Dons Fall Short in Class A Title Tilt
WHEELING -Ross Comis tied an all-class West Virginia state championship game record by rushing for five touchdowns and he also passed for the tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter but it wasn’t enough to lift Madonna past undefeated Wahama on Saturday night at Wheeling Island Stadium.
In arguably one of the most incredible state championship battles since Wheeling became the Super Six host 19 years ago, the White Falcons went for broke in an all-or-nothing gamble that paid off with a 43-42 overtime victory against the heartbroken Blue Dons.
After Madonna and scored first in the extra session to go in front 42-35 on Comis’ 2-yard-run and sophomore Matthew Green’s sixth straight successful PAT kick, Wahama coach Ed Cromley began thinking after going for a 2-point conversion if his team was able to put the ball in the end zone again.
”I was really favoring going for 2 because I didn’t want it to become an extra-point kicking contest (in overtime),” Cromley said. ”They drilled all theirs (kicks) and we had trouble with ours. I thought if we scored, we better try and end it there.”
The veteran Wahama coach stuck to his plan once hard-running fullback Zack Wamsley blasted into the end zone from inside the 1 on first-and-goal.
After a timeout to discuss the play, the White Falcons received a further break when Madonna was called for an offside penalty, moving the ball even closer to the goal line. Senior quarterback Trenton Gibbs, the starter two years ago as a sophomore when Wahama lost in the Class A state final to Wheeling Central, took the snap, started to his left and found the slight crack he needed to make it across the goal line, bringing the Mason County School its first football championship.
”We figured they were going to take the dive away from Wamsley and I thought it would be open for Gibbs,” Cromley explained.
Ironically, Wahama’s decision to go for the 2 points came after Madonna had considered doing the same thing at the end of regulation.
”The coaching staff was kind of split about whether to go for one or 2,” Blue Dons coach Doug Taylor said. ”We decided on the 2-point conversion but the penalty changed our mind.”
Comis’s five touchdowns rushing came on carries 17, 2, 12, 6 and 2 yards, matching the performance of Wheeling Central’s Gino Bianconi against Williamstown last December on the island turf.
”That is the way Ross has been all year,” Taylor continued. ”We want the ball in his hands. But I also liked the way our other running backs (Eliott) Nero and Nick Ossman ran. Will Bowser did a nice job of catching it and our offensive line was very good.
”It was a heartbreaking loss for our kids and I know they are hurting. But the sun will rise and we’ll get back to work in the weight room in a couple of weeks getting ready to try and get here again.”
The defeat halted an 11-game winning streak for Madonna, which finished the season with a 12-2 record. The Blue Dons were trying for their third Class A crown, having previously earned championships in 1987 and 2008,
While Comis led the Madonna ground game with 152 yards on 27 carries, the White Falcons had a pair of runners top the century mark. The speedy Kane Roush scored three touchdowns on runs of 17, 4 and 41 yards while collecting 179 yards on 23 totes. Wamsley rambled for 112 yards on 21 carries and also scored three times on runs of 9, 1 and 1 yards.
The lead exchanged hands five times during the second half in the back-and-forth battle, although Madonna held the lead through the first two quarters.
Comis’ rollout pass to Nathan Guio covered 41 yards and set up the Blue Don QB’s first TD from 17 yards out after he executed a great fake on what appeared to be a handoff to Ossman. Green’s placement made it 7-0 with 5:22 left in the opening quarter.
Wahama rebounded to drive 53 yards in 13 plays, the score coming on Wamsley’s dive from the 1. A bad snap spoiled the conversion kick, leaving the Blue Dons ahead 7-6.
Garrett Hypes’ 29-yard return put the ball in Wahama territory again and Comis went up the middle for the final 2 yards. Leading 14-12 with 11:49 left in the half, Madonna saw Wamsley cut the deficit to 14-12 four minutes later . An attempt for the tying 2-point conversion pass failed.
The White Falcons got a huge break on the first possession of the third quarter when a running into the kicker penalty enabled them to keep possession at midfield. Roush, on a terrific cutback move, scooted the final 17 yards and Gibbs’ 2-point conversion pass put them ahead for the first time at 20-14.
Wahama tried an onside kick but Charlie Kotten alertly fell on the ball at midfield, setting up Comis’ third TD to put the Blue Dons back in front 21-20.
Roush scored from the 6 and also added the 2-point conversion to give the White Falcons a seven-point lead for the first time only to see Madonna tie it at 28-28 after Comis hit paydirt on a 6-yard run.
Another dandy Roush carry, this one covering 41 yards and Wamsley’s PAT put Wahama in front 35-28 with 6:45 to play.
Again it was Comis engineering a game-tying TD drive. including a fourth-and-2 conversion on a sideline pass that saw Hypes make an excellent catch to keep the Blue Dons alive. Comis then escaped a near sack rolled left and spotted Marcello Biondillo all alone in the left corner of the end zone with 55 seconds remaining to force overtime.
Wahama chose to go on defense first but couldn’t stop Comis’ 2-yard TD run and the Green conversion for a 42-35 Blue Dons lead.
However, the White Falcons moved the ball inside the 1, setting up Wamsley’s TD carry and Gibbs’ game-winning 2-point conversion.