URICHSVILLE - When you're only promised 10 opportunities to play, coming out on top is the only thing that matters.
St. Clairsville head coach Brett McLean certainly buys that idea and he's even more of a believer after Friday night's game at warm and muggy Claymont Stadium.
The Red Devils scored in the middle of the fourth quarter and then posted a goal line stand inside of two minutes to overcome some sloppy moments for a hard-earned 24-21 victory against a scrappy and physical Mustangs outfit.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE senior running back Jaylon Brown outraces a Claymont defender toward the end zone during the first quarter of Friday’s game in Urichsville. Brown ran for 168 yards and scored three touchdowns as St. C. prevailed, 24-21.
"There are no style points," McLean said. "You just have to win. We had to persevere though a lot of things because we put ourselves in some bad situations, which we have to fix."
St. Clairsville (1-0), which is the defending Division IV state runnerup, broke in new players at several positions, but when the going got tough, they went to senior speedster Jaylon Brown.
"We're young in areas and we're going to get better," McLean said. "We're 1-0, and I don't care how it got done, or looked. I am happy about it."
The Youngstown State University commit delivered, too.
"We had to pull Jaylon out a good bit because of cramping, which obviously takes one of our main weapons off the field, but he'll get through that," McLean said. "It was kind of a meat and potatoes night for him."
Brown scored three touchdowns, including two on the ground and he caught a 68-yarder. All told, he finished with 168 yards on 27 carries.
The Red Devils found themselves with their backs squarely planted against the wall as the fourth quarter began and they stared up at a 21-17 deficit.
St. C. took the lead with 10:09 to play when Brown waltzed into the end zone from 6 yards out. Zach Musilli was perfect on his third PAT of the night, making it 24-21.
From there, the Red Devils turned it over to their defense.
St. Clairsville's stop troops allowed 21 of the Mustangs' points in the second quarter, including a touchdown on the final play of the half.
However, the Devils dug in when they had to.
After Claymont was forced to punt, the Mustangs hopped on a fumble during the return and were in business at the Devils' 27.
A steady dose of Keaton Herron, quarterback Tim Zurcher and fullback Hunter Striker, the Mustangs moved the ball down to the 13-yard line with a first-and-10.
"It might sound like a cliche, even to the kids, but we tell them all the time to never quit," McLean said. "You can only hope they buy into it. Obviously, they didn't quit. The momentum really shifted after that fumbled punt, but we stood tall."
Two plays later, they were at the 4, facing a third-and-one. St. C. stuffed Stryker for a loss of a yard and then stopped him at the line of scrimmage once again, taking over on downs.
"Our defense really sucked it up," McLean said. "Getting that stand inside the 5-yard line was huge. Ben Frye did a great job with our defense and what a stand for him to unveil himself as our defensive coordinator."
Brown got free for a big gain and St. C. was able to run out the clock for the victory.
"This was a very physical game and I knew it would be," McLean said. "It's just the style of football that's played and we're getting back to that style ourselves."
Early it appeared as if St. C. could be on its way to blowing the game open. Musilli opened the scoring with a 36-yard field goal.
Later in the first quarter, Brown hauled in the long touchdown pass from junior quarterback Michael Monteroso, who was making his debut under center.
Brown scored from a yard out in the second quarter, which put St. C. on top 17-14 at the time.
However, the Mustangs re-took the lead when Zurcher scurried into the end zone from 11 yards out.
"We had to calm the kids down at halftime," McLean said. "We were in that position a year ago (against Wheeling Park) down at the Island. It's just got to me more quality reps and go to our best stuff. We had to show the kids we won't panic, and I think we executed better in the second half.
Monteroso finished 6-of-15 passing for 163 yards.
Senior Michael Ferns caught three passes for 48 yards. Junior Malik Gummer, who also had an interception on the defensive side of the ball, caught two passes for 48 yards.
Also defensively for the Red Devils, sophomore linebacker Jake Stewart was seemingly all over the field. He recorded some 15 tackles.
St. C. makes its home debut a week from today against Cleveland Whitney Young.
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