Central’s Young pockets top OVAC coaching recognition

WHEELING – Humbled, honored and grateful were just some of the many adjectives Wheeling Central head football coach Mike Young used Monday evening.

Those sorts of words tend to come to mind quickly when you’re named the top coach in a conference which boasts 50 schools and more than 600 coaches.

Young was recognized as the Bill Van Horne OVAC Coach of the Year during the 27th annual OVAC Banquet of Champions held at WesBanco Arena.

The Maroon Knights’ mentor, who guided his team to its fifth West Virginia Class A state title in seven years had been a finalist for arguably the conference’s most prestigious award three times previously.

“I love what I do and (awards) like this cause you to even appreciate it more,” Young said. “To be recognized by the OVAC, which I have great respect for, and the media is just a great feeling.”

The other four finalists included Kim Clifford (St. Clairsville basketball), Mike Blackburn (Steubenville wrestling), Paul Jackson (Parkersburg South wrestling) and Dan Liedtke (Fort Frye boys and girls basketball).

Young admitted he would have been happy had any of the nominees won because they were “all very deserving.”

“I am extremely surprised because there are so many great people in that group,” Young admitted. “Coach Clifford and Coach Liedtke are legends and to be up against the coach from South’s record makes it even more remarkable for me. It just speaks volumes for the people I work with and the kids I am around.”

Young becomes the 37th different winner of the award, which has been given the past 44 years.

“I’ve been fortunate to coach a lot of great kids over the years and I’ve worked with a lot of great parents,” Young said. “I’ve been very, very blessed and I’m very, very appreciative of this. It’s a remarkable recognition.”

The Knights were hit hard in graduation in 2011 and many expected Central to possibly take a step backward when you also throw in the fact of a few transfers. However, the Knights’ factory just kept producing.

“It was an unbelievable season,” Young said. “We had kids, who were no-names, step up and come out of the woodwork that were question marks, but I felt in August they had earned their stripes. They were a band of brothers who played hard together and wanted their moment in the sun. When they got their turn, they shined greatly.”

Central reeled off nine straight wins before falling to Linsly in its regular-season finale.

“We got our tails beat by a great team (in Linsly), but we recovered and still made the noise we made in the postseason,” Young said. “The kids work hard, they buy into what we’re doing and this is their award, too.”

It served as a wake-up call because Central proceeded to reel off four straight victories to win yet another football title.

“This isn’t something you search for, but it’s something you love being recognized for,” Young said. “To be put into this group (of honorees) is just great. To be recognized in this manner is just tremendous.”

During his acceptance speech, Young gave much-deserved credit to each member of his coaching staff, which has been together, primarily, since Young was hired.

“To receive this award is just hard for me to fathom,” Young said. “This is the greatest award you can be recognized with by the OVAC, the valley and the media, so that just says volumes for everything we’ve worked hard to get.”

Along with the coach of the year, more than $30,000 in scholarships were presented to student-athletes from all over the Ohio Valley. Local students recognized with scholarships were Harrison Central’s Garritt Sproull (Bordas & Bordas Scholarship), Harrison Central’s Chelsea Brown (OVAC Boosters) and St. John Central’s Lacee Dobrovich (WesBanco Scholarship).

Former St. John Central track coach Robert “Bubba” Kapral received the Cal Giffin Track and Field Service Award. During his years at the Irish helm, Kapral led the Green to two OHSAA Division III state titles and two state runner-up finishes along with 13 OVAC titles.

The Subway Cup winners were also presented. The award recognizes the overall sports champions for the past school year. Those were: Wheeling Park (5A), St. Clairsville (4A), Martins Ferry (3A), Linsly (2A) and Madonna (1A).

Staskey can be reached at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com