By MARK SCHRAF
The Dominion Post
BLACKSVILLE - Friday night was easily the biggest game in the short, successful history of Clay-Battelle's spanking new stadium, when No. 1-rated and 9-0 Madonna invaded the undefeated and sixth-ranked Cee-Bees in a huge Class A battle.
Huge being the operative word, as the Blue Dons juggernaut boasts no fewer than 19 players who are 200-plus pounds, including the Martin brothers - senior Josh, 7-foot, 295, and his "little" brother, sophomore Nate, a mere 6-7, 270 pounds.
Even Madonna's all-state quarterback, senior Ross Comis, is plenty big and plenty athletic, and it showed from the opening whistle, as he ran and passed for a combined 312 yards in the first half alone to lead the top team in the state to a 28-0 halftime advantage on their way to a convincing 35-6 victory.
The first quarter remained close, as both offenses missed big-play opportunities when each quarterback overthrew wide-open receivers and were forced to punt on their first series, but then Madonna (10-0) took control on an 11-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with shifty running back Eliot Nero's 2-yard touchdown run with 1:18 minutes left in the quarter. While the Clay-Battelle (8-1) offense never got untracked, with six first-half drives ending in five punts and an interception, the Blue Dons exploded for three second-quarter touchdowns.
Comis hit Marcello Biondello with a 30-yard touchdown pass on a crossing pattern, ran for a 3-yard score, then hit Will Bowser on a perfectly thrown hitch-and-go pass and run to paydirt that covered 73 yards with 1:18 left in the half.
Both offenses once again traded punts to begin the second half as time wound quickly off the third-quarter clock, and C-B dodged another bullet when Nero fumbled at the 1-yard line as he was heading in for a score, so the third quarter remained scoreless.
But Nero bucked across from the 2-yard line midway through the fourth quarter to extend Madonna's lead to 35-0, until the Cee-Bees finally cracked the scoreboard on Jacoby Steele's 18-yard TD run.
A final CB drive stalled at the 5 with less than a minute to play, and that brought their dreams of a major upset and undefeated regular season to a disappointing end.
Comis, who finished his impressive night with 254 yards rushing on 21 carries and 10-14 for 176 yards through the air, felt simply that his Madonna teammates are on a mission.
"I've played with these guys since we were in second grade," he said with a smile, "and we're confident with each other. We didn't get that 10-0 regular season last year, and we really wanted it bad this year. And now we want that state championship."
CB coach Ryan Wilson had plenty of praise for Madonna, and for his own team, despite the loss.
"They're just as good as we scouted them to be," he said. "They are real strong in all phases, they can run and pass equally well, and their line is big and athletic. We had chances to make some plays, and we didn't. They did.
"But we still had a heck of a year, our third straight season with just one regular-season loss," he continued. "I thanked our seniors for their leadership and for accomplishing three straight trips to the playoffs. I'm proud of them all, and while other teams are turning in their equipment, we have practice on Monday. We'll put this one behind us, and be ready for whoever we play next."