half and performed what had to be a demoralizing drive of 18 plays covering 72 yards and consuming the first 9:10 of the half.
“We told the kids at halftime it was important to eat some clock and drive the football,” Taylor commented. “To get that score was a bonus. We weren’t planning on a nine-minute drive, but I’ll take that to start the second half. That drive was a back breaker for them.
“We ate up the clock and scored to make it 35-0. We knew then that all we had to do was finish the game.”
A highlight of the long drive was a third down play in which Comis scrambled back and forth across the field and finally hooked up with Nero on an 18-yard aerial that put the ball into Maroon Knight territory.
Nero’s 2-yard blast over center capped the drive and the Blue Dons had consumed all but the last 2:50 of the third quarter.
Henry scored Wheeling Central’s lone touchdown on a 33-yard scamper on the second play of the fourth quarter. Alex Calvert added the point after from placement.
However, the Blue Dons retaliated with another long drive after receiving the ensuing kickoff and putting the ball in play at their own 10-yard line. The Blue Dons drove the 90 yards in eight plays with Comis lofting a bomb down the right sideline to a streaking Bowser in a 55-yard pass and run operation. Green’s kick finalized the scoring at 42-7.
“I saw that the safety wasn’t sitting over the trips so I knew it was going to by one-on-one,” Comis related. “Will’s a fast kid so I just put it up and let him run.”