Blue Dons, Knights Set For Clash
Dietrich, McGhee led teams to Week 1 wins
WHEELING — Wheeling Central and Madonna have a long history together and their rivalry writes the next chapter during a Thursday night clash at Bishop Schmitt Field on the campus of Wheeling Jesuit. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Both teams started the season with impressive victories, albeit in different fashion.
Madonna rallied for an exciting victory in the final seconds to stun Bridgeport, 40-36, at Jimmy Carey Stadium.
Wheeling Central, however, left little doubt, going on the road and thumping Williamstown, 33-0, in their stadium.
“It was an exciting game and everybody was really excited around school Friday morning,” Madonna coach Darrin Hicks said. “It was a festive atmosphere, but we got back to work (Monday) and went full-bore. We know what we have in front of us — the defending state champions.”
Gavin Dietrich ran it in from 3 yards out with 4.7 seconds left on the clock to secure a win for Madonna and put an exclamation point on a tremendous night for the senior. It was the culmination of a two-minute drive coming after the Bulldogs had went on top on their final possession.
Dietrich rushed for 246 yards on 30 carries with four touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 67 yards.
“We had great leadership from our four seniors and I was pleased with our ability to grow up really fast,” Hicks said. “We have 12 freshmen and are really young. It was a see-saw affair and we were able to seize the momentum.
“But we know we need constant improvement. Kaizen is the Japanese word for improvement and that is our focus this week in all facets.”
For Wheeling Central, the Maroon Knights were impressive in all three facets of the game.
The defense was punishing, led by Huff Award winner Adam Murray and a strong debut from sophomore Payton Marling. On offense, Curtis McGhee III rushed for 127 yards and two scores, while throwing for 137 yards and a touchdown to Bray Price. Price added two touchdowns, including one on his first carry a little more than a minute into the game.
A blocked punt was a highlight on special teams, although two roughing the kicker penalties are something Wheeling Central coach Mike Young would like to forget.
“I was pleased with how the kids played together,” Young said. “Defensively, they rallied around each other and overcame some of the first-game jitters. We had too many penalties, but we overcame those. We found some identity. I was pleased with the physicality, but it could be better. Better at technique, blocking and tackling, those are always areas of learning and getting better each week.”
Wheeling Central and Madonna have had some great battles through the years, including meeting in the state championship game in 2005.
Last season, the Blue Dons were on a roll when they welcomed the Maroon Knights into Jimmy Carey Stadium.
Wheeling Central steamrolled Madonna, 50-0.
“It was not the outcome we wanted, but they did a tremendous job and it was obviously a springboard for them on the way to a state title,” Hicks said. “But last year is last year. We have to concentrate week by week and we want to be 1-0 one more time.
“There is no added pressure for us. I am sure in the back of some of our kids minds they realize how big of a game it is. Wheeling Central is the defending state champs, how could you not? But we are excited to go up there and test ourselves.
“Wheeling Central is a tremendous football team and doesn’t seem to have a weakness. They have a tremendous staff that puts the kids in the right position to be successful. We have to make sure we are fundamentally sound. We had 12 penalties for 95 yards last week and we have to get rid of those self-inflicted wounds. “
Young knows the bullseye will be on the Maroon Knights all season, and Madonna will be no different.
“They are a very good team and (Dietrich) is definitely the key to their offense,” Young said. “They are small in size, but very aggressive and play hard. They had a great win against Bridgeport. They are a small Catholic school like us, but they get a lot out of what they have.
“Garrett Cook is a great player and we have to be cognizant of where is at everywhere on the field. They are going to come in here hungry and excited. This has always been a good rivalry and both of these programs have a lot of tradition and a lot of pride. It is going to a great night for high school football.”