By RALPH COX
The offensive line of the unbeaten Madonna Blue Dons each week seems to be playing a game called "what defense will we see this week," according to coach Doug Taylor.
"I don't think we've played a team yet that hasn't changed defenses from what they used in the films against other teams," Taylor said.
He's looking for the same thing this week from highly ranked Clarksburg Notre Dame (5-1). The Irish invade Jimmy Carey Stadium on Saturday for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
"Notre Dame did that to us last year when we went down there and Bishop Donahue did it to us last week," Taylor said. "We're fortunate we have a group of experienced and talented kids that can adapt to something different than what we prepared for."
Notre Dame won its first four games, several in come-from-behind fashion and was ranked in the top five among West Virginia Class A teams until a loss to Danville, an Ohio powerhouse, dropped it to 12th. The Irish bounced back with a 12-7 victory against arch rival, but winless, Liberty Harrison last week. Notre Dame didn't get any bonus points for the victory so it remains ranked outside the top 10 this week at 11.
Meanwhile, the Blue Dons ripped Bishop Donahue last week 48-20 and were able to hang on to their ranking at No. 2 behind unbeaten St. Marys.
Taylor said the Irish lost the starting quarterback from a year ago when the Blue Dons trounced them 49-12, but return most of the team.
"Any team that is 5-1 at this point of the season has to be good," Taylor said. "We're preparing for a good Notre Dame team."
The Irish have moved senior Tyler McKinsey (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) to quarterback. He played defensive end last year.
Taylor said the Blue Dons need to keep track of a quick and powerful Santino Cava (5-7, 195), the Irish running back.
"He started last year as a sophomore and has a lot of quickness," Taylor said.
The Irish mix the run and pass evenly. When they pass, they try to get the ball to talented freshman receiver Jarrod West (5-0, 145).
"He appears on the films to have great hands and is their possession receiver," Taylor said. "Notre Dame has good size, too. I'd say they average about 245 on the line.
"What is impressive to me is that Notre Dame opponents can't seem to put them away. They have played several games where teams had leads late in the game only to have Notre Dame come back. I know that Cameron and Bishop Donahue had leads on them. Donahue was ahead going into the fourth quarter and Notre Dame scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter."
Notre Dame beat Bishop Donahue 37-16 and squeaked by Cameron by 24-18. It also beat Grafton, a Class AA school, 27-16, and beat Valley, 32-22. Madonna beat Cameron 48-6.
"I know that if we get a lead on them I won't be comfortable until the final whistle blows," Taylor said.
He said the Irish play a spread offense with Cava in a sidecar position similar to the way the Blue Dons play with Ross Comis and Elliot Nero.
The Madonna duo had a super game last week against the Bishops. Comis rambled for 231 rushing yards and Nero had 148 with four touchdowns.
Comis has 797 yards on the ground with 93 carries and 17 touchdowns, while Nero has lugged the ball 83 times for 789 yards and 10 scores.
"We thought we had the problem of thoughtless penalties solved, but they cropped up again last week when we took nine penalties for 57 yards," Taylor said. "And they were penalties that shows the kids didn't have their intensity like lining up in the neutral zone, offsides, illegal motion, things like that.
"We're stressing that in practice this week and defensively we have to play four complete quarters. Last week I thought we played three solid quarters, but kind of got lackadaisical in the fourth quarter after we got the lead. Of course we had some reserves in the lineup late in the game, but if we don't play hard for four quarters this week Notre Dame will pull another of their comebacks.
"Also, we need to recognize the Notre Dame blitzes and give our backs better protection with our blocking schemes."
Taylor said senior tackle Austin Bell is nursing an injury that will keep him on the sidelines for the second straight game. He'll be replaced by sophomore Nate Martin and senior Travis Brown.
Brown, Grant Retton and Nate Guio are the leading tacklers for Madonna's stingy defense.
The Blue Dons have allowed 47 points in six games with the 20 points that Bishop Donahue scored being the first time a team has scored more than once.