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Blue Dons still battling for a playoff berth

ADDED INCENTIVE — Jonah McKay and the Madonna football team travels to face Mathews on Friday. (Photo by Michael D. McElwain)

WEIRTON — With incentives like a state playoff berth and the OVAC title on the line, Madonna coach Dan Rovira said his Blue Dons are preparing hard for a trip to the Youngstown area of Ohio to play Mathews Friday night.

Madonna found out at the last minute last week that its final home game with Wheeling Central was canceled due to coronavirus concerns at Wheeling Central High School. That leaves the Blue Dons with a 5-2 record and 18th place among all of the Class A teams in the state.

Rovira said the added incentive is that if Conotton Valley (4-3) should lose this week to Strasburg and his Blue Dons could defeat the Mustangs and Cameron in the final two weeks of the season, they could win the OVAC 1A championship.

“That gives us some extra incentive,” Rovira said as he prepares his club for a team that uses what he termed as “crazy” offensive formations. “They do a lot of unusual formations like splitting linemen or spreading them out to look a lot like they are receivers. It gives us a lot to prepare for. I know our defensive coordinator, Joe Petrovich, will have his hands full this week.”

The Mustangs go into the game with a 3-5 record and have shown in their films that they can play a good brand of football.

“They want to run, but they can throw the football to keep defenses honest,” Rovira said. “They play a 4-4 defense and have some good athletes.”

The two teams have played three times since 2016, with the Blue Dons winning two of them, including a 34-0 romp last year at Jimmy Carey Stadium. In that game, then sophomore quarterback Santino Arlia threw for 364 yards, completing 28 of 41 passes.

The junior now is second among area gunslingers with 1,485 passing yards, completing 78 of 155 throws.

Senior Lucky Pulice is Arlia’s favorite target and now is second among all area receivers with 31 catches for 455 yards and three touchdowns. Fellow senior Thomas Sessi leads the Blue Don running game with 481 yards on 64 carries and nine scores. Sessi now ranks third in the area in total points scored with 90 that includes his nine touchdowns and 12 successful trips to the end zone with 2-point conversions.

“Our keys to victory this week will be to keep running the football as we have done our last couple of games,” Rovira said. “Rain is predicted, so running with the ball is important. If we can run the ball right up at them, we can win this game. Of course, we can’t have any turnovers.

“That’s why we have done so well our last five games because our running game is doing so well. I don’t care what football team you are, you have to be able to run the football to be successful. Successful teams at all levels run the football.”

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