Blue Dons Beat Bulldogs In Thriller
WEIRTON — Madonna senior quarterback Gavin Dietrich had one of the most outstanding football games in the history of the school Thursday night.
He culminated it by scoring the winning touchdown on a 3-yard power play with 4.7 seconds left on the clock to give his team at 40-36 come-from-behind victory over Bridgeport at Jimmy Carey Stadium.
Dietrich gained 246 yards on 30 carries and scored four times, but he got a lot of help from an inexperienced front line and 156 yards rushing from sophomore Tom Sessi, who also scored three times.
“We had a strong running game last year, and (Thursday) we switched up our formations. When our guys made the blocks and opened the holes, I just ran through it,” Dietrich said. “The blocking was unreal. Everything was just perfect. I have to give it all to the linemen. They made beautiful holes for me.”
Dietrich also caught five passes for 67 yards, and coach Darrin Hicks praised his senior captain.
“He did a fantastic job,” he said. “We had him playing just about everywhere on the field before the end of the night. He had a tremendous day as all our guys did, and I’m extremely proud of them.”
It was Dietrich’s play in the final two minutes that really stood out. Bridgeport scored on a 9-yard pass from senior quarterback Tino Kusic to Izaac Jozwiek with 2:04 left to take a 36-32 lead. Dietrich got the kickoff at his 20 and ran it up to the 48, from where the Blue Dons put it in play.
Dietrich and Sessi combined on runs to put the ball on the Bridgeport 19 with 41 seconds remaining. Enter freshman quarterback Santino Arlia, who had already passed the ball seven times.
He hit Dietrich on two short tosses of 3 and 2 yards. A Sessi run was stuffed by the Bulldogs defense, and Arlia couldn’t connect on a pass to the end zone. But he found Dietrich with an 11-yarder that put the ball on the 3. Dietrich then blasted into the end zone for the winning score.
While Madonna gained 395 yards on the ground and produced several long drives, the Bulldogs were striking with big plays, the first of which came on the opening drive. Kusic found Trevonn Ray wide open in the Madonna secondary on third-and-25. The play covered 85 yards, with the speedy Ray catching the ball over his shoulder in full stride. A conversion kick failed, but the Bulldogs were up 6-0 a minute and a half into the game.
Hicks’ club responded quickly as Sessi returned the Bridgeport kickoff 28 yards to the Madonna 45. He then got loose on the first play from scrimmage for 23 more. After a 5-yard loss, Dietrich raced 24 yards on his first carry to the Bridgeport 13. That set up his second run, a blast off the right side to tie the game. His kick failed, but the Blue Dons tied the game.
“We were young to start the game, but we grew up really fast,” Hicks said. “It was a tremendous effort by our team and tremendous job by our coaching staff making adjustments that were needed. I couldn’t be any more proud of anybody involved with Madonna football right now.”
After that opening spurt the teams settled down, but it was Dietrich’s only mistake that set up a Bridgeport score that gave it the 12-6 halftime lead.
Senior Chandler Rodgers picked off a Dietrich pass at his 33 and returned the ball to the 47. Two plays later, Kusic struck on the ground with a keeper that covered 58 yards. A pass for the extra points failed.
Madonna went on an 11-play drive to open the second half that ate up just more than five minutes, with Dietrich finishing it with a 2-yard scamper into the end zone over left tackle. This time, his kick was good for a 13-12 Blue Dons lead.
Dietrich’s onside kick with the ensuing kickoff was recovered by Sessi at the Madonna 47 to set up another long scoring drive. This time, Sessi pranced into the end zone after side-stepping two Bulldogs defensive backs, and Dietrich split the uprights again, arming Madonna with a 20-12 lead.
That lead was short-lived, however, as the Bulldogs struck again on a 43-yard pass from Kusic to Jozwiak, who was wide open down the left sideline. A Kusic 2-point run tied the game at 20-20 going into the fourth quarter.
“My kids played hard,” first-year Bridgeport coach Fred Ray said. “The thing about it is that Coach Hicks has been there a while, and I’ve only been here a month and a half. My kids competed, and we’re going to get better. I’m not worried about that. We have to work on some things up front and pick up some things on defense. We play Toronto next week at home, and we’ll be ready to go.”
Despite the dominating play of the Blue Dons in the opener, Hicks still has some things to work on, such as finding a way to eliminate the 12 penalties for 95 yards that crippled a couple of drives.