State Semifinals Notebook: Red Devils’ success has been a process
St. Clairsville’s string of success in all sports has been well documented.
Red Devils’ head football coach Brett McLean will be the first to say that it’s not happened overnight.
For this current Red Devils’ football team, it’s been a process.
“Unless you’re just loaded with talent and the stars align for you, you’re not just going to walk into the state semifinals,” McLean said. “We’ve built a program.”
This is St. Clairsville’s sixth appearance in the tournament under McLean’s watch, but it’s the first time the Devils have taken this step.
“I think all of our years past have helped prepare us for where we are now,” McLean said. “I think that’s true of all of our teams’ success here.”
One of the processes St. Clairsville’s current group has been learning is that there are other good teams, too. Obviously, during the regular season, the Red Devils never received a serious challenge.
But, as the weeks have gone along this month, the Red Devils have to had to take some punches in the mouth and they’ve responded well.
“I thought we lost our breath a little bit against Piketon a couple of weeks ago, and we harped since then that not all of these games are going to be won in the first 90 seconds or even the first quarter,” McLean said. “We have to calm down and play four quarters.”
Another part of the process for the Red Devils has been taking the coaching and applying it to the opponents. By that, McLean isn’t just talking about Xs and Os.
His Red Devils have been an even-keeled bunch all season, which is extremely important whenever you’re embarking on new territory and experiences.
“I think they’ve listened to the coaches, which is one of the most powerful things you can have,” McLean said. “We’ve got a lot of guys in the coaching office that have had a ton of success in coaching and in their pasts. We’ve been there before, so it’s just something that the kids have taken. There’s not a lot of arrogance and we’ve harped and harped on being unselfish and focused. This team is just special that way and I hope the message gets out to the families and younger kids that this is how we need to be to continue to be successful.”
St. Clairsville senior Cole Stephen will step back into the lineup both at center and linebacker this weekend after missing last week’s game. No one was rooting harder for the Devils than him, so he could get back his teammates as soon as possible.
“It was hard to watch the game,” Stephen said. “It feels great to be back in Week 14 with all of my teammates.”
Paul Brown Tiger Stadium has hosted a lot of big games over the years, but this is the first time St. Clairsville has played on some of Ohio’s most holy football grounds.
The same can’t be said for Creston Norwayne, which won the game of all games on the turf in Massillon some 51 weeks ago.
The Bobcats took down heavily favored Kenton on a chilly December afternoon, 48-42.
“We definitely have some good feelings and memories from last year,” Norwayne head coach Joe Harbour said. “We’ve been there a couple of times and whenever you’re only travelling an hour to play a playoff game, it’s a good thing. We’re just comfortable there all the way around. There won’t be a shock factor for us.”
CONNECTIONS NEVER HURT
Before coming to St. Clairsville, McLean spent his college years and his early coaching career in northeast Ohio. As a player at Mt. Union and then he coached at Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas before being hired as the Red Devils’ head coach.
During his years, he’s seen countless games at Massillon. Heck, he even played at Mt. Union with current Tigers’ head coach Jason Hall. The two remain close to this day.
NORTHERN OHIO FOOTBALL
McLean obviously knows a thing or two about the style of football that’s played in the northeastern part of the Buckeye State.
There’s no getting around the fact that teams from Region 13 have had the number of those of from Region 15 whether it’s in the tournament or during that two-year stretch where Belmont County squads were assigned to that regional.
“We can’t deny that there has not been a huge amount of success for our region against their region,” McLean said. “I am anxious to get there and see how we gauge against them. I know they’re ultra successful and have a huge amount of numbers up in that area. That’s no disrespect to our players or our area, but I am anxious to get there and see if we can match up.”
TURKEY DAY PRACTICE
While many are sleeping in today before embarking on a long day of eating turkey, the Red Devils have a 9 a.m. practice to wrap up the preparations for the week.
“Everyone is excited about being here for Thanksgiving Day practice, and I think we’ll have a few special things for them,” McLean said.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
St. Clairsville is embarking on its ninth game away from Red Devil Stadium and for the second time in three weeks, it’s a lengthy ride.
The Red Devils are scheduled to pull out of town at 1:30 p.m. today. They’ll stop about halfway into the trip and stretch the legs.
“We hope to be in Massillon somewhere around 4 o’clock,” McLean said. “The gates will probably still be locked when we get there. We just want to make sure we’re there early and able to get our legs back. We’ve talked all season about being a good travel team and keeping focused.”
St. Clairsville High School officials indicated that the community is encouraged to line the streets of downtown St. Clairsville Friday at approximately 1:15 in preparation for the team buses to make their way through town.
No advance tickets will be on sale today because of the holiday, but fans can purchase tickets until noon tomorrow at the St. C. Athletic Office. The ticket price increases in the state tournament to $8 in advance and $10 at the gate. There will also be a $3 charge for parking.