Re-focused St. C. set to visit Buckeye

YORKVILLE – If the leaves are turning color and there’s a chill in the air, that can only mean one thing – the playoffs are just around the corner.

And in St. Clairsville, that means it’s time for the Red Devils football team to kick it up a notch.

Coach Brett McLean’s squad will continue its march toward the Ohio Division V postseason Friday with a trip to World War II Memorial Stadium and a Buckeye 8 matchup against Buckeye Local. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

”We have to get off the bus and be ready to go,” McLean said. ”There will be a team on the other side of the field that will be ready to play just as hard as us.”

The Red Devils, the 2012 Division IV state runner-up, rebounded from their only loss of the season two weeks ago at Bellaire, by soundly thumping Edison, 49-12, last week at home.

St. Clairsville did the job on offense, defense and special teams and projected a renewed sense of focus that McLean says the team will need if it wants to duplicate the postseason success of a season ago.

”We played with a different type of urgency,” he said.

Injuries have forced players down the depth chart to take a larger role in St. Clairsville’s success this season. University of Michigan signee Michael Ferns’ injury has been the most publicized, but McLean said numerous players have been dinged up.

”We have a lot of players starting that didn’t start the season,” McLean noted. ”We still have a lot of work to do.”

The exciting for McLean and his staff is, though, those younger players have been stepping up and getting the job done.

”We’re just continuing to work on things to get better,” he said.

The Red Devils (7-1) have already wrapped up a playoff spot and are currently third in Region 17, one spot ahead of Martins Ferry, a team it beat September 20.

St. Clairsville finishes the regular season next week at home against Union Local.

”Our hands are going to be full,” Buckeye Local head coach Phil Pest said of the Red Devils.

”Jaylon Brown is one of the best backs in the valley. You just hope you can keep the ball away from them and hope you can stop them.

”Anything can happen.”

Brown rushed for 162 yards and three touchdowns last week and stands at an even 1,000 for the season. Quarterback Michael Monteroso has thrown for 887 yards and seven scores, while Malik Gummer has 17 catches for 246 yards and a pair of scores. Gummer is also a threat as a kick returner.

On top of that, kicker Zach Musilli has scored 38 points.

After steadily building toward it all season, the Panthers broke into win column last Saturday night by virtue of a 20-10 triumph against Hudson Western Reserve Academy.

”They came out in the second half and posted a shutout on defense and scored two touchdowns,” Pest said. ”The look on (the players’) faces in the locker room after the game was great. It was certainly something to build on.”

Chase Hopkins and Dylan Dokes are names to look for offensively for the Panthers, along with Brandon Panepucci.

”They are certainly playing better football,” McLean said of Buckeye Local, noting St. Clairsville always seems to struggle in Yorkville.

”We have a ton of respect for them and we know they’ll be ready.”

Pest said, through all the struggles, his players have stuck with it, which he is proud of.

”They’ve never quit on me,” he said. ”That’s what I like about these kids. They hate to lose.”

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