ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Mike Young doesn't see himself so much as a head coach, rather the patriarch of a big family.
Young, Wheeling Central's veteran football coach, gets most of the limelight when it comes to having his quotes appear in newspapers, his voice on the radio or his face on television.
That's part of the territory when you're a head coach, which Young wasn't always. He remembers his days as an assistant well and knows how important they are to the stability of any program.
The Wheeling Central coaching staff is preparing for Saturday’s West Virginia Class A championship game against Williamstown. Pictured, bottom from left, Ed Anderson, Jason Rine, and Jamie Bordas. Back row, from left, Jim Wolfe, head coach Mike Young, and Jimbo Wodusky. Not pictured is Shannon Kuchinski.
''You're only as good as your assistants,'' Young said Tuesday afternoon as his Maroon Knights continued preparations for Saturday's West Virginia Class A championship game against Williamstown.
''In my 41 years as a coach, I was an assistant for 25. I've only been a head coach for 16 years and would always say that when I became a head coach I would always surround myself with good assistant coaches.''
That moment came again for Young in 2005 when he was elevated from assistant to head coach of the Maroon Knights upon the death of Jim Thomas.
Young surrounded himself with a group of assistants, many of whom have been a part of the Central family for years.
Names like Jim Wolfe, Jimbo Wodusky, Shannon Kuchinski, Jamie Bordas, Jason Rine and Ed Anderson are familiar ones in Maroon Knights circles and are, in many ways, the ties that bind the program.
''We don't have a big staff, but I'll tell you what, it's a tremendous staff,'' Young said.
''It's a great group of guys. The members of the coaching staff I have are competitors. They want to win as much as anyone."
That will to win has trickled down.
''It flows right down to the kids,'' Young said. ''We want to be successful as coaches just like they want to be successful as players.''
There's a consistency with Central's coaching staff that has aided in the Maroon Knights becoming Class A's dominant program during the last decade.
Starting with Thomas in 2000, the Maroon Knights have won seven championships in eight trips to the title game. Young has guided the program to four of those crowns, including three straight from 2005-07.
Young simply views it as continuing the tradition, which he said started long before he arrived.
''We've had great success because of the great group of coaches that work really well together to teach these kids to play football, put them in the right positions and give them every opportunity to win,'' Young said.
''That's our job. And the kids have responded to the direction and leadership of the coaches, the leadership of the seniors and the leadership of the captains.''
While players come and go, Wheeling Central's familiar system remains. It's been tweaked here and there based on personnel, but basically hasn't changed.
And it's still hard for opponents to slow it down.
''It's confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it it gets easier,'' first-year starting quarterback Parker Henry said.
''I'm sure it's complicated for other teams, and that's good for us.''
It's also good for the players they have coaches who know it inside and out.
''Our coaches are very intelligent,'' running back Gino Bianconi said. ''They've been here for a lot of years and they know what works well and what doesn't. They know what they're talking about.
''It's basically a chemistry ... you have to get in the flow. If everyone is in rhythm it will go. You basically have to have all 11 people trusting each other in what they're doing.''
That, in a nutshell, is what Young believes keeps the Maroon Knights on top year in and year out - trust.
''There's a mutual respect within the players and the coaches,'' he said. ''That carries over into the administration. That carries over into the classroom. That carries over with the parents and the kids coming up through the ranks.
''If you believe in what you're doing and what the people guiding you are doing, success will come.''