STEUBENVILLE - In a game that saw Steubenville Catholic Central score quickly and Weirton Madonna score with long drives, the Blue Dons drove 80 yards in the final three minutes and scored the winning touchdown on a six-yard pass to edge the Crusaders, 21-20, Saturday night at Harding Stadium.
Junior Elliott Nero pulled in a pass from quarterback Ross Comis at the Central 1 and fought his way into the end zone for the touchdown that tied the game at 20-20. Sophomore kicker, Matt Greene, was perfect on the extra point kick to win the game and boost Madonna's season mark to 7-1. The victory should boost the Blue Dons into solid position for home field advantage in the West Virginia playoffs.
"This is the kind of game that we live for," victorious Blue Don coach Doug Taylor said. "My wife keeps wondering why I do this year in and year out. Well this is why. The excitement, the emotion, the kids coming out and playing hard. The cream rises to the top and we took care of business."
Weirton Madonna quarterback Ross Comis looks for a receiver Saturday.
Photo by Fred Younce
When Green's kick sailed through the uprights, it was the only time Madonna had the lead as Catholic Central took advantage of good field position three times in the first half to go ahead by 20-7 at the intermission.
"I thought their defensive pressure on us all night was the difference in the game," Crusaders coach Steve Daley said. "They made some adjustments in the second half so we didn't have time to get our routes. But hats off to them. They're a good football team. Both teams fought hard to the end and it was a good football game."
The loss likely will knock the Crusaders out of contention for home field advantage in the Ohio playoffs, but a victory next week against Magnolia could change all that.
The Crusaders got on the board early when the defense held Madonna to a three-and-out to pin them deep in their own territory with the opening possession. Senior Kyle Laukert gave Central good field position when he lugged a Wil Bowser punt from the Blue Don 46 to the 32.
It took the Crusaders just six plays to find the end zone with a Doug Maslowski one-yard plunge over right tackle. Stone Romano, Catholic Central's sophomore kicker, booted the extra point to arm the Crusaders with a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
The touchdown was set up by a 27-yard pass from Brenton Colabella to Laukert. Colabella, who leads the area in passing yardage, completed 12 of 23 passes for 132 yards, well below his per game average.
The Blue Dons retaliated with a 13-play scoring drive that started at their own 33 and finished when Comis blasted into the end zone on fourth and one at the Central two yard line. The drive consumed 5:50 of the first period and when Greene added the extra point the score was tied at 7-7.
Central used its quick-strike offense to go ahead in the second period putting a Bowser punt in play at their own 47-yard line.
Maslowski, who rushed 12 times for 56 yards, got loose for 20 yards to the Blue Don 33 and then he caught a Colabella swing pass for 10 more yards. On the third play of the possession, Colabella found Michael Carapellotti in the end zone. Carapellotti leaped and out fought a Madonna defender for the touchdown. Romano split the upright again to put the Crusaders ahead 14-7.
The Crusader defense played a big role in the third Catholic Central touchdown as junior, Khalil Jones, picked off a long Comis pass at his own 25 and returned it 45 yards to the Madonna 30.
It took them just five plays to score with Maslowski finishing off the short drive with a six-yard run to his left after accepting a pitch from Colabella. The touchdown came just 33.9 seconds before the half, but with Central lined up to kick the extra point, there was a problem with the snap or hold and the attempt was unsuccessful.
Little did anyone know at the time that miscue would be costly.
The two teams traded possessions throughout the third quarter, but the Blue Dons got another scoring drive going with its first possession of the fourth period.
The Blue Dons put a short Colabella punt into play at their own 42 and methodically marched 11 plays to the end zone with Comis going the final seven yards deftly dodging several Crusader defenders and refusing to stop till he hit paydirt.
"There was two plays in the long drive of the first half and once in the second half drive that Ross got us out of a bad play," said Taylor. "He checked out of plays and into ones where we had substantial gains to keep the drives going. It's great to have him running our offense. He knows what we're trying to attack. He's looking for the defensive positioning and he's going to put us into the best advantage to run the football."
The highlight of the drive were two Comis passes, an 11-yarder to senior Garrett Hypes and a strike to Bowser for 12 yards. Green's kick cut the Central lead to 20-14.
The Blue Don defense went to work on Central's ensuing possession. After yielding a first down, they stopped the Crusaders at the Madonna 40 where, faced with a fourth and 13, Daley chose to have Colabella punt the football. His high kick landed at the Madonna five-yard line, but before a Crusader could touch it, the ball bounced into the end zone.
That gave Madonna the ball at its own 20 and set the stage for the winning drive, which was aided by a 15-yard Crusader pass interference penalty.
Madonna's Nick Ossman, who ended up with 85 rushing yards, 80 of them in the second half, and Comis, who carried the ball 27 times for 99 yards steadily moved the ball toward the Catholic Central goal line as the game clock began to wind down inside a minute. Comis escaped for a 26-yard gain during the drive and got loose against for 11 yards down to the Central 11-yard line.
Ossman reeled off eight more yards to give the Blue Dons a first down at the Central one. However, a snafu with the center snap cost the Blue Dons a five-yard penalty back to the six setting up the Comis to Nero pass that tied the game with 30.7 seconds left on the clock.
After Green's game-winning kick, the Crusaders threw a scare into the Madonna faithful.
Laukert once again gave Catholic Central good field position when he hauled Adam Robertson's kickoff from his own 15 to the 40-yard line with 22.2 minutes left on the clock.
Colabella hit Zach Herrington for nine yards and found Ryan Fletcher for 17 more to the Madonna 34. However, his last two passes fell incomplete as time expired.