PARKERSBURG, W.Va. - Madonna's late arrival to one key element of prep football has given the Blue Dons an early arrival into another.
The Weirton-based parochial school won the Class A state championship in 2009 under former Coach Bob Kramer. Led by a talented cast of underclassmen, the Dons (12-1) will seek the third title in school history at 7 p.m. Saturday when they take on Wahama (13-0) at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Madonna also won a Class A crown in 1987.
The Dons' somewhat precocious run to the Super Six can be attributed to a number of factors, but second-year Coach Doug Taylor said the biggest element has been the program's stepping into the modern era.
"We implemented a strength-and-conditioning program in the last two years, and that's something they never did when Coach Kramer was here," Taylor said. "You've got to have your kids in shape and I think it's made a big difference, especially in the playoffs."
Madonna, the No. 4 seed in the Class A field, went on the road to Parsons in the semifinals to beat top-seeded Tucker County (12-1) in double overtime, 20-14. Taylor said his team's conditioning played a vital role as that game wound to its conclusion.
"You could see it late in the game. I think that's how we beat St. Marys, too. The kids are just in better shape than they were a year ago," he said.
Madonna beat the Blue Devils 29-14 in the quarterfinals, although St. Marys outgained Madonna 281-247 and had four more first downs than the Blue Dons.
The run to the title game has been fueled by the continued success of junior quarterback Ross Comis. A 6-foot-1, 200-pound dual-threat wonder considered by many to be the best all-around player in Class A, Comis has thrown for 1,463 yards and 19 touchdowns against six interceptions while rushing for 1,549 yards and 24 more scores.
He scored the game winner on a 1-yard run against Tucker County.
"I haven't seen any of the triple-A teams and just a few double-A teams around our area, but I know Comis is a player. You can tell by watching him," Taylor said. "He's got that drive that you want in your quarterback and your leader.