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One more giant step

November 27, 2009
By MIKE MATHISON, Sports editor

Three games.

Three chances to reach part of a goal - making it to the state championship game.

Steubenville Big Red and Weirton Madonna have that chance tonight, while Brooke gets its shot Saturday evening.

Big Red vs. Mooney

The 7:30 p.m. game tonight at Canton's Fawcett Stadium is really big, an obvious understatement.

Steubenville coach Reno Saccoccia has always maintained that there's really not a rivalry with Mooney because the Cardinals have won four of the five contests.

Big Red's lone win came last year in the Division IV regional semifinals.

This is the third year in a row the two powerhouses have met. Mooney won the 2007 Division IV regional final outing.

The Cardinals went into that game as the slight favorite, while Steubenville entered last year's contest as the favorite.

This year, I think it's a lot closer than people think.

Both play tough schedules.

Big Red has wins over:

Woodland Hills, now playing for the WPIAL Class AAAA championship.

Massillon, in the Division I state semifinals against Glenville.

Poland Seminary, a 24-7 loser to Mooney last week.

Steubenville's loss was against Inkster, playing in the Michigan Division II state title game.

Mooney has grabbed victories over:

Columbus DeSales, another Division III state semifinals.

Mentor Lake Catholic, a Division II state semifinalist.

Youngstown Ursuline, a Division IV state semifinalist.

Columbuis Bishop Watterson, which lost to DeSales last week in the regional final.

The Cardinals are not big fans of throwing the football and I think that is a plus for Big Red. Its defense is as tough as anyone's in the state.

Mooney's defense has some 25 interceptions this season, so Big Red's passing game will be put to the test.

Bottom line, though, like all year, I like Big Red to advance.

I like how Steubenville goes into these games, prepared and focused.

I'll take Big Red, 20-17.

Wheeling Central at Madonna

Wow, how's this for a West Virginia Class A state semifinal - a participant in last year's championship game against a team everyone loves to hate.

If the Blue Dons are going to be the best, they will have to beat the best and the Maroon Knights are right up there, having won four of the last five Class A titles, before Williamstown sent them home last year in one state semifinal.

Madonna has been looking toward this game all year long - regardless of the opponent.

The Dons wanted to get back to the Island and here is that one chance to do so.

I know they've had 12 weeks of chances, but this is the newest challenge and this one counts the most.

Wheeling Central is coming off a 28-14 victory over the Yellowjackets last week, while Madonna is coming off a 48-0 blitzing of Tucker County (and that game wasn't even that close).

Madonna cannot ask for anymore than getting Wheeling Central at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Jimmy Carey Stadium.

This is why the No. 1 ranking is so important in West Virginia - home cooking.

I've been behind the Blue Dons from Day 1 and this time is no different.

I'll take Madonna, 28-20.

University at Brooke

The Bruins will host the Hawks at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Brooke Memorial Stadium in the West Virginia Class AAA semifinals.

Brooke already owns a 27-0 decision over University, but that was some seven weeks ago in the rain.

Still, the Bruins are undefeated and are at home, something the Hawks aren't.

Brooke is No. 1 in the state, something University isn't.

The Bruins coaching staff and players have overcome adversity what seems like every week.

There is way more garbage going on around this program than any 12-0 team should endure.

I expect a big green-and-gold crowd Saturday evening to watch Brooke get its chance to play at Wheeling Island Stadium.

I'll take Brooke, 27-6.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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