Madonna back on the road

WEIRTON — It is early in the season, but Madonna head coach Darrin Hicks continues to be concerned about the slow starts his charges have had in the first two games of the season, both come-from-behind wins.

His 2-0 Blue Dons go on the road for the second time this year, with a visit to Strasburg-Franklin and a 7 p.m. kickoff.

The Tigers have a 1-1 record, starting the season with a 20-0 win over Conotton Valley but were walloped, 52-20, last week by Rootstown.

“The film shows that Strasburg had some early turnovers and got behind early,” Hicks said. “Overall, I believe they are a pretty good football team.”

While the Blue Dons have fallen behind Bridgeport and Carrick in their two games and won with big second-half comebacks, the Tigers were down 45-0 in the first quarter against Rootstown and couldn’t recover.

Hicks, who said he’s glad to be 2-0 with his team getting better, said he and his staff continue to talk to the players about getting off to a better start, as they try to figure out how to do that.

“We have been very transparent about it,” he said. “Perhaps it is in the way we’re practicing or in the way we are doing our pre-game. I’ve got some phone calls out to contacts I’ve made through the years at other places to try to amass a little bit of information that might be able to help us. Hopefully, it is something we can get fixed.”

Hicks added that Strasburg is a different kind of football team in today’s way of doing things.

“They are old school and very disciplined, as opposed to the wide open spread offenses we see today,” he said. “The quarterback is under center, and they want to use the power run with what is known as the buck sweep. They pack everybody in on the line and will take 3 yards and a cloud of dust if they can get it. But, they have shown the talent to create big plays out of that alignment. They are committed to what they do, and they are good at what they do.”

Hicks thinks the Blue Dons will have their hands full up front. He said they have a big senior lineman who weighs about 320 pounds and is a good football player. The Tigers also line up with a couple of 240-pounders.

“Defensively, they use a three-down front but haven’t shown in the films where they try to pressure a lot,” he said. They are disciplined there, too, and try not to beat themselves. They want to force you into mistakes, and they are pretty good at it.”

The Blue Dons went against a team with a lot of speed at the skill positions last week in Carrick, and Hicks said the special teams were trying to keep the ball away from some of the Raider speedsters who could break big plays. So, naturally, they worked on squib kicks for the kickoffs.

“We have two talented kickers in junior Joe Soos and senior Angelo Quattrochi,” Hicks said. “We’re trying to tweak our kicking game to find out what’s best for us in various situations. I think our special teams took a big step forward from Week 1 to Week 2, but it continues to be a work in progress because that is a very important part of our football team. We work on special teams every day.”

In the 32-26 win over Carrick last week, senior Brennan Secrist, who transferred to Madonna from Brooke last year but only played basketball, had a breakout game.

“Brennan did a lot of good things,” Hicks said. “But, I think he had one of the biggest plays of the game when he came from behind to tackle that Carrick back that made a long run.”

The play he referred to was late in the second quarter, with Madonna trailing 12-0. E.J. Williams got loose from his own 18-yard line. He twisted away from a tackle at his own 30 and had clear sailing to the end zone when Secrist ran him down at the 1. Carrick scored on the next play and put Madonna in the hole, 20-0.

“He did a lot of things on offense (nine receptions for 99 yards and two touchdowns), but I don’t think that in all my years of coaching that I’ve seen a kid put that kind of effort in chasing a player down like that,” Hicks said. “It was a turning point in that game with respect to how it happened. It was very, very impressive that he was able to do that, especially in the situation we were in. It was a special play for our sideline and in the locker room at halftime. It shows the type of leader he is.”

Hicks said his approach to victory is basically the same each week.

“We have to create turnovers and make sure our turnovers are held to a minimum,” he said.

“Obviously with this team, we need to be able to stop the run, we need to play great special teams and win that battle, and we need to be successful when we get into the red zone offensively. We stress to our guys each week the importance of those four aspects of the game.”