Freshman Arlia steps up in Madonna’s win

GROUP EFFORT — Madonna’s Dylan Austin (8) and Garrett Cook (56) bring down Vincentian Academy’s Jhamil Fife on Saturday. Also shown are Madonna’s Jakob McCombs (54) and Jacob Bonner (61). (Photo by Joe Catullo)

WEIRTON — Madonna got touchdown runs from three different players, and its defense shut down Vincentian Academy’s ground game to earn a gritty 25-14 win Saturday night in a steady rain and cold wind inside Jimmy Carey Stadium. The victory was the second in three starts this season for coach Darrin Hicks’ club.

Despite the weather, the Blue Dons fought through more adversity when senior quarterback Gavin Dietrich, the team’s rushing and passing leader, sustained an ankle injury midway through the first quarter and never returned to the game. That meant freshman Santino Arlia had to take over as the full-time signal caller.

Arlia was able to complete only 3 of 14 passes, but Hicks was pleased with the way the youngster guided the Blue Don offense. It wasn’t a complete new experience for Arlia because Hicks used him often in the first two games of the season as the primary passer. In the season-opening win over Bridgeport, the freshman got his first taste of varsity action and completed 7 of 13 passes for 66 yards.

“I think this game is a testament to these kids,” Hicks said. “No matter the adversity, they are able to move forward. They don’t panic, and they just continue on with the process. Talking about the process, this group really embraces that, so it is nice to see them continue to grow up.”

With about half of the 11 freshmen on the team playing key roles on either offense or defense, the Blue Dons dominated the action. Sophomore running backs Tom Sessi, Ty Ingram and Antonio Daddario carried the bulk of the load.

Ingram scored on runs of 28 and 5 yards, while Sessi was the leading gainer with 124 yards and made a sensational 15-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that pretty much put the game out of reach of the determined Royals.

“I think the opening week win taught us a lot about ourselves,” Hicks said. “I think it taught them about their capability that no matter what was happening they were still in the game. It may have been a little bit different last week in the loss to Wheeling Central, but the resiliency of this group is pretty strong. The idea of next man up is really powerful and something our guys really embrace.”

Vincentian suspended football in 2017 because there was a lack of participation by students. Saturday night was its season opener, so it didn’t have a lot of experience and showed early.

The Royals fumbled on the opening possession of the game, with Daddario pouncing on the loose pigskin at the Royals’ 33. Five plays later, Dietrich went the final yard on a keeper, and his kick put the Blue Dons ahead, 7-0.

After a three-and-out by the Blue Don defense, Madonna was in business again as the Vincentian punt rolled dead at the Madonna 43.

Dietrich swung around the left side for 17 yards to open the drive but came up lame on the play.

“He’s a tremendously talented young man so, obviously, when you lose someone like that on offense and defense, it creates a huge void that you have to fill,” Hicks said. “But, I thought we really came together as a team there and rallied. I couldn’t be any more proud of the way they accepted that adversity.”

After the injury, the Blue Dons continued the drive, as Sessi put together runs of 11 and 1-yards to the Royals’ 28 from where Ingram went into the jet sweep motion, took the handoff from Arlia and raced into the end zone. The conversion kick failed, but the Blue Dons were in command, 13-0.

A low snap to the Vincentian punter on a Royals fourth down at their own 16-yard line got away and was captured by the Blue Dons at the Vincentian 5. That set up an Ingram sweep around left end for the score that made it 19-0.

Later in the second quarter, Lowry sprinted 65 yards to paydirt. Senior Vincenzo Battaglia tossed a pass to Andrew McBrier for the two-pointer 39 seconds before the half to cut the Madonna lead to 19-8.

The two teams played evenly through the third period until Sessi took a Vincentian punt from the Royals’ 33 to the 15. On the first play from scrimmage, Sessi zig zagged through the Vincentian defense and hauled a defender the last couple of yards as he refused to go down until he crossed the goal line.

The Blue Dons continue at home next Saturday, hosting Beallesville.

Madonna 25, Vincentian 14

Vincentian 0 8 0 6 — 14

Madonna 13 6 6 0 — 25

M: Dietrich 1 run (Dietrich kick)

M: Ingram 28 run (kick failed)

M: Ingram 4 run (kick failed)

V: Lowry 65 pass from Khory (McBrier pass from Battaglia)

M: Sessi 15 run (run failed)

V: Lowry 66 pass from Khory (run failed)

RUSHING: Vincentian 19-15 (Vargo 5-9, Battaglia 12-20, Hite 1-(-1), Fife 2-(-7), Jagers 2-7, Khory 5-(-5); Madonna 37-214-4 (Sessi 20-124-1, Ingram 6-41-2, Daniels 1-(-1), Daddario 6-20, Dietrich 4-29-1).

PASSING: Vincentian 6-14-184-2-0 (Khory 6-13-184-1-0, Brown 0-1); Madonna 3-14-26-0-1 (all by Arlia).

RECEIVING: Vincentian (Lowry 4-163-2, Jagers 1-6, Battaglia 1-15); Madonna (Sessi 3-26).

FIRST DOWNS: Vincentian 3, Madonna 10.

PENALTIES: Vincentian 1-15, Madonna 5-38.

FUMBLES-LOST: Vincentian 4-2, Madonna 1-0.