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Madonna prepares for Class A title game

December 2, 2013
By MIKE MATHISON - Sports editor (mmathison@heraldstaronline.com) , The Herald-Star

PARKERSBURG - Weirton Madonna faces one more challenge in full redemption from the 2012 football season.

The Blue Dons, runners-up at the 2012 West Virginia Class A state championship a year ago at Wheeling Island Stadium, will take on No. 7 Greenbrier West at 7 p.m. Saturday.

"They are such a good running team," Madonna head coach Doug Taylor said of the Cavaliers after Sunday's meeting at the WVSSAC headquarters. "They have a lot of good athletes all over the field."

Article Photos

HOME WIN — The Weirton Madonna football team will take on Greenbrier West at 7 p.m. Saturday in the West Virginia Class A state championship game at Wheeling Island Stadium. The Blue Dons defense will face a challenge in the Cavaliers.
-- Mike Mathison

Greenbrier West is led by quarterback Malik Boatwright, all 5-foot-4 of him.

"He is cat-quick," Taylor said. "He has a low center of gravity and it's hard to get to him. They will create some issues for us."

Boatwright won the 171-pound Class A state wrestling title in February, beating Blue Dons grad Garrett Hypes.

"He (Boatwright) is a really good athlete," said Taylor.

Boatwright led the Cavaliers to a 21-14 win over Magnolia Saturday afternoon in one semifinal. Boatwright threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Smith with 38.3 seconds left in the game for the win.

''I know a lot of people don't think we can throw the ball and it surprises them when we do it,'' Boatwright said after the game. ''Sometimes you just have to take a chance and I knew when we called that play to (Garrett) Smith he was going to get the job done.

"You take a chance and see what happens and it worked out good.''

Boatwright was 3-for-5 for 35 yards.

"There is no doubt they primarily like to run the ball," said Taylor. "But, they can also throw it. We have our work cut out for us.

"Greenbrier West is very physical and reminds me of St. Marys of last year. On defense, they commit seven or eight guys in the box no matter what you give them. They are geared to take away the run. They create pressure in the backfield and disrupt the run game and hope to disrupt the pass game as well."

The Cavaliers defeated Clarksburg Notre Dame, 54-7, in the first round of the playoffs then hit the road and blanked No. 2 St. Marys, 18-0, in the quarterfinals.

It is Greenbrier West's first state title appearance since 1994, when it was a Class AA team.

Madonna made it to its second state championship contest in a row thanks to a 42-28 win over No. 4 Williamstown.

In four of the Blue Dons' last six games - wins over Steubenville Catholic Central, Toronto, Wahama and Williamstown - the halftime talks meant a lot more than in previous games because the game was still in the balance.

"The defensive coaches get together and the offensive coaches get together to make sure we are all on the same wavelength, that we are seeing the same things on the field," said Taylor. "We talk to the kids about the adjustments we have to make. It's all board work. We talk. We don't yell. We are making sure they all know what their assignments are.

"The kids are looking for instruction and that's what we are doing. If you are calm at halftime while making the adjustments, then the kids are calm and take that onto the field. We are always making adjustments on the fly and the kids respond well to that.

"We have a senior-laden group. This staff has been with them for three years. I believe they have confidence in us and we most certainly have confidence in them.

"There are also times when the kids will tell us something a little different than what we are thinking and that changes what we may want to do. We get the kids involved and ask them, 'Can we do this?'

"They are really good at listening to us and adjusting on the run."

Catholic Central, Toronto, Wahama and Williamstown all scored first on the Blue Dons.

"Our kids kind of got excited Friday night and we just had to calm them down," said Taylor. "On the first possession or two, we just have to get our feet underneath us. We have to adjust to the speed of the other team. We are a mature group and the kids respond to what the coaches tell them.

"It's not uncommon for the other teams to move the ball on us at times. What we have to do is win the field position battle with possession. If we can punt it or make teams drive the ball 75 or 80 yards, eventually those teams that have to take the full field to drive the ball, will make a mistake.

"What we can't do is make the mistake and give our defense a short field. We did that against Central and Williamstown. Those scores are not completely on the defense. We put them in a bad position.

"You have to take advantage of every possession in the playoffs and that doesn't necessarily mean scoring every time you have the ball."