St. C. football: A Family Affair

The entire community of St. Clairsville is excited for the Red Devils’ appearance in the Division IV State Championship Game Friday afternoon.

You could take the excitement in the school and community and multiply it by one thousand and you still wouldn’t get anywhere near the excitement in the Giffin household this week as Donnie and his son Joel gear up to make a push toward the school’s first state football title against Clarksville Clinton-Massie.

However, you wouldn’t really be able to find out just how excited they are because father and son don’t talk a lot of high school football around the house.

“My wife (Lisa) does a good job of keeping us dialed in and things in perspective for us both,” said Donnie Giffin, the Red Devils’ offensive coordinator.

Keeping an even keel approach has been key for the Red Devils on the field, so it’s a theory that’s been adopted at home.

Joel Giffin is a starting offensive lineman for the Red Devils and his father calls plays from the press box on game nights.

“Spending all of this time with my dad and sharing this entire experience with him is great,” Joel said. “He’s helped me from day one to help me get to where I am. It’s just been a great ride.”

Shortly after getting to the field from the coaches’ booth last Friday after the state semifinal victory against Creston Norwayne, Donnie immediately went to find Joel for a hug.

“I found him on the field and I told him just how unbelievable an experience this has been and I love him to death,” Donnie said.

However, when the team returned to Belmont County, the football talk ended until they got back to the fieldhouse on Monday to begin preparations.

Outside of maybe telling him how he graded out after watching film or something he needs to look for when he reviews the game tape, there is little other football discussion at home.

“He’ll tell me how I did after meetings or will ask me if I watched films and stuff, but that’s about it,” Joel said. “You’d definitely think football would come up more than it does, but we try to stay away from it as best we can at home.”

When Donnie first began coaching football, Joel was in first grade and, actually, Donnie had no intentions of coaching long enough to have the opportunity to coach his son.

“I was the eighth grade coach under Mark Bonar and then I coached freshmen for two years before I was on the varsity staff,” Donnie explained. “I just kept sticking around and having the chance to coach Joel was never in my plans or anything. But, it seems like the next time I turned around, it’s his junior year and we’re playing in the state championship game. It’s been quite a ride.”

Just the thought of winning a state title and having his father play such a big role is almost too much for Joel.

“It would be great if we can win this because from Day One, he’s been helping me to become the athlete that I am,” Joel said. “So to be able to give him a hug after the game if we get the ‘W’ would just the perfect ending.”

For Donnie, this experience is more than just a chance to win the state championship. It’s about finishing a mission that so many of these Red Devils have been on since they were young kids.

He’s been working with the upperclassmen on this Red Devils’ squad in a bevy of sports for many years as Joel’s grown up.

“I’ve probably been around these kids and parents for 10 years or so,” Donnie said. “I actually think I know them too well. These kids have played everything together and we’ve been with them for what seems like forever.”

That part alone is going to make Friday – regardless of the outcome – a bittersweet day despite the fact that his son has another year of high school remaining.

“Our senior class is so special,” Donnie said. “Not only are they great football players, but they’re just great kids. We know we have to make the most of this week.”


SPECIAL TEAMS coach Mike “Chops” Jacob also has a son on the team. Zuke is a sophomore for the Red Devils.

TICKET SALES have been going exceptionally well for the Red Devils this week, but they’re still on sale today 9 p.m. St. Clairsville actually had to get some 900 additional tickets because it has sold its first batch of tickets.

TODAY is the final day of practice as both teams will go through a walk-through tomorrow.

Actually, Clinton-Massie is departing for Canton today at noon. The trip to Clinton County is approximately 3 hours. The Falcons are planning on touring the Pro Football Hall of Fame upon their arrival in Canton and then will head for a team meal and the hotel.

Only being about 90 minutes or so from Canton, St. C. will travel to and from Canton Friday. The Red Devils are expected to leave between 9:30 and 10 a.m. As has been the case the last couple of weeks, the buses will head through downtown St. C. before heading to the interstate.

THE COMMUNITY is invited to attend a pep rally at St. Clairsville High School this afternoon at 1:45.

Staskey can be reached at