WEIRTON - The defending Class A state champion Wahama White Falcons invade Jimmy Carey Stadium tonight for a match-up of the teams that battled into overtime last Dec. 1 in a classic confrontation at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Everything points to another classic at Jimmy Carey tonight because there will be many players on both sides who butted heads in the 43-42 Wahama win. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.
"They lost nine off their team to graduation and we lost four plus Nick Ossman, who transferred, so these kids are pretty familiar with each other," said Madonna coach, Doug Taylor. "Wahama moved the tight end, (Colton) Neal to fullback to replace Zack Wamsley and had Hunter Bradley transfer from Roane County to play quarterback replacing Trenton Gibbs."
DEFENSE — The Weirton Madonna football team will meet Wahama tonight at 7:30 at Jimmy Carey Stadium in the West Virginia Class A quarterfinals. The teams met last year for the state championship. The White Falcons came away with a 43-32 victory in overtime. Wahama uses a wing-T offense that emphasizes the run. Senior Kane Roush is the leading rusher for the White Falcons again this season with 1,492 yards on 118 carries for a 12.6 yards per carry average. The Blue Dons defense, shown against Wheeling Central earlier in the year,
Neal (6-0, 190) is a good athlete, according to Taylor and so is Bradley, who checks in at 6-3, 180.
Coach Dave Barr's club is 10-1 and ranked eighth in the final West Virginia tabulations. They are coming off a 49-27 win over Clay-Battelle in the opening round of the playoffs last week.
Wahama held a 14-13 lead at halftime in that game, but Clay-Battelle, a 35-6 loser to Madonna, went into the fourth quarter with a 19-14 advantage.
"Wahama scored on the second play of the fourth quarter and got their big play offense rolling from there," said Taylor, who scouted the game played at Point Pleasant. "Once they got rolling it was an avalanche."
Senior Kane Roush (5-10, 170) is the leading rusher for the White Falcons again this season with 1,492 yards on 118 carries for a 12.6 yards per carry average.
Roush was a big thorn in the side of the Blue Dons in the 2013 championship game gaining a total of 182 yards and scoring three second-half touchdowns on runs of 17, 4 and 41 yards. Wamsley gained 114 yards in that game and also scored three times including the deciding touchdown on a 1-yard plunge. The White Falcons went for the two-point conversion with Gibbs going into the end zone on a keeper.
"I didn't get a chance to ask Barr at the state meetings Sunday, but as I review the film of the championship game, I think that conversion was a broken play," Taylor exclaimed. "It looks like Wamsley was supposed to get the ball, but he went the wrong way and Gibbs, being the experienced and smart quarterback that he was, just took it himself through the hole that Wamsley was supposed to use."
Taylor said the White Falcons use a wing-T offense that emphasizes the run just as they did in the title game. In that game, Gibbs completed 4 of only 8 passes for 63 yards and had one interception. All four of Gibbs' completions were to Roush.
This season, Bradley has thrown only 74 passes with 37 of them finding their mark for 874 yards and 14 touchdowns. Roush is his favorite receiver snatching 18 aerials for 588 yards and nine scores.
The White Falcons have piled up some impressive scores playing in a league comprised of Ohio high schools. Wahama's only loss came at the hands of undefeated Trimble, the team that eliminated Steubenville Catholic Central from the playoffs last Saturday.
Wahama defeated Racine Southern by a 28-14 score. Southern is the team that Catholic Central defeated in the first round of the Ohio playoffs.
The White Falcons' offense has been awesome piling up 543 points while the defense has yielded 159 in 11 games. Wahama scored 66 points twice during the regular season.
They defeated the only two West Virginia teams on their regular season schedule by lopsided scores. Fayetteville fell to the White Falcons by a 60-26 score in the season opener and Buffalo went down 66-18 in the regular season finale.
With the Blue Dons putting up some hefty offensive stats of their own, the game tonight could be a shootout like the championship game was.
Madonna has outscored opponents 462-106 in the 11 games to date.
The Blue Don defense has been downright stingy the last two weeks stifling what had been a potent Clay-Battelle offense by a 35-6 score and completely shutting down Tucker County in the playoff opener last week by 52-0.
The defense gave up just 43 rushing yards to the Mountain Lions, who were able to complete just one pass for 5 yards. It seemed as though defensive ends Nate Guio and Tyler Ewusiak were meeting whoever had the football in the backfield nearly every play.
On the other hand, the Madonna dynamic duo of Eliott Nero and Ross Comis led the offense with 153 and 134 yards rushing, respectively. Nero scored five touchdowns in the game-three on the ground and two on the receiving end of Comis aerials. Comis completed 11 of 14 passes, including his last seven in a row, for 125 yards and four touchdowns.
The outstanding night moved the pair's area-leading rushing totals to 1,442 yards for Nero and 1,388 yards for Comis. Each has scored 22 times on the ground.
Comis has completed 86 of 130 passes for another 1,424 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has been intercepted five times.
"It was a good game for us to start the playoffs. Now we move on to round two," Taylor said.
Taylor said both teams have veteran offensive and defensive lines.
"I believe we may have a slight advantage in height and weight on them up front, but their offensive line gets off the football and moves the defense," he said. "This will be the best offensive and defensive lines we've faced all year."
Taylor doesn't feel that his club has revenge on its mind, but that the championship game was just one that got away.
"We thought we had a good shot at winning that game and I think our kids look forward to the challenge of playing a good team," he said. "There aren't any weak teams left, and the kids know they have to step up this week."
This will be the third game between the two teams. In addition to the narrow win last year, Wahama walloped the Blue Dons 33-0 during the 2011 regular season in a game played at Fairmont State University.
"We had several guys hurt for that game, but we moved the ball," Taylor recalled. "We just couldn't score and we couldn't stop them."
This is Madonna's 13th trip to the playoffs and seventh straight. They have won two state titles and have been runner-up three times.
Taylor's top key to victory this week is for his Blue dons to continue to get better.
"Our offense has to maintain possession of the football and move it on long drives," he said. "Defensively we have to do like last week and make penetration and make some key stops. I'd really like to get out of the gate early both offensively and defensively.
"I think it will be a good game and I'm looking forward to the kids playing well. This is a good group of kids and they have set their goals high. However, this week we have to elevate our play to get to those goals and I think we are capable of doing that."