Home sweet home: Dons finally play at home
WEIRTON — It took a couple of weeks longer than expected, but the Blue Dons will finally take the field at Jimmy Carey Stadium for the first time in 2021 on Friday night.
On tap for the 3-0 Blue Dons is perhaps their toughest test to date with a visit from 2-1 Vienna Mathews.
“It’s going to be great not to have to travel,” Madonna head coach Dan Rovira said. “We’re ready to play at home. The kids are excited about it, we have two home games in a row now (the Blue Dons host Cameron on Sept. 25).
“It feels like we’ve been on the road forever so we’re really looking forward to it.”
Madonna closed last season on the road in the playoffs, opened this season with a trip to Beallsville, had its originally scheduled home opener declared a forfeit win over Pittsburgh Carrick and traveled to Bridgeport Saturday.
If it seems like one has read a lot about Mathews this season, that is because two of the 2-1 Mustangs three opponents have been local schools.
The Mustangs, guided by 82-year-old coaching legend Bill Bohren, opened their season with a 6-0 win over Catholic Central at home and suffered a 35-18 setback at Edison last week for their only loss thus far. In its other game, Mathews defeated Sebring McKinley 46-12 on the road.
“They are a much-improved team from last year, they’ve got a new coach and they play much more aggressive,” Rovira said of the Mustangs. “They look like a completely different team.
“They throw the ball around, their kids play hard and they are much better defensively than they were last year.”
The Blue Dons handed the Mustangs a 30-0 defeat in Vienna late last season.
“It’s going to be a good, small-school game,” Rovira said. “They have a little bit more numbers than us, but we are in the same boat. We have the same-size kids and we both throw the ball. It’s going to be an exciting game.”
Coming away with a win in this meeting of the teams will start up front.
“We’ve got to win up front, we have to,” Rovira said. “We can’t have missed assignments in the secondary. We’ve got to tackle better. We’ve got to start fast, we know that.
“We jumped on Bridgeport early, it’s a good thing we did because they made a push at the end but we had enough of a lead.”
The Blue Dons also know they will need to put a more complete game together as their opponents get tougher and tougher down the stretch.
“We’ve got to put together the whole 48 minutes,” Rovira said. “I did not like our second half at all (against Bridgeport). We took our foot off their throat so to speak, we had them at 35-6 and took it off. We’ve got to get used to finishing.
“I don’t know if it was because we were only playing our second game because of the forfeit (by Carrick the previous week), maybe we were rusty, but there’s no excuse.”
Madonna, currently tied for third in the Class A standings, enters the week as the top offense in the Herald-Star Daily Times coverage area averaging 461 yards and 49.5 points per game.
That attack is led by quartback Santino Arlia, with 502 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception. He has tossed five scores in each of the two games decided on the field. He totaled 350 yards through the air against Bridgeport. He has also added another 35 yards and a score with his feet.
Evan Quering has been on the receiving end of an area-best six of those touchdown passes, sitting fifth in the area with 11 catches for 299 yards, averaging more than 27 yards per reception. He hauled in three scores, including a 90-yarder, against the Bulldogs Saturday.
While the passing game gets a lot of attention, Seth Humberson is off to nice start in the ground game, too, racking up 176 yards and two scores while averaging nearly nine yards per carry. He had an even 100 against Bridgeport.
The kick Friday is set for 7 p.m.