WEIRTON - Here we are at the final game of the West Virginia high school football season with only two Class A schools achieving one of their 2012 season goals. No. 4 Madonna meets No. 3 Wahama today at Wheeling Island Stadium and one of them will achieve its ultimate goal of winning a state championship. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Both teams have battled through 13 games thus far with Wahama winning them all and Madonna winning all but one.
Each team has been to the championship game recently. Madonna in 2008 and 2009 and Wahama in 2010. The Blue Dons lost to Williamstown, 23-7, in 2008, but returned to Wheeling to win the title in 2009 with a 23-7 win over Man. Wahama was defeated by Wheeling Central in the 2010 game 28-14.
NEXT — Madonna’s Ross Comis (2) receives a play from Nick Ossman (1) while, from left to right, Josh Martin, Garrett Bever, Charlie Kotten, Quintin?Hukill, and Adam Robertson await the play call last week against Tucker County. Madonna faces Wahama today at 7 p.m. in the West Virginia Class A state championship game at Wheeling Island Stadium.
The two teams not only have a familiarity with the championship game, but they have a familiarity with each other. They met during the regular season in 2011 with the White Falcons rolling over the Blue Dons, 30-0.
If statistics are an indication, the teams match up well. Each team has scored 515 points in 13 games. Madonna holds the edge defensively yielding 122 points to 151 for the White Falcon defense.
The Blue Dons have somewhat of an edge in the quarterback statistics. Junior Ross Comis, who ran for 102 yards and passed for 138 in last week's double overtime, 20-14 win over No. 1 Tucker County, goes into the championship game needing 53 more stripes to top the 3,000 mark in all purpose yards. He has 1,517 stripes on the ground and 1,430 through the air. He has 24 rushing touchdowns and passed for 15 more scores.
Wahama Senior Trenton Gibbs (6-2, 195) has accumulated 1,727 yards in 13 games-1,151 passing and 576 on the ground.
However, the White Falcons have two backs with more than 1,000 yards rushing. Junior Kane Roush (5-10, 165) leads Wahama with 1,607 yards on the ground, an average of 13.1 per carry. He has rushed for 23 touchdowns.
Fullback Zack Wamsley (6-feet, 195), a senior, has 1,141 yards on the ground with an average of 6.6 yards a carry. He has scored 20 touchdowns.
A fourth White Falcon back, Crandale Neal, who lines up mostly as a wingback, has carried the ball 79 times for 596 yards. He has six pass receptions for 200 yards and has scored touchdowns on four of those catches.
Roush and junior wide receiver, Wyatt Zuspan, are Gibbs' favorite passing targets. Roush has 17 receptions for 257 yards while Zuspan has caught 12 passes for 255 stripes.
"I remember Roush from our game last year at Fairmont State," said Madonna's second-year coach, Doug Taylor. "He went more than 60 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the game. Gibbs was the starting quarterback for them last year and I remember that Wamsley is a hard runner."
Taylor said this year's edition of the White Falcons are again a good football team.
"They aren't real big up front, but their linemen are quick and get off the ball well both on offense and defense," he continued. "They have good running backs and are just a hard nosed, good football team that is very athletic."
Wahama coach, Ed Cromley, who has been at the helm of the White Falcons for 18 seasons, said he expects "a dogfight" Saturday night.
"Madonna has a fantastic team and their coaches do a great job with them. It will be a great challenge for us," he said.
Cromley, whose team shattered the hope of an all Northern Panhandle final with a 10-7 upset of No. 2 Magnolia in the semi-final game last week, noted that the nine seniors on his roster are veterans of the 2010 state championship game.
"Wamsley, Gibbs and Neal all played defense in that game and were a major part of that team two years ago," he exclaimed. "We rely a lot on our juniors on our line this year. They are a great group and I expect they'll be outstanding next year after getting experience this year."
Cromley categorized Gibbs, his quarterback, as an accurate passer, who likes to throw the ball deep.
"That gives us a threat of having the field not only spread out wide, but also vertical," Cromley continued. "We like the big plays, but we've been more of a ball control offense in the playoffs against the better teams."
Taylor said the White Falcon defense forced Magnolia into nine turnovers.
"That's uncommon for Magnolia, but it probably was because of what Wahama was doing," said Taylor. "We've done a pretty good job of protecting the football this season, but we caution our kids every day that turnovers can make the difference in the close games when you get in the playoffs.
"Our keys to victory this week are being more consistent with our line play on both sides of the ball. We did okay at times last week, but there were other times when we needed improvement. Then, we need to protect the football. We can't turn it over.
"Defensively, we can't give up the big play. We have to take their wing back in motion out of the game, and that's hard to simulate in practice. I think we'll be okay if we make sure of our reads and focus on what we're supposed to do."
Taylor said now that his team has made it to the championship game he is "tickled to death for them."
"They have worked hard all year long and they deserve everything they get," he said. "Our four seniors were dressed for the championship game in 2009. While they didn't play in the game, they have been good mentors to our younger guys in regards to what to expect and how to handle the hype that goes with this game. That's important."
Taylor said that Madonna has another edge in the game in that they have played on the Wheeling Island turf earlier this season. The outcome wasn't what they would have liked, a 28-22 loss to Wheeling Central, but it got his team familiar with the surroundings there. The Blue Dons have won 12 straight games since that loss.