WEIRTON - Capitalizing on Tug Valley mistakes, Madonna jumped out to an early lead and cruised to a 58-12 first round West Virginia Class A playoff victory on a warm and sunny November afternoon Saturday at Jimmy Carey Stadium.
The victory, Madonna's ninth straight, earned the Blue Dons a second home playoff game next weekend against No. 5 seeded St. Marys, which defeated No. 12 Wirt County, 40-14, in its playoff opener Friday night. The day and time of that matchup will be determined at state meetings at the WVSSAC offices in Parkersburg today. With Madonna being the home team, St. Marys will have the option of date and time for the game.
As he did a week ago against previously unbeaten Clay-Battelle, junior quarterback Ross Comis led the Blue Dons. He threw three touchdown passes along and rushed for 82 yards and a score. Comis also completed seven of 12 passes for 184 yards pushing him over 1,100 yards passing for the season. He also has over 1,350 yards on the ground.
Madonna’s Ross Comis (2) hands off to Eliott Nero during Saturday’s West Virginia Class A playoff game in Weirton.
Photo by Mike Mathison
Tug Valley, which came into the game with an 8-2 record and the 13th seed, allowed Madonna to get on the scoreboard midway through the first quarter when the center snap on a punt formation at their own 18 sailed over Conley's head into the end zone.
Conley kicked the football out of the back of the end zone, which mandated an unsportsmanlike penalty, the first of four such penalties inflicted on the teams in the game - three against Tug Valley and one against the Blue Dons.
"We knew going in that Tug Valley was a good football team that played hard," victorious Blue Dons coach Doug Taylor said. "We were able to take advantage of some of their mistakes and get out to an early lead.
"However, we didn't play as good a game as the score would indicate. We made a lot of mistakes and really didn't run the ball as well as we wanted. We probably didn't even have 40 offensive plays (the Blue Dons had 32). Of course, some of that was due to the Tug Valley defense."
On the other hand, Panthers dented the Blue Don defense with a total of 65 offensive plays for a total of 289 yards, the most by an opponent in a long while.
Tug Valley senior, Aaron Muncy, rushed for 122 yards on 22 carries. Meanwhile, senior quarterback, Mikey Newsome, completed nine of 18 passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted three times. Freshman quarterback, Tyler Conley completed one of three passes for 19 yards and a score.
Madonna scored quickly after the safety. Garrett Hypes, who had intercepted Newsome's first pass of the game earlier, returned the ensuing kickoff from his own 39 to the Tug Valley 37 to set up the touchdown.
Junior Nick Ossman got two yards on the ground before Comis plowed his way 28 yards to the Tug Valley 7 carrying three Panthers with him. Ossman got the call next and started over left tackle, but saw plenty of daylight on the outside so he veered that way and scored.
The Blue Dons set up for sophomore Matt Green to boot the extra point, but Tug Valley went offside on the play moving the ball halfway between the 1- and 2-yard lines. Taylor quickly got his offense on the field and Comis scored the two-point conversion on a sweep to his right.
Tug Valley showed why they made the 4-hour trip to Weirton by driving for a touchdown with the next possession. The score came on a 20-yard pass from Newsome to senior tight end Corey Dillon, who stretched his 6-foot-4 frame high to battle for the ball with the 6-1 Comis, the Madonna safety. Comis tiped the ball and Dillon caught it before he hit the ground. The Panthers were unable to connect on a pass for the extra points.
The Blue Dons, though, broke the game open with four second period touchdowns.
Madonna quickly retaliated from the Tug Valley touchdown by rolling 76 yards in just three plays. Junior Marcello Biondillo scored when Comis found him wide open down the middle of the field. Biondillo caught the ball at the Tug Valley 40 and raced to the end zone. The scoring play covered 60 yards. Green added the extra point from placement as he did six other times in the game.
Madonna got its unsportsmanlike penalty call on the touchdown play when Biondillo raised his hand before he crossed the goal line forcing the ensuing kickoff from the Blue Don 25-yard line instead of the customary 40.
Adam Roberton's kickoff landed at the Tug Valley 40, but none of the Panthers picked up or fell on the football. As with all kickoffs, it is a free ball once the kickoff travels 10 yards so when Madonna junior Wil Bowser pounced on the football, the Blue Dons got possession.
Bowser had a big day also. He not only pounced on that loose ball, but he caught three Comis passes, one for a touchdown, and intercepted two Newsome passes returning one of them for a touchdown.
"I thought we shot ourselves in the foot early," said Tug Valley coach Tony Cluskey. "That's one thing you can't do. You can't let them get the momentum rolling down hill, but I thought we played well. We did what we wanted to do, but then a Madonna big play on our own turnovers and mistakes hurt us."
Another Madonna junior, Elliott Nero, scored Madonna's second touchdown of the period going five yards after taking a toss from Comis on a sweep right.
Comis and Biondillo connected again on the first play of the next Madonna possession for what appeared to be a 52-yard score. However, the touchdown was called back by a holding call against the Blue Dons.
Undaunted, the Blue Dons drove 62 yards for the touchdown with Comis powering his way as the Madonna offensive line literally pushed the Panther defensive front the entire three yards into the end zone.
"My teammates motivate me," said Comis. "They all work hard in practice during the week and come out here on game days playing hard."
After Bowser picked off a Newsome pass in the open flat at his own 35 and pranced the 64 yards to paydirt and Green's kick, the Blue Dons took a commanding 38-6 lead to the locker room at the half.
"I'd like to say that I played it that way on those interceptions, but their mistakes helped a little," said Bowser, who said it was the first time in his career that he returned an interception for a touchdown.
It was more of the same in the second half with Nero grabbing a swing pass from Comis for a 25-yard touchdown on the opening possession of the second half.
Later in the third period, Comis found Bowser behind the defense in a 37-yard scoring operation.
"Will and I have good chemistry," said Comis. "We've been playing together since grade school and he just knows when to come back to me for the pass."
Ossman, who carried the ball seven times for 39 yards, got his second touchdown on a one-yard plunge through the middle to wrap up Madonna's scoring in the fourth quarter.
Tug Valley tacked on a meaningless score with 59 seconds left in the game when Dillon caught a 19-yard scoring pass from Conley in the left side of the end zone.