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Madonna continues to believe in the process

BACK HOME — Roman Baird and the Madonna football team hosts Mathews during homecoming week on Friday. -Joe Catullo

WEIRTON — A wounded animal can be one of the most dangerous creatures on the planet.

The Madonna football team has so far spent this week licking its wounds as a result of a 52-6 loss to Strasburg Friday night on the road.

The Blue Dons (2-1) will look to get back on track this week when they play their second-straight Ohio Division VII Region 25 opponent, Mathews, at 7 p.m. Friday night at Jimmy Carey Stadium.

“It’s a good series,” Madonna head coach Darrin Hicks said. “We played them for two years in a row a few years back. They are solid, physical and well coached. It’s turning into a pretty good series.”

Strasburg led Madonna, 13-0, at the end of the first quarter, 33-0 at halftime and 46-0 at the end of three quarters of play. Despite the rough defeat, there is one aspect Hicks is happy with.

“Probably the happiest aspect I came away with was our special teams,” he said. “They took another step forward in that area.

“I think we’re the definition of a team. There’s not one guy, and they’re starting to see dividends.”

The Mustangs (1-2) enter the game coming off back-to-back 35-0 shutout defeats at the hands of Leetonia (in Week 2 at home) and Sebring (in Week 3 on the road.)

The Mustangs opened the season in a bit of a unique way, as Mathews defeated Ashtabula St. John, 40-22, on the road in an 8-man football game. That game does not count toward the OHSAA rankings.

Mathews enters the game on a nine-game losing streak in games played 11-on-11, as the Mustangs lost the final seven games of the 2018 season.

“Offensively, they’re a spread team that will go into shotgun,” Hicks said. “They have two backs in the backfield. They are a traditional 2-2 or 3-1 formation back there. They’re a four-man front on defense, with a cover 3 shell. They’re solid on special teams, as well.”

Prior to last week’s loss to the Tigers, the Blue Dons opened the season with a pair of hard-fought victories. In Week 1, Madonna rallied to defeat Bridgeport, 21-18, in a game played at Martins Ferry before rallying to defeat Carrick, 32-6, in Week 2 at home.

After getting off to slow starts in all three of its games so far this season, the Blue Dons are hoping to buck the trend and get off to a fast start this week against the Mustangs.

“We continue to work within the process,” Hicks said. “We’re taking mental approaches to improve on that. We continue to tweak how we practice. It’s a process, but I think our kids trust and understand it. Hopefully, we’ll see little signs every week.”

The Blue Dons enter the game in a five-way tie for 10th place in the Class A standings.

Madonna is tied with Greenbrier West, Meadow Bridge, Webster County and local rival Wheeling Central. The Blue Dons and the Maroon Knights do not play in the regular season this year. Wheeling Central defeated Madonna, 55-0, in Week 2 at home last season.

The teams met back in Week 6 of the 2017 season at Jimmy Carey Stadium, and the Blue Dons defeated the Mustangs, 27-13. Mathews ended up winning six games that season and advanced to the playoffs, before falling in the first round to No. 1 seed Dalton, 60-13, on the road.

Along with another Friday night under the lights, the Blue Dons will celebrate homecoming. Hicks said his squad is not changing its approach but is reminded of what comes with the festivities.

“People think it’s a distraction, but a lot of different things can happen,” he said. “We don’t hide it. The kids are enjoying the week and festivities. We understand what we need to do on both ends.”

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