WHEELING - Thanks to a little gamble, Wahama hit the jackpot Saturday night.
Quarterback Trenton Gibbs ran around left end for a 2-point conversion in overtime, giving the White Falcons a dramatic 43-42 victory over Madonna in the Class A championship game at Wheeling Island Stadium.
It marked the first-ever state title for unbeaten Wahama (14-0), the No. 3 seed, which lost to Wheeling Central during its only other Super Six visit in 2010. Madonna (12-2) was seeking a crown to match the one it captured in 2009.
"Finally,'' said White Falcons veteran coach Ed Cromley with a smile. "We got here finally, and we're really happy about it. The kids are fantastic and we want to thank everybody who supported us.''
Each team received an outstanding individual effort - Wahama from halfback Kane Roush (168 yards rushing, 80 receiving, three touchdowns, four tackles, three kick returns for 55 yards) and Madonna from quarterback Ross Comis (144 yards rushing, five TDs, 127 yards passing with one TD toss, 11 tackles). Each was selected as his team's MVP in a media vote.
The game, by far the best matchup of the entire championship weekend, featured non-stop excitement in the second half as the lead changed hands five times in that span and was tied two other times.
The biggest decision came after Madonna had gone ahead 42-35 on its overtime possession, which began at the Wahama 20. Comis scored on a 2-yard run and Matthew Green booted the extra point.
On its OT series, Wahama used an 18-yard hookup from Gibbs to Roush in the left flat to get the ball to the 1-yard line, setting up a dive into the end zone by fullback Zack Wamsley. Wahama then called a timeout and decided to go for a 2-point conversion to win the game instead of kicking and possibly forcing a second OT.
"We had trouble stopping [Madonna] in the second half,'' Cromley said. "They were able to drive the ball. And extra points were my concern. We didn't have a great snap on our first [PAT attempt in the first quarter] and didn't score. I thought we'd be better off letting 11 players try to do it instead of putting pressure on a couple - the snapper, kicker and holder.''
Cromley said Wahama originally had called a play on the 2-pointer similar to the one that gained 18 yards to Roush a couple snaps earlier, but he was worried when he saw several Madonna players lurking in the left flat, expecting the same play.
Gibbs, under center, also saw the same thing and said he nearly called another timeout, which would have cost the White Falcons a penalty for taking consecutive timeouts and placed the ball at the 8.
Disaster may have resulted for Wahama, but no one will ever know for sure, because when Gibbs sent Wamsley in motion across the formation, the Blue Dons were whistled for encroachment, moving the ball from the 3-yard line to the 11/2 for the conversion try.
"When we had 3 yards to go,'' Cromley said, "our quarterback had called for that play where we would throw a screen pass to the outside. They had four guys there and I'm sure a fifth was just waiting to get over there. It was really a savior to us we that got the encroachment so we could run another play like we did. We had a lot more confidence there than from the 3.''