Blue Dons look to slay the Dragons in Class A battle

UNTOUCHABLE — Madonna’s Thomas Sessi rushes against Beallsville on Saturday. Also shown are Jakob McCombs, right, and Santino Arlia. Sessi and the Blue Dons play their first Friday night contest this week at Cameron. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

CAMERON — If there’s one thing Cameron coach Scott Holt is sure about concerning Friday’s 7 p.m. meeting with Madonna at Dragon Stadium, it’s that his crew must be prepared for anything.

What the Blue Dons (3-1) have shown, Holt said, is unlike anything the Dragons (4-0) have seen this season.

“Defensively, it’s tough because it seems like they never line up in the same spot two plays in a row,” Holt said. ”This is a final exam, so to speak, because we’ve given (the players) the information they need.

“Madonna has great skill players, and they’re young up front. But, you can see the development and growth. Coach (Darrin) Hicks does a great job at using his game plan to his advantage.”

The reverberations from this one will likely be felt state-wide throughout the Class A ranks. Madonna comes in tied for 11th in the latest WVSSAC ratings, while the Dragons are sixth.

Hicks acknowledges the potential ramifications, but he’s approaching the matchup as a realist.

“It’s the same thing I usually talk about — not making internal mistakes like penalties,” he said. “We need to stop the run and establish the run, while limiting our turnovers. We need to be successful when we get into the red zone and successful defending it when they get there.

“It’s like coach (Bud) Billiard used to say at Brooke — we just want to be 1-0 again this week.”

Cameron is coming off a 40-14 victory at Frontier, which was its 23rd in the last 24 regular season games. Replacing several key contributors off last season’s team, Holt and company have seen guys such as quarterback Aidan Lucey and running back Andrew Ritchea become stars in their own right.

“Obviously, not just losing a major talent from last year (in Colby Brown), but also losing our biggest leader … Aidan has stepped up to fill both roles,” Holt said. “Coach Matt Burge has done a great job of bringing Aidan along, and he has another great quarterback right with him and battling with him every week in Jessop Broughton.

“Andrew is an excellent leader, as well. We could not keep him off the field his 10th grade year. He’s matured mentally and physically. He is the guy that expects the most out of his teammates and the most out of himself, and we usually get the desired results.”

Hicks was impressed with that performance, just as he is with all the tapes of the Dragons.

“They seem to have no weakness,” he said. “Offensively, they’re able to throw and run, and they have talented skill players. Defensively, they’re not exactly multiple, but they run that 3-3, which is different from what a lot of other teams do.

“Cameron is a heckuva football team, and they’ve obviously built a great program out there. It’s going to be a challenge.”

Holt called the victory against the Cougars “probably our best overall game this year in terms of the offense, defense and special teams being in sync.” However, more is going to be needed as the season progresses.

“Obviously, every coach is going to tell you we’re not quite there … not where we need to be. In Single A, the bar goes up every year to get to playoffs,” Holt said. “But, we have a much better idea of where we need to be even though there are things to iron out, things to work on.

“Defensively, we haven’t allowed a touchdown with our varsity team since Week 1. We’re very aggressive. Is there someone down the line that can use that aggression against us? Possibly, but our style is old-school, and we will hit you. The one knock on us, as it always is, is our size. Our three linebackers are about 160 pounds each.”

When Holt looks at the Blue Dons, he sees a team that is getting better each time it steps into a stadium. Of particular worry is the recent play of sophomore running back Thomas Sessi, who accumulated more than 400 yards of offense in last week’s 40-20 victory against Beallsville.

“What we’ve got to do is what we’ve done from the start, which is use quickness to get there first,” Holt said. “We’ve got to make him change directions and not run north and south. If he gets going in a straight line, we’re in for a long night.”

There have been three of those long nights for Cameron opponents since it cleared a large — literally and figuratively — hurdle in the opener against West Greene. Holt said that did wonders for the group’s confidence.

“It was massive in the sense it got things going on a positive note, and that’s contagious,” he said.

“And, the kids know just how big it was because they’ve seen West Greene go on to outscore its last three opponents, something like 120-20.

“We’re just focusing on opponents week-to-week. No matter if it’s Madonna who is 3-1 or anyone else, we’ve kind of built our program to a point where we’re going to get everyone’s best shot. Teams don’t run their normal game plan against us anymore, so we have to prepare to be our best version of us.”