WHEELING, W.Va. — No. 1 Madonna completed its perfect season and captured the state championship it fell short of a season ago, beating No. 7 Greenbrier West 24-14 on Saturday night in frigid temperatures at Wheeling Island Stadium.
The perfect 14-0 campaign for the Blue Dons was sparked a season ago on the same field when Madonna suffered a heartbreaking defeat by one point in overtime to Wahama.
“Right now, I kind of forgot what last year was all about,” Madonna head coach Doug Taylor said. “These kids fought back through a tough year and got back here. It means a lot to them and it means a lot to me that they were able to achieve this.
The normally quick-scoring Madonna offense was held to just a 7-0 lead at the break as Greenbrier West’s stingy six-man front limited that outpouring early.
The play of the entire Super Six, though, came late in the first quarter when it appeared the Cavaliers had Madonna quarterback Ross Comis stopped in the backfield for a sack.
Instead, as the senior Blue Don was being dragged to the ground, he flipped the ball over his shoulder/behind his back to a waiting Eliott Nero who then scampered 19 yards into the red-zone.
“Eliott is always in the back of my head – I can always see him somewhere,” Comis said. “I was getting tackled and saw him right at the last second. I just flipped it to him and he did the rest.”
That play kept the Madonna drive alive and eventually led to a one yard touchdown run by Comis to put the Blue Dons up 7-0.
“I’ve been a coach for 13-14 years now, and what that boy has done in the last three years, nothing surprises me,” Taylor said of Comis. “He’s makes plays out of nothing, buys time to get his receivers open. He’s a great athlete and a very deserving kid.”
Nero, meanwhile, had 15 yards on the ground and 33 receiving yards for Madonna in the win.
Comis, the game’s MVP, finished with 129 yards on the ground and a score. He also was 5-of-7 through the air for 123 yards and two more touchdowns – one of those was a 43 yard bomb to Will Bowser.
“Will has been my go-to guy all year and he gets open,” Comis said. “He makes big plays and is an awesome guy.”
Comis connected with Bowser for another 34-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter, which gave the Blue Dons a 21-7 cushion.
West, though, didn’t go away without a fight, responding to that score with a 12 play, 58 yard drive in just over five minutes that tightened things up at 21-14 with 10:03 left in the contest – that drive was capped off with a one yard touchdown run from quarterback Malik Boatwright.
The Cavaliers scored their first touchdown on the first possession of the third to tie things up at seven apiece – a two yard run by Cory Cox put the points on the board.
“I’m proud of them,” said Greenbrier West coach Lewis McClung. “We had a great year, had some big wins to get here. It was a tough loss, though. I thought our kids played hard and had some opportunities to capitalize on.”
Boatwright finished with 38 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries in the loss. Cox had 47 yards on nine carries.
Both teams were plagued by penalties – Madonna had eight for 88 yards, while West had 11 penalties for 116 yards.
A Matthew Green 22 yard field goal with 6:12 to go put the final touch on the scoring, giving the Blue Dons a comfortable 10 point lead, 24-14.
“That loss a year ago fueled the fire for us,” Nero said. “Every single person bought into it, came to offseason lifting, offseason running and we got back here.”
It’s Madonna’s third football state championship and first since 2009.