ST. MARYS, W.Va. -Football coaches always are talking about how young there team is.
But few -if any -of the other 23 coaches who have their teams in the West Virginia quarterfinals this weekend can match St. Marys' coach Jodi Mote when it comes to talking about the youthfulness of their squad.
That's because the St. Marys roster includes just five seniors, and of those five seniors, only three receive significant playing time.
JEFF BAUGHAN Special to The Times
St. Marys running back David Gray (40) runs for yardage in a playoff game against Wirt County last Friday night.
Not exactly the type of experience you seek when your goal is to win the first state football title in school history.
Yet, St. Marys takes a 10-1 record into Friday night's Class A quarterfinal at Weirton against Madonna, which also is 10-1.
Last Friday night at Imlay Field, St. Marys avenged its only loss of the season, eliminating fellow Little Kanawha Conference member Wirt County from the playoffs. Wirt had beaten St. Marys during the regular season, but the Tigers seemed overmatched last week as the Blue Devils rolled to a 40-14 triumph.
"It was a great win," said Mote. "Our kids came out ready for the challenge. Our defensive coordinator, Denny Venderlic, had a great game plan and the kids executed it well. You don't often get an opportunity to avenge an earlier loss."
Mote credited the entire community of St. Marys with playing a role in the victory.
"The crowd got into it and the kids fed off the enthusiasm," he said.
Both David Gray and Noah Spitzer rushed for more than 100 yards as St. Marys dominated a tough opponent.
"I have a lot of respect for Wirt County and (coach) Jason Hickman," Mote said. "They've got a great sophomore quarterback in Josh Trembly."
While St. Marys would love to spend time celebrating the win, there was no time for that. The Blue Devils almost immediately began working on their next challenge -Madonna.
"They are going to be a big test," said Mote. Once again, St. Marys will face another good quarterback in junior Russ Comis, who threw for 180 yards and rushed for 81 in Madonna's opening round win over Tug Valley last week. Speaking of big, Madonna junior tackle Joshua Martin stands 7-foot-1 inch tall, and weighs 290 pounds.
While St. Marys is preparing for Madonna -it is practicing on the artificial surface at Stadium Field in Parkersburg -the Blue Devils' biggest focus is on St. Marys. The Blue Devils represent a challenge for any opponent, especially with a diverse offense that either can run or throw. While many Class A teams are one-dimensional, St. Marys has the ability to take whatever the defense is willing to give.
As the No. 5 seed, St. Marys must travel to No. 4 Madonna. Mote views that as part of the playoff experience. His team will leave early on Friday, and plans to eat at Undo's before making its way to the new Jimmy Carey Stadium.
"It's only a two-hour drive," said Mote, who elected to play the game on Friday night rather than wait until Saturday.
Mote is a former St. Marys athlete who has been a part of the Pleasants County community since kindergarten. He would love to see St. Marys win its first state football title.
But he knows that you can't win that title in the quarterfinals. Rather, you must focus on each game as it appears on the schedule.
And while St. Marys can truthfully say it is a young football team, the Devils have grown up as the season progressed. They're ready to take on all comers.