St. Clairsville will get a taste of Stark County a week earlier than they had envisioned.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced the sites for this weekend's football state semifinals and the Division IV matchup between the Red Devils and defending state champion Creston Norwayne will be at Massillon's Paul Brown Tiger Stadium with kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m.
"Paul Brown Stadium is a special place for high school football," said St. C. head coach Brett McLean shortly after learning the site Sunday afternoon. "We're thrilled to go there and play on Friday."
The distance to Massillon between the two schools is generous to the Bobcats, but that doesn't matter to Red Devils' head coach Brett McLean.
"We're willing to drive to play in that stadium in a heartbeat," McLean said. "I think it's listed in the top six or 10 best venues in the nation, so the distance doesn't matter to us."
The trip for St. Clairsville is better than 70 miles if fans opt to take U.S. 250 and just under 100 if they elect to take Interstate 70 to Cambridge and head up I-77.
For Norwayne, meanwhile, the trip is a shade over 35 miles.
"We know our fans will travel well," McLean said. "They've been supporting us all season and when you're playing in the state semifinals, distance shouldn't matter."
Many thought New Philadelphia could have been the site for the Red Devils and Bobcats, especially considering Norwayne played its semifinal last year at Woody Hayes Quaker Stadium against Johnstown-Monroe.
The Tuscarawas County venue will host a semifinal, but the OHSAA elected to place Mogadore and Newark Catholic there instead.
"I'm not surprised they put us in Massillon," McLean said. "It's really no big deal at this point. It's a great stadium and we're looking forward to it."
A handful of other Ohio Valley teams have had the opportunity to play at Paul Brown in recent memory.
Bellaire fell in the 1995 and 1996 Division IV state championship game on that turf. Steubenville won a state title on that field in 2005, Steubenville Central was defeated there that same season in the title game by Delphos St. John.
Martins Ferry was eliminated in a state semifinal by Youngstown Cardinal Mooney in 2004.
Norwayne has played a game on the Paul Brown Stadium field. It defeated Kenton in last year's Division IV title game. The Bobcats won a thriller, 48-42.
"They obviously won't be starstruck by the place," McLean said. "They definitely have some fond memories of the stadium."
The other Division IV state semifinal, which pits Columbus Bishop Hartley against Clarksville Clinton Massie is scheduled for Northmont High School in Clayton.
The Division IV state championship game is slated for Nov. 30 at Canton's Fawcett Stadium at 3 p.m..