Deserve it or not, you have to work for it

It’s not about deserving to win a state title.

Many teams deserve it.

It’s more than that.

Hard work does not guarantee a state title.

It’s more than that.

Hard work just makes winning a state title a little easier.

Although, it’s never winning any state title.

It sure wasn’t easy for the Blue Dons.

They captured the West Virginia Class A state crown Saturday night with a 24-14 win over Greenbrier West at Wheeling Island Stadium.

This group became the third state championship football team at Madonna.

The last to hoist the trophy did it in similar fashion – the 2009 crew did so with a 14-0 season and in dominant fashion.

They didn’t deserve it, either.

Both teams earned that championship.

And, both did so driving down different avenues.

The 2009 crew was nasty on the defensive end.

They just didn’t hate giving up touchdowns, they hated giving up first downs.

That Blue Dons team took on a defensive persona that would work well for any MMA combatant.

Madonna gave up six touchdowns in 14 games, and never twice in the same game.

It surrendered 42 points in 14 games (and there was a safety, the only two points Clay-Battelle scored that night) – averaging 3 points a game.

I remember the first playoff game at the old Jimmy Carey Stadium when Gilbert scored early to make it 6-6 and Lou Comis came off the field and was not very happy.

It wasn’t like mom when you don’t clean your room or dad when you don’t clean up after the dog, it was a classic sideline rant that pretty much touched everyone on the sidelines, and, more than likely, the people in the first five rows in the stands.

Madonna scored the next 42 for a 48-6 win and then blanked Tucker County 48-0 before eliminating rival Wheeling Central, 18-7, in a game that wasn’t that close.

The state championship game, a 27-7 win over Man, was over when Connor Arlia returned a punt for a touchdown.

That team – with seniors – Comis, Eddie and Max Nogay, Grant Weaver, Nick Nero, A.J. Klein, Vinnie Longhi, Jimmy Deter, Seth Gianessi, Michael Kranak and Christian McGaughey – averaged just under 40 points a game.

Eleven of the 35 in uniform were seniors that year.

This year, 15 of the 35 in pages are seniors.

That folks, means more experience and that’s never a bad thing.

But, just like the 2009 squad, the 2013 team was a band of brothers.

No one cared who scored, who didn’t score or who did what, they just won as a team.

They helped each other.

They yelled at each other.

They patted each other.

They smacked each other.

But, most of all, they loved each other.

That goes a long way.

The coaches coached hard and the players played hard.

They were the best team in the state beginning with last year’s overtime loss to Wahama in the state championship game.

But, the best teams don’t always win – 1969 Baltimore Colts, 2002 St. Louis Rams and 2008 New England Patriots come to mind.

Madonna had a bullseye on its chest and it was worn with pride.

That’s what you have to do when you are the benchmark.

Ask Big Red.

You wear the bullseye and welcome the challenges that lie ahead.

You wear the target front and center or hide from it.

The 2009 team scored 557 points in 14 games.

The 2013 team scored 657 points in 14 games.

They are similar in a lot of ways, but polar opposites in many others.

But, they, along with the 1987 team, are state champions.

You also have to have help along the way.

That help came in the form of two transfers – senior Shain Livada and sophomore Dillon Shaw.

Imagine Livada’s life.

He spent three years at Weir where he was a part of two wins in 30 games.

He stepped in at center for the Blue Dons and was a part of 14 wins and zero losses.

That, in reality, is a life-changing maneuver.

Speaking of bullseyes:

A 17-year-old archer was in the woods supposedly working on his craft when his dad came along to see how he was doing.

“Pretty good,” said the son.

“I would say you are doing better than good,” said dad. “Look at all these bullseyes.”

The father started to walk away.

“Keep up the good work,” he said to his son.

The young man now started to feel badly because he knew how proud his dad was of his shooting that day.

But, he also knew that hitting all those bullseyes that day was really easy and that night he told his dad.

“Dad,” he said rather timidly. “You know all those bullseyes I had today?”

“Yep,” said dad.

“Well, they weren’t really bullseyes,” confessed the son. “I shot the arrows into the trees and then painted the bullseyes around the arrows.”

Which do you do?

“I was taught that from a young age, I cannot do anything less than I can do,” former Big Red and WVU standout Liz Repella has said. “It started with school, not even with sports. I learned to always put my best foot forward and that carried over into sports.

“My dad used to always tell me when I was younger that ‘if you don’t like being out here, then don’t be out here. If you’re not giving 100 percent there is no reason to be playing.’

“I think that’s what’s wrong with the world. If you always give your best and never settle for anything less than you are capable of doing, other things will fall into place. Once you get into the real world and get a job, no boss is going to accept it if you’re not trying 100 percent.

“They don’t like it when you’re late for work two days in a row. If you learn at a young age how to always give your best, it’s a lot easier when you get older.”

Repella is the assistant director of operations for the University of Michigan women’s basketball program

She learned not to settle for anything less than her best.

“My dad told me that,” she said. “I knew college was going to be a lot different than high school and that it was going to be a lot of hard work.”

Repella graduated summa cum laude from West Virginia in 2011 with a bachelor of science in exercise physiology, along with minors in exercise and sport psychology and business management.

“But having my parents tell me these things since I was young and working hard in high school has helped,” she said. “I think if I came into college not working hard at Big Red, not studying hard, not lifting hard, college would have been a lot harder.

“I came in with the mindset that I was going to have to work hard and that has made it a lot easier.”

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at