State Finals Notebook: Devils healthy and hungry
To reach Week 15 of the high school football season is simply an amazing accomplishment.
So many things on top of being an exceptionally good team have to go your way to make that possible and health is probably the biggest component.
St. Clairsville head coach Brett McLean, who will lead his Red Devils into the Division IV State Championship Game Friday afternoon at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium against Clarksville Clinton-Massie, has said time and time again that the Ohio prep football season – and especially postseason – is a war of attrition.
Avoiding injuries is sometimes a bigger key than any scouting report because more often than not, depth is a factor.
“Knock on wood,” McLean said. “We’re another half season into this and we’re still fairly healthy.”
The Red Devils enter this weekend’s action fairly healthy, but there are a couple of players who won’t be suiting up this week.
Ben Coleman, who was a mainstay at linebacker, suffered a serious knee injury in the second-round game against Piketon.
“Ben’s been a huge part of the success in us getting here and my heart breaks for him,” McLean said. “He’s facing a long rehab to get back, but I am sure he’ll do everything he can to get back for next year.”
Zach Dopkiss also sustained a knee injury during the regional championship game during special teams. He, too, won’t be suiting up Friday.
Juniors Michael Ferns and Jaylon Brown both left the game briefly last Friday, but both will be able to play this week.
HIGH FLYING FALCONS: It’s hard to believe, but Clinton-Massie has set a new state record for points (776) scored this season and has thrown for less than 900 yards in 14 weeks.
Clinton-Massie works almost exclusively on the ground, racking up 5,279 rushing yards and 82 touchdowns.
En route to those points, the Falcons have hung 70-plus on the scoreboard three times and more than 60 three other times.
However, head coach Dan McSurley insisted during Monday’s conference call with the coaches that he and his team never disrespected an opponent.
“No one goes into a season expecting to score 776 points,” McSurley said. “There were a lot of games where we had our first team out early in the third quarter. We don’t disrespect anyone, but we have to let our kids play. That’s why you practice and work hard in the off-season, so you can play to another level.”
WHO TO ROOT FOR?: St. Clairsville graduate Caroline Guindon finds herself in a tough spot this Friday. Guindon graduated from St. C. in 2010 and now attends Willmington College, which is located in southwest Ohio. She’s a student trainer for the Clinton-Massie football team.
Regardless of the final score Friday, Guindon will be heading home with something to smile about.
NO CHANGE IN PLANS: Even though when the Red Devils leave the fieldhouse this evening, they know – win, lose or draw – that it’s their final practice of the season. However, McLean doesn’t plan on anything too emotional forthcoming.
“We have traditions,” McLean said. “Every coach talks every Thursday to the team, but we’re not going to do much more than we normally do. That’s not to disfavor these kids or anything, but I really don’t want this to be a shut-down mode. I don’t want this to be like a good-bye because we’ll see each other.”
COMPETITIVE COACHES: The Red Devils don’t only want to win football games every week. They want to win at everything, which is the kind of culture that McLean has tried to create since taking over.
Actually, McLean and assistant coach Ryan Clifford have Devil decals on the back of their coaching hats because of their dominance in euchre against other members of the staff.
There is also a yearly golf scramble and fantasy football league that the coaches take part in to keep the competitive juices flowing and also make the experience of coaching enjoyable.
“We want to keep it fun for the guys, too,” McLean said.