WEIRTON - It has only been a year, but the fire has been burning inside Ross Comis and his Madonna teammates for what, to them, has felt like an eternity. I suppose you never do get over losing a state championship game, especially by a single point, and in overtime, to boot.
There was Comis, kneeling on the frigid Wheeling Island Stadium turf last December, his eyes watering and his jaw clinched after the Blue Dons dropped a 43-42 decision to Wahama in the West Virginia Class A final. After all, chances like that sometimes come along once in a lifetime.
Except at Madonna.
With Friday night's 42-28 victory against Williamstown at Jimmy Carey Stadium, Madonna clinched its second straight Super Six appearance and will play the Greenbrier West-Magnolia winner at 7 p.m. a week from tonight.
''It's a great feeling, but it's not that 'oh, we did it,' '' Comis said. ''We've got one more game and we've got to keep fighting.
"This senior class, we've been playing together since we were little, and as you see, we never let up.''
There's a whole lot of truth there. The Blue Dons didn't play anything closely resembling their best game against the Yellowjackets, yet found a way to win - convincingly.
"At times it was very easy,'' Comis said of the still-undefeated 13-0 season. "I think that Steubenville Central game kind of woke us up a lot.
"We thought we were going to come in and blow them out.''
Madonna rallied to beat the Crusaders late, 22-17, for the second straight season in Week 9, which was the first time it had been really tested all season. Since that point, the Dons have scored 247 points (49.4 ppg.) and are winning by an average margin of 31 through three rounds of the playoffs.
Comis and company have made it look effortless at times, but make no mistake, there's nothing easy about living up to the kind of expectations Madonna has had since August. One would have to look far and wide to find a prognosticator that hasn't had the Blue Dons written in - with pen - to this title game from the very beginning.
"At any time our dream can be taken away,'' Comis said. "So we come in every game and every practice knowing that we have to win every week.
"We have to do that one more time.''
Comis is a pretty astute kid. He keeps up with what is going on not only at other schools in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference, but statewide. Therefore, the senior quarterback-safety has heard his name mentioned in reference to the Kennedy Award, which is given to W.Va.'s top prep football player.
''I mean, people keep saying a single-A guy can't win it,'' Comis said. ''Along with every other player, I think I am the best player in the state.''
He'll get no argument from his coach, Doug Taylor.
''I can't see a kid who is more valuable than he is to us. The kid does everything - he passes, he runs,'' Taylor said.
''I know there are some great backs in the state and I don't want to take anything away from them, but Ross Comis does it week-in and week-out with his arms and his legs and he never comes off the field for us.
''If he's not considered for the Kennedy or at the very top I think it's a shame, because I think he's very deserving of it.''
Not that Comis will lose any sleep if he doesn't win it, mind you.
''If I win, it would be great, but if I don't, I don't,'' he said. ''I'm focused on a state championship and not really the Kennedy Award."
Shawn Rine can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org