WEIRTON - The Madonna football team got off to a slow start, but aided by a couple of Bishop Donahue turnovers and a nifty punt return for a touchdown in a 27-point third quarter blitz, the Blue Dons turned it on resulting in a 48-20 win Friday night at Jimmy Carey Stadium. It is the sixth straight win for the undefeated Blue Dons.
Ranked second in the state, the Blue Dons got a monster night from quarterback Ross Comis who rushed the ball 22 times for 231 yards and two touchdowns. His backfield mate, Eliott Nero wasn't far behind as he heated up in the second half and totaled 148 yards running the football with four rushing touchdowns and another score via a 47-yard punt return.
"Once we got the two turnovers in the third quarter and Nero got the big punt return, we rolled," said Madonna coach Doug Taylor. "It was just an avalanche after that and the luck went in our favor."
Madonna rolled up 425 total yards on the Bishop's defense, which Taylor said was almost completely changed from what he saw when he scouted Bishop Donahue (3-3).
"Bishop Donahue is not a bad team," Taylor explained. "I knew they'd come to play. They changed some things up on us as they gave us a completely different look on defense. But that's good coaching on their part. They took advantage of the week they had off last week and tried to put something in that would take some of our running game away."
In a way Bishop Donahue did that because Nero got only 42 of his rushing yards in the first half, but Comis stepped up. The senior quarterback, who should get some votes for the West Virginia Kennedy Award, had 200 yards and two touchdowns at halftime.
Madonna 48, Bishop Donahue 20
Donahue 0 6 0 14 - 20
Madonna 14 7 27 0 - 48
M: Nero 1 run (Green kick)
M: Comis 74 run (Green kick)
BD: Cunningham 1 run (pass failed)
M: Comis 3 run (Green kick)
M: Nero 22 run (kick failed)
M: Nero 8 run (Green kick)
M: Nero 47 punt return (Green kick)
M: Nero 7 run (Shaw pass from Comis)
BD: Reidel 10 pass from Padlow (kick failed)
BD: Cunningham 47 run (Hampton pass from Padlow)
RUSHING: Donahue 22-107 (Cunningham 8-97-2td, Moore 1-1, Vucelik 5-14, Riedel 4-18, Padlow 4-(-23)); Madonna 48-406 (Nero 15-148-4td, Comis 22-231-2td, Shaw 6-25, Shreve 2-3, J. Ewusiak 2-2, D. Brown 1-(-3))
PASSING: Donahue 11-24-159-1-1 (all by Padlow); Madonna 3-8-19 (all by Comis).
RECEIVING: Donahue 11-159 (Hampton 5-118, Riedel 3-24-td, Moore 1-0, Yates 1-17, Cunningham 1-5); Madonna 3-19 (Bowser 2-24, Nero 1-(-5))
FIRST DOWNS: Donahue 11; Madonna 14.
FUMBLES-LOST: Donahue 3-2; Madonna 0-0.
PENALTIES: Donahue 2-10; Madonna 9-57.
Comis couldn't get the passing game going, but he really didn't need to. Madonna passed the ball just eight times and completed three of them for 19 yards.
The offensive line was creating gaping holes in the Bishop defense so Taylor stayed with the running game.
"Our offensive line played well," he said. "We expect them to play good week in and week out. We work them hard in practice through the week, but they had an exceptional night tonight against what I thought was a pretty good Bishop Donahue front four."
The big night pushes the Blue Don dynamic duo to nearly the same amount of rushing yardage in the six games Madonna has played. Comis has gained 797 yards on the ground to date while Nero checks in with 789 stripes.
"Big players have big games," Taylor said. "We've come to expect that from these two and they keep delivering."
Nero opened the scoring on Madonna's second possession of the game (the Blue Dons got off to a rough start with the first possession and wound up losing 17 yards and had to punt).
The Bishops went three-and-out with their first possession and Chaice Truex's punt put the Blue Dons in a hole when the ball rolled out of bounds at the Madonna 9. Comis ripped off ground gains of 11 and 35 yards and Nero blasted off tackle for 22 more. Nero got the call again for eight more yards to put the ball at the Bishop Donahue 15.
Comis kept the momentum going with a 14 yard keeper to the one from where Nero sliced into the end zone. Matt Green's kick made it 7-0.
Comis came up with Donahue's first turnover of the game when he stepped in front of a Jesse Padlow pass at the Madonna 23 to stop a drive.
It took the Dons just two plays to get into the end zone again. Comis did the honors gaining three to the Madonna 26 and then darting over left guard, he saw an opening to his right and wound up winning a foot race to pay dirt down the right sideline in a play that covered 74 yards. Green's kick gave the Blue Dons an early 14-0 lead.
The Bishops got into the scoring act in the second quarter taking over the ball on downs at their own 33 when a Comis pass fell incomplete.
Padlow hit Lavonte Hampton with a pass for 17 yards (the two would hook up four more times in the game for a toal of 118 yards) and two plays later Hampton caught a 47-yard aerial that got the ball to the Madonna one-yard line. Junior Andrew Cunningham bulled his way over right guard for the touchdown. A Padlow pass for the two-point conversion was incomplete.
Nero returned the ensuing kickoff from his own 24 to the Bishop Donahue 43 to set up Madonna's third touchdown just before halftime. The Blue Dons methodically drove to the Donahue three from where Comis started up the middle and vered to his left going in untouched. Green's kick gave the Blue Dons a 21-6 lead at the intermission.
Padlow fumbled on Bishop Donahue's second play of the second half and the avalanche that Taylor spoke about began.
"I talked earlier in the week about what we needed to do to win and staying away from turnovers was one of them," John Durdines, veteran Bishop Donahue coach, explained. "And that's what cost us. You can't turn the ball over against a team of the quality of Weirton Madonna. They're going to capitalize on your mistakes. They had no turnovers and we ended up with three or four.
"I was pleased with the effort of our kids. They battled hard and never quit and let's face it Madonna is one of the best teams in the state if not the best team.
"But we came in here expecting to win. We had some early dropped passes. We had people open and we were dropping the ball. That really cost us on some drives. Like I said those are the little things you can't do against a quality team. To their credit, they capitalized on our mistakes."
Travis Brown pounced on the loose football deep in Bishop Donahue territory at the 37.
It took the Blue Dons five plays to get the touchdown with Nero fighting his way over the right side from 22 yards out to score with a Bishop player hanging on to him. The extra point try failed when the center snap went awry so the Blue Dons led 27-6.
On the ensuing kickoff, senior Will Bowser jumped on a Bishop Donahue fumble giving Madonna the football at the Bishop's 33.
This time it took the Dons four plays to find the end zone as Nero dodged his way through the right side of the Donahue defense with an 8-yard run. Green's kick made it 33-6.
The staunch Madonna defense, which has yielded only 47 points all season, forced the Bishops to punt, Nero hauled the ball in at the Donahue 47 and started down field. It appeared the Bishop's defense had him corralled at the 35, but he escaped and dashed to the end zone. Another Green kick made it 40-6
Nero had another big punt return after the Bishops went three-and-out with their next possession. This one went for 47 yards to the Donahue 7 from where he took a handoff and powered over the right side for the score. When another snap on an extra point got away, Comis, the holder, found Dillon Shaw wide open in the end zone to arm the Blue Dons with a commanding 48-6 lead with 4:26 left in the third period.
Bishop Donahue scored twice in the fourth quarter against the Blue Don reserves.
Padlow connected with Alex Riedel for a 10-yard touchdown pass and Cunningham, who led the Bishop Donahue ground attack with 97 yards on just eight carries, dashed 47 yards for his second score of the night.