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Madonna excited to face Wahama

WEIRTON — Back in the early days of the 2000s, the Wahama High School football team was in the West Virginia Class A playoffs almost annually. Wahama was synonymous with outstanding football, as was Madonna.

The two teams had some dandy playoff games. They haven’t played each other either in the playoffs or regular season for a while, but the rivalry will be renewed this Friday. Both teams open the 2020 football season against each other. The game is the result of the tumultuous scheduling brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

The teams met in the quarterfinals of the 2013 playoffs, which was the year the unbeaten Blue Dons swept to the state championship. Wahama went into the game with a 10-1 record, but the Blue Dons cruised to a home victory.

Neither team has had that kind of success since. In fact, the White Falcons made the playoffs again in 2014 but have not been there since. They finished 3-7 last year, while the Blue Dons hung onto the 16th and final playoff spot with a 6-3-1 record.

The clash Friday will begin at 7 p.m. at a neutral site, East-West Stadium in Fairmont. It is about half way between the two high schools. Wahama is located in Mason.

Dan Rovira, first-year head coach of the Blue Dons, said his club is chomping at the bit to get on the field after being on the practice field the last month with only one scrimmage.

“I think our two teams match up well,” said Rovira, who exchanged films of each team’s lone scrimmages. “We’re about the same size on the line. They are a shotgun wing-T team using the jet sweep with a power offense. They play a 5-2 defense. They are primarily a run-oriented team. Their offensive formations vary in an attempt to confuse our defense.

“It’s going to be a guessing game for both teams because Wahama scrimmaged Tyler Consolidated, and both teams ran the ball most of the time. We did, too, in our scrimmage with Hundred. Maybe neither of us wanted to show too much.”

Rovira said his philosophy is to establish the run game, even though he has last year’s top gunslinger in the area with junior quarterback Santino Arlia.

“We want to run the ball 60 percent of the time if we have success with it,” Rovira said. “We like to run the ball and control the game if we can.”

Rovira added that senior Thomas Sessi, who had a lot of success running with the football as a sophomore but was used primarily as a wide receiver in 2019, will be back at tailback this year.

“We like him. He ran well in our scrimmage,” he said. “But, we have some other capable running backs in Colton Littleton and Lucky Pulice. We have some depth there, and we have a quarterback that can throw it.”

With that run philosophy, it is not likely that Arlia will throw the ball 258 times like he did last year. However, Rovira is glad he has that type of arm at his disposal. Arlia completed 188 of 258 passes last year for 2,112 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Rovira would be happy if Sessi can return to the form he showed in 2018 when he ran with the football 134 times for 699 yards and seven touchdowns. He was limited to just 26 carries last year for 70 yards.

“We think we can compete with anybody, and we’re anxious to get into action,” Rovira said. “We had a great scrimmage against Hundred last week, and I’m looking forward to this meeting between these two teams.

“We’ll have to be disciplined on defense with all the movement that Wahama gives you. We’ve been working on that. We’re going to see mostly man coverage on the outside, so I think Arlia and our wideouts can exploit that. We just have to be careful with those first-game jitters that everyone has, including myself.”

In another change of the schedule, Madonna will travel to Tug Valley for it’s second game on Sept. 12.

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