St. Clairsville looks to close out another undefeated season at UL
To be quite honest, St. Clairsville’s trip to Union Local this Friday looks like a classic mismatch on paper.
The Red Devils are 9-0, have clinched the top seed in the upcoming Division IV, Region 15 tournament along with the OVAC and Buckeye 8 titles, while the Jets are 1-8 and battling a myriad of injuries.
However, Red Devils’ head coach Brett McLean won’t allow his team to look ahead.
“Our biggest motivation is what’s going to happen this week,” McLean said. “We worry about the present now because we can’t afford to get caught up worrying about things we can’t control like Week 11. We’re staying grounded and trying to finish the regular season on a good note.”
While the Devils will return to the practice field Monday regardless of this weekend’s outcome, the Jets will be turning their equipment in. But head coach Mark Cisar wants to see his team maintain the level of fight and determination it’s showed thus far.
“These kids have shown up every week and worked their butts off,” Cisar said. “They’ve never once given up and that’s been enjoyable and something we can certainly build on. We’re just extremely young and we’re not there yet, but we hope to be in the years down the road.”
If St. Clairsville is able to take down the Jets, it’ll cap its first undefeated season since 2007 when it ran the table and eventually advanced to the regional championship before bowing out to Williamsport Westfall.
“We’re all focused on achieving that goal,” McLean said. “We realize that 10-0 seasons can be few and far between. It’s pretty crazy to think that we could have two in such a short period of time because it’s so hard to accomplish. The kids set this as a goal and they’ve maintained their focus each week. Now, we’re just looking to finish it off.”
The Red Devils have one of the most explosive teams in the Ohio Valley with the ability to score from any spot on the field at anytime. That has worried all nine previous head coaches and Cisar is no different.
“Our main goal is to be competitive,” Cisar said. “We don’t want this to get out of hand early. It could, but our main goal is to play hard, be competitive and give our best effort.”
The Red Devils can get teams offensively in a bevy of ways, but junior Jaylon Brown has proven to be the ultimate weapon. The speedster has scored 30 touchdowns this season, including 23 on the ground. He’s ran 121 times for 1,115 yards.
Senior quarterback Matt Kinnick is putting together yet another brilliant campaign. He’s passed for 1,684 yards and 22 touchdowns, while throwing just two picks.
Senior Dan Monteroso leads the receiving corps with 35 receptions for 723 yards and 10 touchdowns. Classmate Jerrid Marhefka has 13 receptions for 337 yards and four scores and Brown has made 10 catches for 272 and three scores.
Another viable option in the passing and ground game is junior Michael Ferns, who’s ran for nearly 300 yards and has 136 yards receiving.
“St. Clairsville is extremely talented and athletic at the skill positions,” Cisar said. “It’s just speed, speed and more speed on both sides of the ball, actually.”
The Jets’ offense was dealt a blow last week when Gavin Porter was injured. According to Cisar, he won’t play this week. Two Jets’ linemen are also expected to miss the game and Eric Dunfee is questionable.
“We’ll patch it up as best we can, show up and hope to compete a little bit,” Cisar said. “It’s going to be hard to do.”
Trenton Tipton will most likely handle the quarterback duties, while Tater Blake will take on a bigger role in the ground game if Dunfee doesn’t go. One real bright spot for the Jets this season has been the emergence of Kaleb McDiffit as the go-to-receiver. He’s caught 29 balls for 437 yards and five touchdowns.
“They’re young, but they’re playing hard and doing the things that Coach Cisar and their staff has asked them to do,” McLean said. The Red Devils’ defense is led by a host of players, including Luke Smith, Ferns, Derek Shunk, Cole Stephen, Colby Lindsay, Corey Ernest, Marhefka and Titus Lepic just to name a few.