TORONTO - The Toronto football team will be playing its final game at Clarke Hinkle Field tomorrow night when it plays host to Weirton Madonna.
While the Red Knights (6-3) still have an outside shot at securing an Ohio Division VI, Region 21 playoff berth if they beat the Blue Dons and get a lot of outside help, that's of no concern to Coach Eric Meek.
''Mathematically we have a shot at the playoffs,'' he said. ''But our main focus this week is winning the last game of the season for our seniors. Last week they clinched the first winning season in their four-year careers.''
Toronto's 52-36 victory against winless Hundred also ended a decade-long drought of plus-.500 seasons.
''It's been a tough run for these guys,'' added Meek, who began his second stint at the Red Knights helm two years ago.
Meek has been around the block a few times at various schools in the area including Weir High where he coached a West Virginia Class AA state championship team. At Toronto, he is trying to build a solid foundation at a school that had plenty of success in the past before hard times set in to the program.
''These kids have responded very well,'' he said. ''They believed in the program and now they believe in themselves.''
The Toronto vs. Madonna matchup might be one of the more-interesting games in the OVAC this weekend. The Blue Dons, just two years off their W.Va. Class A state title victory, have a 5-3 record in their first season under coach Doug Taylor.
The former Oak Glen and Weir High assistant coach took over after the highly successful Bob Kramer retired.
Two of Madonna's defeats were inflicted by No. 1- and No. 2-rated clubs in the current state Single-A rankings. In Week 2, Madonna fell 41-23 to defending state champion Wheeling Central Catholic and this past week it was drilled 33-0 by Wahama, last year's state finalist and one of the favorites to make it to Wheeling Island Stadium for the 2011 Super Six title game. The Blue Dons' other loss was a 21-20 heartreaker when Bridgeport had a successful 2-point conversion after scoring a touchdown on the game's final play.
''Wahama might be the hardest-hitting team we've played,'' Taylor said. ''They have good speed and decent size. We had a couple of things go wrong early and never got untracked.''
He expects another tough challenge this week against Toronto.
''It's a typical Eric Meek-coached team,'' the Blue Dons coach said. ''You better make sure your helmet is full of air because they will hit you.''
Both teams have injury concerns. Meek reported that of the 36 players on Toronto's roster, only 24 were available to play against Hundred.
''A third of our team was in street clothes and I'm not sure how many will make it back to play this week,'' he said.
Madonna sophomore running back Nick Ossman has been out with a shoulder injury the past few weeks and several Blue Dons came out of the Wahama game with various nicks and bruises.
When Meek offers praise about the Madonna coaching staff, he does so with some pride since several of the Blue Dons coaches were with him at Weir High.
''Doug is doing a nice job with the spread offense they run,'' Meek said. ''The speed makes them dangerous but you can't commit everything to the run because they throw the ball well.''
Sophomore quarterback Ross Comins has become a legitimate two-way threat while directing the Blue Dons attack. Although picked off twice last week, Comis completed 11 of 19 passes for 105 yards, putting his season total to 1,018 yards and nine touchdowns. He had thrown just two interceptions prior to last week, and is also Madonna's leading rusher with 613 yards.
''Ross is coming along,'' Taylor noted. ''We are putting in a little more of the passing game every week. He made some good reads and a few bad reads last week but some of the mistakes might have been caused by pressure from their defense.''
Christian Roe, held to negative yardage on the ground last week as was Comis, has rushed for 310 yards overall.
In Toronto's victory against Hundred, both Ralph King and Tony McGhee rushed for more than 100 yards while Joey Chadwick, moved to quarterback from wide receiver earlier in the season, had a 31-yard touchdown pass to Kyle White for a go-ahead score late in the opening half.
Although the Red Knights feature the run, Meek believes the decision to put Chadwick at quarterback has given them an added threat through the air.
Defense is Toronto's man concern this week, however.
''We need to play well out on the perimeter and improve our pass coverage,'' Meek said. ''Snce the Central (Steubenville Catholic) game, we haven't played the pass as well.''