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Top-seeded St. C. set to welcome Highland in Division IV, Region 15

ST. CLAIRSVILLE quarterback Tyler Tonkovich hands off to running back Jacob Jordan during the Red Devils game at Harrison Central two weeks ago. Tonkovich and Jordan have been two of the Red Devils’ leaders all season. St. C. will return to the field Saturday against Sparta Highland in a second-round playoff game.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Brett McLean is a fan of the bye week. So much so that he wishes Ohio could find a way to incorporate one into the regular season.

But, the veteran St. Clairsville football coach is also very schedule regimented, especially when his team is playing well.

So, the Red Devils spent their off week trying to keep things as normal as possible, while also making sure they got plenty of rest as they prepare to open the Division IV, Region 15 playoff Saturday night against Sparta-Highland.

“We had stuff to do every day and we tried to keep us on our normal schedule and routine, too,” McLean said. “We got a lot of rest last week and the (off) week was good for our health because we had a few guys nursing some sprains, bumps and bruises that needed the rest. Plus, our younger kids definitely took a step forward.”

When the Red Devils returned to the practice field Monday, all attention shifted to a 4-3 Highland squad, which took care of River View, 50-33, in the first round last week. Highland was the only road team to win last weekend in Region 15.

“We didn’t go and scout, but, instead, we sat down as a staff and watched (Highland’s) livestream of the event, which was a new and neat way to scout,” McLean said. “You can throw the seeds out the window because this is not your typical (17th) seed. As (the top) seed, you’d hope you’d have a game where you think we’re alright, but this team is new to our region and division, so it’s someone you don’t know a lot about that way, but from what we’ve seen, they’re very good.”

Having the week off, the 6-0 Red Devils were energized when they went to work earlier this week, but McLean and his coaches tried their best to temper the excitement a bit.

“You can’t win the game on Monday or Tuesday,” McLean said. “You can only prepare to try to win. We have to keep our level of focus and practice up all week as a build up to get to the game.”

The Fighting Scots, who hail from near Mount Vernon in Morrow County, come to St. Clairsville with a high-powered and versatile offense.

“They’ve got the ability to do a lot of things on offense,” McLean said. “They spread you out and they have several viable skill options. They make you defend the whole field and the quarterback can run and throw, so we have to be able to tackle in space.”

Quarterback Kadin Johnson leads the way for the Scots. He’s thrown for 1,212 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 353 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Dane Nauman is their leading rusher with 464 yards and 4 touchdowns.

The receiving corps is led by Landon Remmert (30-599-8TD), Landyn Albanese (17-240-TD) and Jay Melchiori (12-150-2TD).

Defensively, the Scots, who allow 19.7 points a game, will have to deal with a versatile Red Devil offense which has been extremely balanced.

Senior quarterback Tyler Tonkovich makes it go. He’s thrown for 771 yards and 9 touchdowns in just five games. He’s also rushed for 279 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Junior Jacob Jordan, coming off a huge effort against Harrison Central in Week 6, has rushed for 621 yards and 7 touchdowns on 90 carries. Logan Shields has developed into a solid option as a runner and pass catcher out of the backfield.

In the passing game, Tonkovich’s favorite target is junior Colin Oberdick. He’s recorded 20 catches for 553 yards and 6 touchdowns. Austin DaRe and Jaren Starks are also solid options with 9 and 6 receptions, respectively.

“Defensively, (Highland) plays an odd front and they’re an adjust-type defense,” McLean said. “They can move their pieces around to defend just about everything you want to throw out there. They’re solid up front and they don’t get moved off the line of scrimmage.”

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