Madonna trio preparing for Sunday’s annual OVAC game

BETHANY – Will Bowser, Nate Guio and Eliott Nero didn’t strut into the dorm at Bethany College with Madonna’s Class AAA state title trophy in tow. Nor did they flaunt their championship rings or gloat about their four playoff appearances in the faces of other West Virginia All-Stars for the 35th-annual Rudy Mumley OVAC Charity Football Classic.

Still, their Blue Don legacy is a talking point among the players from other schools.

“They’ve been talking about it in the locker room,” Guio said. “There’s been some hype for us, but everybody is excited coming here. We’re excited to get a win and we’re here to beat Ohio.”

Madonna beat Greenbrier West in the state championship on Dec. 7 at Wheeling Island Stadium – the site of Sunday’s game against the Ohio All-Stars. The Blue Dons also played there on Dec. 1, 2012, which was a 43-42 overtime loss to Wahama.

“We’re familiar with it for sure,” Guio said. “It’s always fun to play there.”

Football has been on the back-burner for this trio, though.

“I haven’t touched a football since the state championship game,” Bowser admitted.

He played basketball for the Blue Dons, as did Guio. Bowser also was on the Madonna baseball team and is playing for Weirton Post 10 as it enters the regional tournament.

“It’ll be tough not playing with them because I’m here,” Bowser said. “My mind is here and I’m focused on football for sure.”

Bowser will attend college at Washington & Jefferson, with plans to play football and baseball.

“It’ll keep me in shape, definitely,” Bowser said. “I’m really looking forward to being a college athlete.”

Bowser, Guio and Nero made up a 15-player senior class for the Madonna football team. At least 10 of their classmates will be playing college football after winning 40 games over the course of their careers.

“They could have chosen a lot of guys,” Nero said. “It feels good to be one of those chosen out of a select group.

“Overall, it’s an awesome feeling getting back in the feel of things. It’s better than I ever imagined. Getting to know the guys from other schools is the best part.”

Nero will play collegiately at Mount Union – a perennial powerhouse in Division III. The Purple Raiders have won 11 national championships since 1993.

“We were a winning program at Madonna and they’re a winning program,” he said. “It won’t be all that different from that standpoint; and football is still football, but I’m looking for it to be very intense because I want to win a national championship for them, too.

“It’s a change being here (at Bethany), but it’s a change for everybody going from high school to college. This week is a learning experience that will help us all for the college level.”

Putting his high school career behind him, Guio will attend West Virginia University and major in engineering. He originally thought that cold night in early December was his final time on the gridiron.

It wasn’t until a week and a half ago when he received a text message, while working at Wheeling-Nisshin steel mill, that he knew he was chosen as a back-up for the all-star game.

“I was surprised,” he said, smiling. “It was a tough work week and that news made it a little better.

“I get one more chance to beat someone else next to some of my teammates. We’re working hard and it’s all been a great experience.”

As freshmen, the graduating Madonna class went 8-3 and lost in the first round of the playoffs against Wirt County. As sophomores, these Blue Dons went 6-5 and fell in the first round to Williamstown.

They went 26-2 the final two years.