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Can Madonna’s Comis Win Kennedy in Class A?

September 12, 2013
By SHAWN RINE , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING - Jeff Swisher, a two-way standout at Sistersville is the last man to know how it feels.

The season was 1986, or nearly 30 years ago. To put it another way, Swisher should be about 45 years old these days.

Yes, that is how long it has been since a Class A player has been named the winner of the Harrison H. Kennedy Award, signifying the best prep football player in the state of West Virginia. Furthermore, long-time West Virginia Sports Writer's Association treasurer Doug Huff points out there have been less than five small-school winners since the award began in 1947.

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Madonna quarterback/safety Ross Comis (2) is already a three-time All-West Virginia Player. There’s a question as to whether he legitimately has a chance to win the Kennedy Award.

Mind boggling? Absolutely.

Unfair? Not necessarily.

The truth is, it's obviously tough for a small-school player to win and there are legitimate reasons for that.

For one, the thought is those schools play inferior opponents, and compared to the ones that Class AAA teams are facing, that can't honestly be disputed. Much to the dismay of guys like Madonna coach Doug Taylor it's probably going to remain that way, if for no other reason than it's hard to teach an old dog - or sports writer, in this case - new tricks.

''I hope we haven't gotten to the point where we are so narrow-minded that we think it has to be a triple-A award,'' Taylor was saying Tuesday. ''I hope that people consider everything, who they think is the best player in the state of West Virginia regardless of class.''

Taylor, you see, has a dog in this fight. The general consensus around the state is that Madonna quarterback-safety Ross Comis is one of the top-5 players out there, yet nearly unanimously is thought to be a long shot to bring home the award because he competes at a Class A school.

Don't worry. It confuses me too.

The Kennedy is suspposed to be given to the player adjudged to be the best in the state. No mention, however, of restrictions based on classes.

The question we as voters need to ask ourselves, is should a player everyone seems to agree is among the best there is, be punished merely because of the size of the school he represents?

If a Class A player is going to pull it off, a plethora of factors have to align just right.

First of all, you certainly have to enter the season as a well-known commodity, not just in the area in which you play, but state-wide. Secondly, the schedule had better be as tough as inherently possible. Third, and this goes hand-in-hand with the last part, the team must excel at a high level. It's also highly beneficial to be seen by a number of different writers.

Last, but certainly not least, the numbers have to be there.

Comis seems to have a lot going for him in those regards.

The Blue Dons play teams that are currently ranked Nos. 1 (Wheeling Central), 6 (Clay-Battelle) and 9 (Bishop Donahue) in the state poll. That doesn't even include a trip to play a Steubenville Catholic team that is coming off a playoff appearance in the state of Ohio and again looks formidable.

Comis is already a three-time all-state selection and led the Blue Dons to a 12-2 record and an appearance in the state title game last season, falling 43-42 to Wahama in overtime. They are 2-0 this season heading into Saturday night's clash with Wheeling Central.

In that state title contest, Comis tied an all-class record with five touchdown runs and also threw for a sixth en route to running up 285 yards of total offense. All told in 2012, Comis amassed 3,282 yards (1,709 rushing, 1,538 passing) and accounted for 47 touchdowns. Thus far he has 236 yards and five touchdowns on the ground and another 199 and three scores through the air, despite playing roughly six quarters thus far because of a blowout in the opener.

On their way through the playoffs, the Blue Dons played Tug Valley, St. Marys, Tucker County and Wahama. What that means, is just about every writer in the state should already be familiar with what he brings to the table.

To put it all in simpler terms, had Comis put up those kind of statistics while starring at say, Martinsburg, it's highly probable he would have entered the season as the clear-cut favorite for the award.

''The thing is, you're stuck with where you're at,'' Taylor said. ''I hope the people will notice that we are playing a tough single-A schedule.

''If (writers) get an opportunity to come to one of our games, I hope they do. Ross is one of the greatest, if not the greatest player I have ever coached.''

To pick a Kennedy winner - even frontrunner for that matter - at this early juncture would be foolish. There are so many variables that have yet to play themselves out and things will change a great deal between now and November, that doing so would be a thorough exercise in futility.

That being said, should Madonna run up another terrific record and should Comis put up more ridiculous numbers especially in a season that didn't start with a dominant Class AAA player, he deserves to be part of a serious discussion.

Shawn Rine can be reached via email at

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