St.C. line duo signs with West Liberty

A good football team doesn’t achieve the sorts of offensive statistics that St. Clairsville did without a talented offensive line.

And, obviously, the Red Devils had just that because St. C. scored and racked up yards at a record clip in 2012.

Two of the key cogs to that offensive line – Corey Ernest and Cole Stephen – have decided that they’re going to continue to play together.

Both inked their names on a National Letter of Intent to continue their academic and football careers at West Liberty University this past Wednesday.

“This is exciting for us to have two of our guys being able to continue their careers and educations at the same place,” said St. C. head coach Brett McLean. “They’re great kids, great students and their athletic ability has gotten them to this point.”

ERNEST was recruited to the Hilltoppers’ program as an offensive guard and hopes to battle his way onto the field as early as possible in some capacity.

“My goal is to start as a freshman, but I know I am not going to walk in there and just take the job,” Ernest said. “I know I have to work hard and earn it.”

The 6-3, 260 pounder was a standout on both lines for the Red Devils, earning all-district accoloades as well as all-Times Leader.

On the defensive side of the ball, Ernest was a space eater on the defensive line. He had 89 tackles from his tackle position.

Offensively, Ernest was the guy the Red Devils ran behind much of the time as he started all 15 games.

“It feels like just yesterday that we played in the state championship game,” Ernest said. “I’ve had a great four years of high school, played with some great people, had great coaches and it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It’s really exciting to have the opportunity to continue my football career and get a great education.”

Ernest has also been chosen to take part in the prestigious Ohio North-South All-Star Game.

One of the main selling factors for Ernest on West Liberty was its proximity to the Belmont County Seat.

“West Liberty is nice because it’s far enough away where it feels like college, but it’s also close enough so I can come home if I wish,” Ernest said. “I really liked the coaches at West Liberty and how close-knit everyone was.”

Corey plans on majoring in criminal justice at WLU.

STEPHEN was another on the long list of Red Devils, who was a valuable contributor on both sides of the ball for an extended period of time.

The next challenge for Stephen is working his way onto the field as early as possible and developing into a contributor for the Hilltoppers.

WLU coaches have told Stephen that he’ll have an opportunity to battle for a job on the defensive side of the football at either linebacker or rush end.

“I have to put on some weight and work on my speed because the college level is a different game in terms of the speed,” Stephen said.

“I am really excited for this opportunity and plan on working as hard as possible.”

Willing to do anything he can to contribute, Stephen believes he could help the Toppers on special teams if needed.

“I’m going to have to work for it, but I’d love to get a starting spot,” Stephen said. “I may have to play some special teams. I’ll have to put the time in on the weightroom.”

The 6-1, 200 pounder was a three-year mainstay at center and developed into one of the Red Devils’ top tacklers from his linebacker spot.

On the defensive side, Stephen recorded more than 100 tackles.

He was the Red Devils’ leading tackler in the state semifinal victory against Creston Norwayne.

Stephen has taken some time to reflect on the ride the Red Devils went on last fall, advancing to the Division IV state final before falling to Clarksville Clinton-Massie.

“It’s just crazy that we played in the state championship game,” Stephen said.

“Not many people get that opportunity. We talk about that game all the time and we think if we could go back in time and play it again, we’d have a really good shot.”

Stephen was named to the first-team all-district, all-Buckeye 8 and all-Times Leader squad. He was an honorable mention all-OVAC selection.

Staskey can be reached at