Red Devils Ready for Tough Slate Ahead
Ever since Head Coach Brett McLean took the reigns at St. Clairsville, he’s created a winning culture. The expectations remain the same for the Red Devils this season, a championship. St. Clairsville finished the 2021 regular season with a 9-1 record. The 2021 postseason saw the Red Devils dominate in their first three games, outscoring their opponents 128-47. This set up a rematch from the 2020 Regional Championship with Bloom Carroll. After a back and forth defensive battle, the Red Devils season ended with a 14-3 defeat. However, it was right back to work for the St. Clairsville football team.
The quest for a Division IV Championship will not be easy, as the Red Devils schedule is a very good one and not to mention the addition of Steubenville to Region 15. St. Clairsville opens up the 2022 slate against Region 13 opponent, Canton South. The Wildcats finished the regular season at 7-3 last year and bowed out in the first round of the playoffs to eventual, state runner-up, Ursuline. Coach McLean stated, “The schedule every year is so unknown anymore, because of the success that the athletes before these guys have had, especially the out of conference schedule. I feel it grows tougher each and every year. Canton South, right of the gate a 7-3 team from last year is just loaded with talent. They have a new coach this season, Coach Dennison. I have a ton of respect for him and what he’s done, not only at Claymont, but at New Philly as well. They had a great team last year, highlighted by a sophomore quarterback. This is a very competitive game right out of the gate.”
Week 2, the Red Devils cross the river to take on Wheeling Park. The Patriots and Red Devils have had some epic battles over the past few years, each game decided by one score. The grueling slate continues in Week 3 as St. Clairsville welcomes, Division II, Columbus Independence to town. The 76ers finished last season 5-5. The next two contests are also at home as the Red Devils host Martins Ferry and Linsly. St. Clairsville defeated both the Purple Riders and Cadets last season. The remainder of the 2022 schedule has the Red Devils alternating sites. Sept 23, the Red Devils take on Harrison Central in the Battle for the Coal Bucket before returning home to take on Bellaire. After a road trip just across I-70 against rival Union Local, StC will see another new face on the schedule as they welcome Pennsylvania opponent, For LeBoeuf. The Red Devils close out the regular season with Buckeye 8 opponent, Cambridge. “We have our hands full this season. The Buckeye 8 is always spirited, rivalry games, but I can tell you, when you look at the Buckeye 8 teams this year, most of them are very senior heavy, with a lot of experience and talent coming back. I tell my players, this is going to be a one week season every week, because we are facing some extremely good opponents each and every week, “said McLean.
The Red Devils were hit hard by graduation after the 2021 season. One of the main questions was who was going to replace current Ohio State Buckeye, Avery Henry on the line? What about OVAC All Star Joey Balgo, Jason Davenport and William Smith? One of the answers is senior returning letterman, Jamarcus Webster. Webster is a wrecking ball and can be a force on both sides of the ball. “We’ve been in the weight room working hard for this upcoming season and getting stronger. Later on in the summer we started implementing plays getting ready for week 1. As a senior now, we need to pick guys up when they are down, make sure everyone is hustling and to also make sure everyone knows what they are doing, “explained Webster. With the graduation of senior Drew Sefsick, whose season was cut short in the playoffs due to injury, Andrea Vera now takes the reigns for the Red Devils. Vera explained, “ This is a big role, this is huge shoes to fill. I know I have to go in with confidence. I know I have my team behind me. We are still getting to know each and every receiver, every receiver runs routes different, different speed and all, but it’s all coming together.” Vera started at safety before the injury to Sefsick and picked off 4 passes on the season.
The receiving core will look completely different this season with the graduation of OVAC All Star and current Wheeling University wide receiver, Colin Oberdick and Jaren Starks. However, they do return, juniors, Colt Westlake, Kaleb Walz, Cole Thoburn, and senior, Grant Swider who all saw significant playing time last year. Sophomore, Tyson Pastor made his presence known late in the Regional Semi-Finals last season with a leaping touchdown in the closing seconds and is expected to play a key role this season. “We lost a lot of seniors from last season. Now we are working on that bond and being brothers like you should be. We have 11 guys on the field and we need to be one, so we’ve been working on bringing all that together. The seniors who graduated really taught us leadership and what we need to do to get the job done. My expectations for this season is to win each game and bring home a championship, “Swider stated.
The Red Devils also saw a duo of outstanding running backs receive their diplomas after last season. After rushing for over 1,000 yards last season, OVAC All Star Jacob Jordan and current Mount Union product Logan “Boom” Shields will be missed this season. But then, cue Jacob Walker. Walker played a huge role, especially in the first game against Carrollton. He scored what would be the game winning touchdown. Coach McLean has several options in the backfield with sophomore Dino Burk and seniors Jaden Zebbs and Zachary Vickers.
The defensive side of the ball not only returns a few starters, but many players who gained significant experience last season. Brennan Stout had a stellar sophomore season and is expected to play a huge role in the linebacker core. Several other players including Marcus Bush, Gavin Schoolcraft, Luke Porter, Zach Vickers will have the opportunity to compete for a starting position. Key players lost on the defensive side of the ball are Austin Porter, Carson Woodford, Mason McCort along with Shields, Oberdick, Starks and Henry. One of the returning starters is Drue Jozwiak who always made his presence known on the field. Jozwiak is also a key part of the offense too, as a tight end! “We will definitely be looking to get some passes downfield this year and I hope to use my positions on both sides to get the job done,” says Jozwiak. He will also be joined by his senior classmate Marcus Rector. Rector told us, “We work on several different things every year. This season we are all really adapting to some new positions and new workloads. As a senior, we need to be there and have that energy even if no one else does. You have to be able to lift everyone else up. I want to play in the Hall of Fame Stadium in December. I have that expectation every year! I want to hold up that gold trophy at the end of the year, but you know, we are taking it week by week, day by day right now.”
You could see several players in the defensive backfield. After the injury to Sefsick last season, Vera moved to quarterback, which opened up the door for both Thoburn and Walz. The now junior duo started against a high powered Meadowbrook offense and helped lead the Red Devils to a 35-0 shutout victory in last year’s regional semi-finals. Both players are expected to play a huge role again this season. On the special teams side of things, the Red Devils will turn to junior, Jacob Meager after the graduation of Lucas Otto.
Be sure to stop out at Applebees in St. Clairsville on Tuesday August 16th from 5pm-8pm to Meet the Team! Kiss 95.7 will bring you all of this season’s action starting on Friday August 19th as the Red Devils host Canton South!