WEIRTON - The Madonna defense smothered a virtually helpless Tucker County offense while the Blue Dons scored early and often in a 52-0 romp in the opening round of the Class A state football championships.
The victory boosts the No. 1-ranked Blue Dons to 11-0 while the Mountain Lions, ranked 16th, will pack their gear with a 6-5 mark.
The Mountain Lions, who lost their quarterback and leading rusher, Austin Zirk, at the end of the first quarter, couldn't get the offense working and wound up with 48 yards of total yardage. Zirk, who went into the game with more than 1,300 yards on the ground, was sacked a couple of times and left the game with minus-12 yards rushing and completed one of four passes for 5yards.
Herald Star photo
Madonna’s Tyler Ewusiak (11) sacks Tucker County’s Austin Zirk (10) as Nate Guio (5) looks on.
"That's definitely the way you want to start the playoff series," said Blue Don coach Doug Taylor, whose team was making its seventh straight playoff appearance. "That was Step 1 and I thought we played very well on both sides of the football."
Offensively, the Blue Dons pretty much had their way and running back Eliot Nero had a monster night scoring five touchdowns, three running and two receiving. Nero added 153 more yards to the 1,289 yards he finished the regular season with.
Meanwhile, Ross Comis, the other half of the dynamic duo, passed for four touchdowns and 125 yards by completing 11 of 14, including his final seven. Then Comis added 134 yards on the ground with 16 rushes.
"The credit goes to our offensive line," Nero said. "They blocked very well. The type of quarterback we have likes to make plays with his feet. He'll scramble around and you just have to find the open spot."
Taylor praised his defense.
"We want to play good defense because we think that's what wins championships," he continued. "Our offense gets a lot of the credit because of the numbers they've been able to put up, but our defense played well."
The Blue Dons defense has relinquished just 106 points in 11 games this year.
Taylor also praised Nero.
"That was an unbelievable performance by Eliot Nero," Taylor said. "We wanted to take a little bit of the heat off of Ross. We ran him a little bit, but we wanted to run Eliot tonight and it was good to see Tyler Ewusiak more involved in the offense."
Ewusiak, a senior, caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Comis in the first quarter and later added a 28-yard reception.
The Blue Dons left little doubt about the outcome right from the beginning.
It took them four plays and 1:42 to score after receiving the opening kickoff. Nero found a seam through the right side of the line and raced 47 yards for the first score. When the Mountain Lions were offside as the Blue Dons lined up to kick the extra point, Taylor sent his offense in and Comis ran the ball for the 2-point conversion.
Nero scored again in the first period on an 8-yard run and junior Austin Connell blocked a Dan Kisamore punt with the ball going out of the end zone for a safety and another two points. Then, Ewusiak got wide open down the left side from 19 yards out and Comis found him. Tucker County went offside again on the attempted kick and this time Nero ran it in giving the Blue Dons a commanding 24-0 first-quarter lead.
The Blue Dons, who traveled to Parsons to beat the Mountain Lions in double overtime, 20-14, in last year's semifinal round of the playoffs, led 31-0 at the half and then tacked on 21 second half points.
The Blue Dons will play host to a second-round playoff game next weekend facing the winner of today's Clay-Battelle and Wahama game. Madonna beat the Cee Bees 35-6 last week in the regular season finale and lost to Wahama 43-42 in overtime in the 2012 state championship game in Wheeling.