The expectations were building for nearly a full calendar year for the St. Clairsville Red Devils football team.
Whether it was in the community, Ohio Valley or state of Ohio, many pundits expected St. C. to be amongst, not only the area's, but also the state's elite this season.
The Red Devils finished the 2011 campaign with a 10-2 record and returned nearly every key player. Throw in the fact that the school and facility were saturated with Division I collegiate coaches checking out possibly future players.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE head football coach Brett McLean addresses the crowd following the Div. IV state championship game last month. McLean was named the All Times Leader Football Coach. Additional images can be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
With all of that going on, Red Devils' head coach Brett McLean was able to keep everything in check. Never once did he pontificate or boast. He didn't allow his players to do it either.
The end result was the Red Devils steamrolling their way to a 10-0 regular season, the OVAC Class 4A and Buckeye 8 titles and a playoff run last month that won't soon be forgotten.
All of the above factors resulted in McLean being named the All Times Leader Football Coach of the Year.
"What we accomplished this season still really hasn't set in yet," McLean said. "I'll struggle over losing that (state title) game for 40 years probably, but I am sure what we did get done will set in over time."
Prior to the regional final, St. C.'s toughest challenge came in week one at Wheeling Island Stadium against Wheeling Park.
The Red Devils found themselves trailing at halftime. That was the latest they were losing until Week 15. They rallied and went on for a 47-27 victory.
"There was a little bit of early maturation during that first game," McLean said. "There was a lot of pressure to be successful and our kids were mad at halftime. That game really set the tone for our season. We learned that we couldn't come out flat and just hope to win. Plus, we coached that way."
The Red Devils had only game until the regional final that was closer than 30 points and that was a 29-point victory against Edison.
"This team had a great desire to make noise (in the postseason)," McLean admitted. "We wanted to see if we could stack up with the best competition of the state, and I think we passed that. Once we got that ball rolling, it really took off."
St. Clairsville took out Harrison Central, Piketon and Johnstown-Monroe in the regional. They then knocked off defending state champion Creston Norwayne in the state semifinals to earn the trip to Canton's Fawcett Stadium.
"Whenever you're dealing with roster sizes like teams in our area and you play a 15-game season, it's tough," McLean said. "Obviously, you need a little bit of luck involved with health. For the most part, we were healthy."
While the head coach is always the guy who garners the accolades, McLean counts anything he earns as a staff and program award.
"I can't say enough about the coaching staff," McLean said. "I really believe I've got the greatest staff a guy can ask for. We've been fortunate to have basically the same staff for my entire career at St. Clairsville. That's so important and we've all held the common goal of making our program amongst the state's elite."
At the varsity level, McLean is assisted by Donnie Giffin, Bruce Stiles, Mac McLean, Mike "Chops" Jacob, Kevin Sacco, Ryan Clifford and Ben Frye.
The Red Devils were a senior dominated bunch, but McLean knows he's got a lot of talent back plus some new faces that could establish themselves similarly to the way the Class of 2013 did.
"We've got kids coming back who are hungry after getting a taste," McLean said. "Our kids are dying to get started again. Hopefully, that's still the case when our 30-day wait period is over and we'll get the weight room and off-season program started."
McLean, who was named Ohio Division IV State Coach of the Year via the Associated Press, was also quick to point out the support of his family and wife Victoria and three sons, none of whom missed a game.
Staskey can be reached at email@example.com