By DAVE MORRISON
WEIRTON, W.Va. — Greenbrier West coach Lewis McClung only wants to see one set of lights when the No. 7 Cavaliers (12-1) venture north to take on No. 1 Madonna (13-0) in the West Virginia Class A state championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Those at Wheeling Island Stadium.
He won’t be taking his players to see the lights at Ogelbay Park.
“I think our kids would be more interested in Cabela’s than seeing the Ogelbay lights,” McClung said. “I’m really not sure what we are going to do. I don’t want them doing too much but then again, I don’t want them sitting around all day waiting to play Saturday night.”
Greenbrier West earned its trip with a 21-14 victory against Magnolia last week in Fairlea on an 18-yard pass from Malik Boatright to Garrett Smith with 38 seconds left.
Madonna beat Williamstown 42-28 at Jimmy Carey Stadium Friday.
Under the lights Saturday will be two teams who are not only removed by hundreds of miles but also who feature contrasting styles.
Greenbrier West likes to pound the ball, while Madonna is more wide open and can spread the field.
McClung knows that the lights at Wheeling Island may not shine as bright as Madonna standout seniors Ross Comis and Eliott Nero.
The two have put up huge numbers, led by quarterback Comis, who has rushed for 1,908 yards and 34 rush touchdowns and has thrown for more than 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns with just five interceptions.
Nero has added 1,843 yards and 27 touchdowns, has 26 receptions for 343 yards and five scores, three punt returns for touchdowns and a kickoff return for a score.
“It’s going to be tough, no doubt about it,” McClung said of stopping the Blue Dons offense. ”Fortunately for us, defense has been our strong point this year. We just have to tackle. We have to break down and make stops.
“You can just pick one to stop. Obviously, the ball starts in Comis’ hands do we have to take care of him first. He really does a great job with that read option. But you can’t overlook Nero. That will be real challenge. Nobody has stopped them yet.”
Indeed, the Blue Dons have packed an offensive punch, averaging 48.7 points per game. In its three playoff games, Madonna is averaging 57 points per game.
“We’ve been blessed with some great athletes,” Madonna coach Doug Taylor said. “I think making it to the championship (losing 43-42 to Wahama in last year’s title game) left an impression on these kids and their sole focus this season was to take it one at a time and make it back.”
They’ve done that.
West is making its first state championship appearance since losing to Spencer in the Class AA championship in 1991.
“You’d like to think that it is an advantage having made it, but West is a good team,” Taylor said. “You don’t make it to the state championship unless you are a good team. They are a good team. They beat Magnolia, which had been playing its best football of the year and they also shut out (No. 2) St. Marys the week before that. We have a lot of respect for Greenbrier West.”
The Cavaliers are led by diminutive quarterback Malik Boatwright, who rushed for 166 yards and a touchdown and threw two touchdowns in last week’s semifinal victory.
Boatwright, 5-foot-5, leads the team with 1,394 yards rushing at 19 touchdowns. He has completed 51 of 81 passes for 639 yards and nine touchdowns.
“They like to run the football first,” Taylor said. “Boatwright is a good quarterback and he is experienced. When you get a guy that size, elusive as he is, it is easy to loose him behind those linemen. We have to know where he is.
“They have a great backfield behind him. The fullback is huge and the tailback goes about 200. They run downhill and they run hard. They’re a physical football team.”
Corey Cox (5-10, 175 pounds) is the tailback and he has 877 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Chase McClung (6-1, 220) is the fullback and he has added 396 yards and four touchdowns. Jordan Grimmitt has added 414 yards and four touchdowns.
Taylor also lauded the defensive efforts of the Cavaliers.
Marquis Frazier (6-1, 191) leads the defense with 21 sacks and 23.5 tackles for a loss of yardage and has a team-best 84 tackles.
“He’s quick and he’s long and he really comes off the ball,” Taylor said. “He is a hand full at defensive end. He’s one heck of a player. They are a very physical football team.”
Likewise, McClung is impressed by Madonna’s oft-overlooked defense.
“Players with size at every position,” McClung said. “People talk so much about the defense because there is so much focus on the offense, with good reason. But they are physical and they are talented.”