WHEELING - Hurricane Isaac blew its way through Wheeling Island Stadium on Saturday night but it was a pair of football hurricanes by the name of Burch and Comis the turned in memorable performances during one of the most sparkling games of the still-infant 2012 season.
Despite the lightning and rain that forced a delay of two hours and 13 minutes late in the first quarter, Wheeling Central junior quarterback/running back C.J. Burch exploded his way for 267 yards on 36 carries, scoring four touchdowns as the Maroon Knights held on to knock off backyard rival Weirton Madonna, 28-22.
Also a junior, Weirton Madonna QB Ross Comis displayed the escapability that would have impressed Harry Houdini while rushing 13 times for 130 yards and one touchdown along with completing nine of 18 passes for 145 more yards and another six-pointer.
Wheeling Central quarterback C.J. Burch (14) carries the ball Saturday night as Madonna’s Nick Ossman (1) closes in.
Photo by Alex Kozlowski
''This was a huge, huge win for us against a very talented team," Maroon Knights' Coach Mike Young said
''C.J. is one gutty kid who gave us another gutty performance. The first thing in did in the huddle at the end of the game was tell the offensive line they did a great job. He stepped up to the plate when we had took us down the field during two tremendous drives in the fourth quarter.''
Saturday's game was second in a row for the speedy Burch has run for better than 200 yards. But what made this one special is that it gave the Maroon Knights a victory that took away some of the sting from their opening game loss to Harrison Central.
Although the Blue Dons came up short, Coach Doug Taylor was pleased with the maturity he is seeing from his maturing quarterback.
''Ross is getting better and better,'' he said. ''He was a little antsy on some of the routes we ran last year and never let our receiver clear. On that touchdown pass to (Gabriel) Hypes in the first quarter, I told him it was first time I've seen you sit in there and let that route clear out before your threw it."
The scoring strike that covered 36 yards gave the Blue Dons the lead at 7-0 after Matthew Green's conversion keep at the 3:24 mark of the first quarter. Before Madonna could kick the ball back to Central a couple of lighning bolts were seen in the distance forcing the long delay.
When play finally resumed shortly after 9:30 p.m., the two-time defending West Virginia state champion Maroon Knights responded with a 13-play, 70 yard toucdown drive to knot things up. Burch's keeper carry covering 16 yards was the longest play as the march finally ended with his 1-yard carry off the right side. Brad Cottrell's conversion kick followed.
Madonna regained the lead 14-7 after Comis again used his athleticism to avoid a sack and find Hypes running wide open across the middle for 39 yards at the Central 16. Two plays later, it was Comis running a keeper to the 1 and then taking it across with 7:30 remaining in the half
But Central countered again moving 80 yards, 40 of which were picked up on a counter carry, for a first and goal at 6. Braxton Nolte blasted is up the middle for the score, deadlocking the game at 14-14.
After a scorelesss third quarter, the Maroon Knights turned to Burch again and he responded by rushing six times for 63 yards on a seven-play drive. He went off right tackle for the TD and a 21-14 Central lead with only 6:53 to play.
Remarkably, there were just two turnovers in the entire game, both by the Blue Dons. The first was an interception of a Comis pass by Cottrell. The second came three plays after Central's go-ahead TD when Nolte broke through to sack Comis, forcing a fumble that Coty Knecht recovered at the Madonna 39.
Burch's TD and Cottrell's placement put Central up by 14 points at the 3:04 mark.
Just when it appeared as if the game was over, Comis broke free on antoher daring scramble to race 68 yards to the Maroon Knights' 3. He was shaken up on the tackle and replaced by Hypes. After picking up two the 1, Hypes kept it again for the touchdowns.
The Blue Dons then slipped Comis back on the field as the holder for the PAT but after taking the snap, he stood up and avoided a couple Central defenders, Comis found Natha Guio in the back of the end zone for two-point conversion.
With just 57 seconds remaining, Madonna had no choice but to try for an onside kick that was recovered by Central's Michael Pleva effectively ending the game.