WEIRTON - The Weirton Madonna football team will hit the road.
In its longest bus ride of the season, about 3 hours, the No. 4 Blue Dons will visit No. 1-ranked Tucker County at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the West Virginia Class A state semifinals.
The winner gets a berth in the 7 p.m. state title game on Dec. 1 at Wheeling Island Stadium against the winner of the Wahama-Magnolia battle, which will also be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in New Martinsville.
BIG GAME — Weirton Madonna junior Elliott Nero had two touchdown receptions in the Blue Dons’ 29-14 win over St. Marys last week. Madonna visits Tucker County Saturday.
-- Mike Mathison
"They have the three S's - speed, strength and size," Madonna head coach Doug Taylor said of the Mountain Lions, who are 12-0, including a 21-16 win over East Hardy in Week 7. "For any team, that is an advantage. They will create problems for us in some areas. We'll see if we can't come up with a game plan.
"Their main guy is their version of (Ross) Comis in Derek Nestor. He has a good arm, is very accurate and is a threat to run. He can take off and run and can make plays with his legs. I don't think they have as many designed plays as we would for the quarterback. We have to stay on him.
"Their running back Austin Zirk has speed and can run in open space."
Tucker County is polar opposite from St. Marys.
"Tucker will spread you out," said Taylor. "They are under center very little. They are very similar to us. What they do, they are very effective in doing it. They want to throw the football, where we are a more run-oriented team."
In the 29-14 win over St. Marys in the Class A quarterfinals, the Blue Dons' defense spent all night dealing with the Blue Devils' running game.
"We told the kids before the game that this was going to be the physical game they have played all year," said Taylor.
He was right.
"We saw St. Marys live and on film and we knew what they were going to do and we told the kids that we had no magic wand to give them the win. They wanted to earn the win and they did," said the coach.
"St. Marys was a very physical football team and there is no way to simulate that in practice. You can teach the kids to be here and be there, but, in reality, we could not simulate what they did.
"When you play a team that does something you are not used to, you have to weather the storm early until you catch up to the game. I thought in the second half we really played physical football. From the first half to the second half it was like night and day. Our kids knew they could play with those guys.
"I think what also helped us was our conditioning. We have a college conditioning course which is really tough. And, I really think that in the second half our kids were in better shape and wore them down.
"I think that played a big part in our win."
Comis paced the Dons with 1,415 yards rushing on 167 attempts and 22 touchdowns. He is also 88-for-136 through the air for 1,292 yards, 17 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Nick Ossman has 112 carries for 747 yards and 11 scores. Elliott Nero, who caught four passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns in the win, has 73 carries for 409 yards and four scores.
Will Bowser has caught 189 balls for 334 yards and four touchdowns and Marcello Biondillo 16 for 263 yards and four six-pointers.