WEIRTON - Former Madonna Principal John Mihalyo knew he had the right man for the football job when he hired Doug Taylor three years ago.
So much so that he texted up-and-coming quarterback Ross Comis and told him "Give this guy a chance. With the offense he's bringing in, you're going to break all the (school) records."
Whether it was a prophecy or just a guy who knew good football, Mihalyo's words became fact.
The Taylor family — front row from left, Mary Ann, family dog Bo, and Doug. Back row, Mallory and Derek.
Comis broke all of the school records, and ended up tied for second in voting for the prestigious Kennedy Award.
Madonna broke lose, capped this season by a 14-0 record and a West Virginia Class A state championship.
As a result, Taylor has been voted by his Ohio Valley coaching peers as The Intelligencer/News-Register as Coach of the Year.
"When I applied for the job, nobody knew who I was," said Taylor, an Oak Glen graduate who spent time at Weir as an assistant under Tony Filberto and Eric Meek and also as offensive coordinator under Filberto at his alma mater.
"After I got the job, I brought in some tapes of the offense I wanted to run, and that was when he talked to Ross. I didn't know it until (after the state title victory against Greenbrier West, 24-14) when Mr. Mihalyo called me and told me that story. Ross said he remembered that."
Madonna, 26-2 in the last two seasons (one a 43-42 loss to Wahama in the 2012 state title game) was stacked entering this season, and the coach knew it.
With Comis at QB, Eliott Nero in the backfield and a plethora of seniors, Taylor knew they had a shot.
Sometimes, those are the toughest jobs.
Except, Taylor said, it wasn't.
"The kids never came in with a big head," Taylor said. "They took their butt chewings like good men would. We put the pressure on them to take this thing one game at a time. I think that relieved the stress. They never looked outside the box but kept the game in front of them. We stressed that yes, we have a good team. But of you take it one game at a time, concentrate on that, make it the goal, you can get where you want to go."
The only pressure he felt was self-induced.
"There was no stress from anyone other than myself," Taylor said. "When you have a good team like we did, you don't want to get to a point where you cost these kids a chance to win because you weren't prepared or you made a bad call."
While the victory against hard-hitting Greenbrier West was one he will never forget, and, obviously, his top game as a coach (he was an assistant in 2005 when Weir won a state title), the Blue Dons' signature moment probably came earlier in the year, against Steubenville Catholic.
Down 17-7 at the half, with an injured, yet still-playing Comis, who had a shoulder separation, Taylor and his staff had to make some tough adjustments.
"We wanted to extend the game into the fourth quarter and give ourselves a chance," Taylor said. "We knew Ross couldn't run it, so we had him handing off and when he was throwing it, doing it from the pocket."
Facing a crucial fourth-and-8, with time running out, Comis hooked up with Marcelo Biondollo on a pass to the 1. The Blue Dons scored and won the game 22-17.
"At that point I started thinking that maybe we are a team of destiny," Taylor said.
It turned out to be the perfect birthday present, coming two days after his actual birthday and the state championship was a perfect present received early.
He also spread the credit around.
"There are a lot of people who have to take credit for getting an award like this," Taylor said. "We have committed athletes, a supportive administration and community, and a great (assistant) staff that I couldn't do without. They deserve as much credit as a head coach because without that, we would not have accomplished this."
Taylor is the third Madonna coach to be honored as the Wheeling newspapers' Coach of the Year, joining Bob Kramer (2004) and Jim Paul (1987).
"What we had this year was a special group," Taylor said. "In a lot of ways, it is bittersweet, knowing that we are saying goodbye to a lot of great kids who invested so much into this. The thing I'm most happy about is how the final chapter ends with this group of guys."