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Madonna must win to get in

RETURNING — Madonna’s Evan Quering returns a kick against Toronto on Oct. 18. - Joe Catullo

WEIRTON — Reeling from two-straight losses, the Madonna Blue Dons go into the season finale Saturday facing a must-win situation in order to play an 11th game this season. The Conotton Valley Rockets invade Jimmy Carey Stadium with a 4-5 record, including two-straight wins.

There will be eight Blue Dons playing their final regular-season home game. They will be honored prior to the 7 p.m. opening kickoff. They are Brennan Secrist, Angelo Quattrochi, Antonio Daddario, Roman Baird, Seth Arnold, Josh Gasvoda, Nathan Zanieski and Jakob McCombs.

“They (Conotton Valley) definitely are a program that is on the upswing,” said Madonna coach Darrin Hicks, whose club now is 6-3 and coming off of a disappointing 17-12 loss to rival Catholic Central last week. “They are well coached and run a flex bone offense, which poses a certain challenge for us due to the fact that it’s very run-oriented. The quarterback is a pretty talented kid with the ball in his hands, and any one of four players could touch the ball on just about every play.”

The flex bone is the type of offense used by Army and Navy and was used a few yeas ago by Georgia Tech. Hicks said it will feature not only the quarterback, but also the fullback and two wing backs.

“They have a lot of explosiveness,” he said. “Their offensive line seems to be pretty good. They pose a challenge to us.”

The Rockets defeated the Blue Dons, 15-12, last year in three overtimes on a muddy field.

With the two-straight losses, the Blue Dons have dropped from being ranked as high as seventh to 12th in the standings this week. A win would pretty much assure a playoff berth for the Blue Dons, but a third-straight loss could drop them out of the top 16.

“We talked about us having our backs to the wall,” Hicks said. “This is a must-win for us. I suppose there are worse things. We could be in a situation where we have no chance.

“But, really, these are the type of games that you want to play. You want to play games that mean things, and this one definitely has meaning. There’s no question about it. Obviously you want to be 1-0 and you want to get the win, but this game has added incentive on top of that.”

One of the big concerns that Hicks has is preparing for the offense that the Rockets play. It is something different and something that is hard to simulate in practice the way they do it.

“Since we haven’t seen the type of offense Conotton Valley uses, we have a challenge ahead of us,” Hicks said. “There are so many weapons that they have. Any number of guys could touch the ball on any play, so you have to play a very disciplined game against them.

“You need to be on your toes about what you are doing with everything. You have to have your assignments down. You can’t get into a lot of things with eye violation. That’s where you are seeing one thing, and they’re trying to do something else to you. You have to trust your keys and reads of what is going on. I would hope we can put together a good defensive game plan, one the kids understand and not do a lot of thinking, but do a lot of attacking.”

Hicks added that the Rockets have given up some big plays because of the man defense they play. That’s an area the Blue Dons may try to exploit with sophomore quarterback Santino Arlia, who is the top gunslinger in the Herald-Star/Daily Times coverage area. He has two of the top pass receivers in the area to throw to.

Arlia has completed 152 of 278 passes for 1,740 yards and 20 touchdowns, but has had 13 intercepted, including three picks in the loss last week to Catholic Central. His favorite receivers are Secrist with 46 catches for 508 yards and 10 scores, and junior Thomas Sessi, who has 356 yards with 34 catches and a touchdown.

Baird is the leading rusher for the Blue Dons, totaling 152 carries for 628 yards and four touchdowns.

The teams have played four common opponents in Bridgeport, Strasburg-Franklin, Cameron and Beallsville. The Rockets have wins over Beallsville, 22-20, and Bridgeport, 43-28.

They lost to Strasburg-Franklin, 20-0, and to Cameron, 16-14.

The Blue Dons posted wins over Bridgeport, 21-18, Cameron, 13-6, and Beallsville, 33-20. They were rocked by Strasburg, 52-6.

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