WEIRTON - Weirton Madonna battled its way to a 29-14 come-from-behind victory against St. Marys on Friday night to earn a spot in the West Virginia Class A semifinals next week. The Blue Dons will move on to play the winner of today's game between top-ranked Tucker County and Clay-Battelle, the eighth seed.
No. 4 St. Marys (10-2) took it to the Blue Dons early, but Madonna (11-1) was able to capitalize on Blue Devils turnovers in the fast-paced game.
''We knew they were a physical football team and that they wanted to run the ball and eat up the clock,'' Blue Dons coach Doug Taylor said. ''That's pretty much what they did.''
Madonna’s Ross Comis (2) runs with the ball as teammate Marcello Biondillo (17) blocks.
Ross Comis, Madonna's junior quarterback and defensive safety, was in the middle of just about everything. He had a hand in all four Blue Dons touchdowns offensively. On the defensive side, he thwarted two Blue Devils forays deep in Madonna territory when he recovered a fumble in the first half and intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter.
Comis scored on two 1-yard runs and threw touchdown passes to Elliott Nero for 2 and 60 yards. The 60-yarder came with 2:51 left in the fourth quarter and put the game away for the Blue Dons.
The Blue Devils drove 97 yards in 17 plays the first time they got possession of the ball with senior quarterback Andrew Cosper getting into the end zone on a keeper. Hard-running junior halfback David Gray, who led all rushers with 143 yards, blasted into the end zone for the two-point conversion to arm the visitors with an 8-0 lead. That drive consumed 7:31 of the clock and with the score coming at 2:21 of the first quarter.
Madonna's offense struggled early, but after the St. Marys score, the Blue Dons got into a long drive of their own.
Nero took a third-down swing pass to the left side from Comis and pranced into the end zone, scoring from 2 yards out for the Blue Dons' first score.
The Blue Dons lined up to have sophomore Matt Green kick the extra point, but a Blue Devil jumped off side so coach Taylor hurried his offense onto the field and Comis hit Nero on the right side with a pass for the two-pointer that tied the game at 8-8.
The Blue Devils put the ensuing kickoff into play at their own 33 and began to exert their will against the Madonna defense again. They drove 11 plays to the Blue Don 25. On first down, Gray got loose over the right side for 8 yards, but fumbled when Comis came up from his safety spot to make the tackle. The alert Comis grabbed the football to halt the Blue Devil assault.
It didn't take the Blue Dons long to turn that mistake into seven points as they drove the 73 yards in six plays. Junior running back, Nick Ossman, who led the Blue Dons with 63 yards on 12 carries, churned his way for 13 yards then Comis reeled off 30 yards with a keeper.
Three plays later, Comis scored on a keeper over right tackle for Madonna's first lead at 15-8 right before half.
''Turnovers were the key," St. Marys coach Jodi Mote said. ''You get in a ball game like this and you get in the red zone you got to put it in and we just struggled with that tonight in key situations.
''Obviously, we're not a passing team so when we got down late in the game it was difficult. Comis can make you look silly. Our tackling was great in the first half, but it was a little bit better in the second half.''
The Blue Devils scored first in the second half when senior Derek Barnhart blasted up the middle from 4 yards out for the touchdown that made the score 15-14.
The Blue Devil attempted a trick play for the extra points with Cosper handing off to Gray on an apparent run play. However, Gray abruptly stopped and threw a jump pass into the end zone that didn't find its mark.
Madonna answered on its possession as the Blue Dons set up shop with good field position from the St. Marys 43 and Comis scored eight players later from a yard out for a 22-14 advantage.
The Blue Devils went on another long drive with the ensuing kickoff relentlessly pounding the Madonna defense with running plays. St. Marys only threw the ball five times. They completed one and one was intercepted, a fourth-down pass from Gray that Comis snagged at the goal line.
Both teams had to punt, but Madonna was able to seal a victory with Comis' pass in stride to Nero.
''On a play early in the game we ran Tyler (Ewusiak), our tight end across the middle and I saw their safety come up and bite on it,'' Comis said. ''So I told coach at halftime to run Elliott on a seam route. The possession before I under threw him on fourth down so I knew he was going to be open again so I just threw it and Elliott made the play.
''St. Marys is a tough team. They fought to the whistle and they hit very hard. They're probably one of the hardest hitting teams we played all year.''