Steubenville Central Downs Madonna in Football

Madonna

By RALPH COX

For The Intelligencer

WEIRTON — Steubenville Catholic Central scored on the first play from scrimmage then took advantage of some Madonna mistakes and cruised to a surprisingly easy 43-7 victory Thursday at Jimmy Carey Stadium.

The loss knocked Madonna from the ranks of the unbeaten while the Crusaders improved to 7-2 and strengthened their opportunity to make the postseason with a home playoff game now more of a possiblity.

Central won the toss and elected to take the ball to start the game. It put Gavin Dietrich’s boot in play at its 33 and on the first play, junior quarterback Justin Hartzell found Levi Thompson open in the right flat. The senior eluded a tackler and raced to the end zone. The 67-yard pass and run came with just 15 seconds gone off the clock. Freshman Jarred Roberts’ kick was true giving the Crusaders a 7-0 lead.

Madonna bounced back in the second quarter to score on a Donavan Kirby 3-yard plunge and when Dietrich booted the extra point the game was tied. But that was about it for the unbeaten Blue Dons as the Crusaders scored 36 unanswered points.

Junior Craig Smith scored from 5 yards out with 1:25 left in the first half and with a Roberts kick the Crusaders had the edge at 14-7.

“Our plan early on was to spread things out and get them chasing us a little bit in the first half and the second half we wanted to run straight at them and it seemed to work,” veteran Crusaders coach Steve Daley said.

Daley said his plan on defense was to pack it in with seven and eight players in the box to stop Kirby, who is the leading rusher in the area with 2,049 yards. Daley’s defense didn’t stop Kirby, but contained him. It limited the junior ball carrier to 152 yards on 30 carries, which is 118 yards below his 270 yards per game average.

“Kirby’s a heck of a back, he is,” Daley said. “He runs strong and we knew they were going to pound him at us. But at the same time we knew they were going to try to slip some play action in there and they did. They hurt us a few times with that. It was a good plan on their part, but our kids played great defensively.”

The second half was all Crusaders as they scored twice in each of the third and fourth quarters.

“I think we lost the initiative in the first half with some internal mistakes, some turnovers and missed opportunities throwing the football,” Madonna second-year coach Darrin Hicks said. “We weren’t able to recover from some of the missed opportunities in the first half. I thought our guys battled. It just got away from us in the second half and that’s more on me than anything. Central did a good job. I tip my hat to them. They’re big and physical. I said all week they are very talented. They did a nice job

“We had a couple of mishaps in the first half and weren’t able to take advantage of some things that we tried to get. Sometimes the ball falls your way and sometimes it doesn’t Tonight it just didn’t go the way we hoped it would.”

The Blue Dons got the ball first to open the second half, but were forced to punt and five plays into Central’s first possession of the half, Thompson plowed into the end zone from a yard out. On the play before his score, Thompson broke loose for 56 yards. Both teams had penalties on the extra point lineup and Daley decided to go for a 2-point conversion. Smith drove it into the end zone to give the Crusaders a 22-7 lead.

They came right back five minutes later with a carbon copy. This time, Thompson got loose on a 40-yard run and was finally hauled down at the Madonna 1-yard line. He got the call again and the Roberts kick made it 29-7.

The Crusaders added two fourth-quarter scores, a Hartzell 1-yard run and another big play similar to the first touchdown of the game. This time Hartzell hit Thompson with a pass and the senior dashed to the end zone in a 60-yard operation.

“Thompson can run,” Daley said. “I said earlier in the year that kid is going to move on to the next level. I just hope people take notice of it. Hartzell had some good reads and did some good things. On that one touchdown where he pulled the ball out of Smith’s gut and ran for the touchdown, he had a perfect read. That’s what he has been doing all year for us.”

Thompson finished with 130 yards and two touchdowns rushing on nine carries and then had the two long receptions for two more touchdowns.

Hartzell completed 9 of 18 passes for 166 yards and the two scores. He also rushed with the ball six times for 43 yards and a touchdown.

Craig, who is Central’s leading ball carrier, ran 19 times for 120 yards and one touchdown.

“This win should help us toward our goal of making the playoffs,” Daley said. “We have one game left at Fort Frye and I’m a little concerned about the travel next week. It could come down to us possibly getting a home game if we could get that win down there.”

The Blue Dons went into the game ranked fifth in West Virginia Class A, but likely will fall when the rankings come out Tuesday.

“I told the team that it’s only a loss if it is a lesson,” Hicks said. “We’ll talk a little bit more about that as we set down and watch film. I’m proud of the kids. I thought we continued to battle. No doubt about that. There is not quit in these kids. They’re a wonderful group.

“We’ll be fine. I told them that everything we want to accomplish is still in front of us.”

Steubenville Central 43, Madonna 7

Steub. Catholic 7 7 15 14 — 43

Madonna 7 0 0 0 — 7

S — Thompson 67 pass from Hartzell (Roberts kick)

M — Kirby 3 run (Dietrich kick)

S — Smith 5 run (Roberts kick)

S — Thompson 1 run (Smith run

S — Thompson 1 run (Roberts kick)

S — Hartzell 1 run (Roberts kick)

S — Thompson 60 pass from Hartzell (Roberts kick)

Rushing: Steubenville Catholic 35-292-4td (Smith 19-120-td, Thompson 9-130-2td, Hartzell 6-43-td, Dawson 1-(-1). Madonna 48-229-td (Kirby 30-152-td, H.Baird 2-14, Dietrich 14-63, Lenhart 2-(-14).

Passing: Steubenville Catholic 9-18-166-2td (all by Hartzell). Madonna: 4-11-21-x (Dietrich 4-10-21-x, Lenhart 0-1).

Receiving: Steubenville Catholic 9-166-2td (Thompson 2-127-2td, Smith 4-18, DiBiase 2-10, Fallon 1-11). Madonna 4-21 (Pulice 3-9, Kirby 1-12).

First Downs: Steubenville Catholic 13, Madonna 17.

Penalties: Steubenville Catholic 4-25, Madonna 4-35.

Fumbles: Steubenville Catholic 0-0, Madonna 3-1.

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