Passing plays spark Dons, down Cavaliers

WHEELING – The feelings of losing the 2012 state championship game ended up in the same place as a good chunk of the Madonna football team’s playbook.

The trash can.

“Right now, I kind of forgot what last year was all about,” said Madonna coach Doug Taylor.

The Blue Dons’ trademarked big gains on a ground and pound attack were forgotten, too.

“We threw some plays out that we usually run, even our go-to plays,” said quarterback Ross Comis. “We knew it was going to be hard to do against a six-man front. I’ve never seen it in my life.”

In the 2013 Class A state title game, Greenbrier West stacked the box against Madonna forcing the offense to focus plays on the perimeter, especially in the second half.

“The coaches even said that we’d have to pass to be able to win,” said wide receiver Will Bowser. “The second half was a huge chance for us to go deep and catch them off guard.”

With two touchdown receptions in the second half, Bowser, along with the rest of the Blue Dons, rose to the challenge and completed a 24-14 victory over the Cavaliers.

“The plays that we ran definitely worked,” Comis said. “The receivers told me at halftime that if I’m rolling and I’m scrambling, they’re going to get behind them and get open.”

On his first score, Bowser went over top of West cornerback Dustin Yoakman and came down with the touchdown reception on the front right pylon. The score put Madonna up 14-7 with 7:06 remaining in the third quarter.

“We were trying to get a mismatch,” said Blue Dons coach Doug Taylor. “We decided to go up top and see if we could get something. The game was tied at that point and we just needed something to spark us and Bowser and Comis came through.”

They did again with 3:16 left in the third on a 34-yard scoring play that found Bowser wide open in the middle of the end zone.

“As soon as I dropped back I knew I had some time,” Comis said. “I saw No. 40 (Marquis Frazier) coming off the edge, and he was rushing all night. I knew I’d have to spin out.

“Just then, Will was coming across the back of the end zone and he got it.”

In the second half, Comis was 3 of 4 passing for 90 yards. He finished 5 of 7 for 123 yards.

“He’s a great player,” said Greenbrier West’s Malik Boatwright. “He’s quick, fast and strong. Props to him. It feels good when you get a chance to stop a player like him.”

Bowser caught three passes for 90 yards.

“Ross throws the ball up there for me in the best place possible and I have to haul it in,” Bowser said. “It feel great to win, but anyway I can contribute to the team feels even greater.”

The Madonna offense ran 44 plays for 267 yards, but the defense held strong for the title victory. Especially when defending the pass.

Boatwright, the Cavaliers quarterback was 0 for 6 passing in the second half. On West’s last desperation drive of the game, he was dropped for a loss twice and threw into tight coverage provided by Bowser, Comis and Gabe Hypes.

In last week’s semifinal win over Magnolia, Boatwright hit Garrett Smith for an 18-year touchdown in the closing minutes.

“We really stepped it up in the secondary,” Bowser said. “It got close towards the end of the game. We didn’t want them to catch anything and had to do everything we could to stop them.”

Taylor was quick to give credit to defensive coordinator Brad Kessel.

“He had them pretty much nailed on everything they did all night,” Taylor said. “Our coverage has been pretty good all year. If we can get pressure on teams, that’s a big plus for us.”

Tyler Ewusiak recorded two tackles for a loss and led the Blue Dons with 6.5 total stops.

“Their quarterback was little but he ran so hard,” Ewusiak said. “He had great foot work. You really had to get a hold of him to bring him down.

“When he tried to pass the ball it was hard for him because mostly everybody on our line is 6-foot and Josh (Martin) is 7-feet. That was a big factor in their passing game.”

A passing game that was obsolete for one team and a hallmark for the winners.