ST. CLAIRSVILLE - With three starters returning on offense and two on defense, many felt a talented St. Clairsville team was still a year away when camp broke in August.
Heck, even Red Devils coach Brett McLean was unsure of just how good his team was going to be.
St. Clairsville got off to a hot start, scoring seemingly at will en route to a 9-1 regular season and a trip to the Ohio Division IV, Region 15 semifinals.
St. Clairsville football coach Brett McLean was named The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register Coach of the Year after leading the Red Devils to a 9-1 regular season and trip to the regional semifinals. With McLean is his wife, Victoria, and sons, from left, Beau, Sam, and Ian.
That run led McLean to be voted by his OVAC coaching peers as The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register Coach of the Year.
McLean also won the award in 2007, becoming the 11th coach to win it multiple times.
''It's very flattering,'' McLean said. ''There were a lot of great coaches that had great teams this year. The coaching fraternity in the valley is a very successful one. I've been in this long enough now that hopefully I've been accepted into that fraternity. It just really makes you feel good that your fellow coaches would select you for something like this.
''I'm humble as can be. I accept this as a staff award. I lean on my coaches more than anybody. I ask them to step up and do a lot of things. We are just flattered to death to be recognized in any way. It motivates me to keep working hard. This time of the year, next season has already started.''
St. Clairsville was a talented squad, let by junior quarterback Matt Kinnick, who threw for 2,667 yards and 27 touchdowns. The Red Devils averaged 33 points per game.
Jaylon Brown led the rushing attack with 870 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Jerrid Marhefka was Kinnick's favorite target with 30 catches for 742 yards and 10 scores. He was also the team leader in interceptions with seven.
Corey Ernest (9), Jay Gossett (8), and Cole Stephen (6) were the sack leaders.
''Inside our own clubhouse, we had high expectations coming into the season,'' McLean said. ''Thinking back to preseason, having the media come and people really didn't know us. We had a lot of hope inside of camp, but we were a no-name team.
''Now that I have time to reflect on the season, I really feel like our coaching staff did their best job that we've done in 10 years. We had kids by midseason that had superstar status and doing all kind of video game-type things they were doing on offense. It kind of overshadowed the job our defense did.''
St. Clairsville won its first eight games before falling to rival Martins Ferry.
The Red Devils clinched the top seed in the region and defeated Chesapeake at Red Devil Stadium in the first round.
The run came to an end the following week with a loss to Coshocton in Zanesville.
''I don't think the kids had a handle on the importance of those early games,'' McLean said. ''They played loose because they were young. We got rolling quick and it snowballed.
''Our kids believe in us. They believe in what were are preaching. Preseason, in-season, they really buy into it. You have to have this attitude. Success happens when no one cares who gets the credit. There had to be a lot of unselfishness. We had to have a little luck, a little help.''
Unlike in 2007 when McLean led St. Clairsville to its first playoff berth in a number of years, the Red Devils aren't sneaking up on anyone. McLean was named the valley's top coach for his ability to push the team to another level, one which McLean says still can go higher.
''The program is selling itself and hopefully the kids have seen that,'' he said. ''It is showing that even when you have a lot of turnover, you can still be successful.
''It makes you feel good. We put a ton of work in. I think we do more work in between the season than we do in the season. We haven't reached our full expectations. We want to get better. I hope the success continues to blossom. I want to stay at St. Clairsville as long as they'll have me. We want to keep this thing going.''
Others receiving votes were Linsly's B.J. Depew, Indian Creek's Andrew Connor, Steubenville's Reno Saccoccia, Wheeling Central's Mike Young, Oak Glen's Tony Filberto, Magnolia's Mark Batton, Beallsville's Dave Caldwell, Shadyside's Mark Holenka, River's Mike Flannery, Wheeling Park's Chris Daugherty, and Monroe Central's Jay Circosta.
THE INTELLIGENCER/NEWS-REGISTER COACH OF THE YEAR WINNERS
2011 - Brett McLean, St. Clairsville
2010 - Mark Holenka, Shadyside
2009 - Tom Bruney, Brooke
2008 - Mike Flannery, River
2007 - Brett McLean, St. Clairsville
2006 - John Magistro, Bellaire
2005 - Reno Saccoccia, Steubenville
2004 - Bob Kramer, Weirton Madonna
2003 - Reno Saccoccia, Steubenville
2002 - Jay Circosta, Monroe Central
2001 - Ty Fleming, Shadyside
2000 - Ty Fleming, Shadyside
1999 - Alan Treherne, Barnesville
1998 - Wayne Neely, Weir
1997 - John Magistro, Bellaire
1996 - John Magistro, Bellaire
1995 - John Magistro, Bellaire
1994 - Bob Thayer, Wellsville
1993 - P.K. Poling, Oak Glen
1992 - Dave Kovalick, Barnesville
1991 - Gregg Bahen, Steubenville Catholic
1990 - Paul Billiard, Brooke
1989 - Ty Fleming, Shadyside
1988 - Dave Cisar, Magnolia
1987 - Jim Paul, Weirton Madonna
1986 - Rich Weiskircher, Buckeye North
1985 - Rich Weiskircher, Buckeye North
1984 - Reno Saccoccia, Steubenville
1983 - Dan McGrew, Weir
1982 - Mike Herrick, Mingo
1981 - Dave Cisar, Magnolia
1980 - Bill McHugh, Buckeye South
1979 - Jim Thomas, Wheeling Central
1978 - Lou Nocida, Sistersville
1977 - Sonny Rea, Brooke
1976 - Jay Circosta, Woodsfield
1975 - Ron Pobolish, Cadiz
1974 - Rich Wilinski, Toronto
1973 - Lou Nocida, Magnolia
1972 - Marty Flannery, River
1971 - Tom Korab, Steubenville Catholic
1970 - Joe Ault, Bridgeport
1969 - George Strager, St. Clairsville
1968 - Jake Olsavsky, Brilliant
1967 - Andy Urbanic, Wheeling Central
1966 - Don Ault, Bellaire
1965 - Joe Ault, Bridgeport
1964 - Dick Thurnes, Tiltonsville
1963 - Dan McGrew, Bellaire St. John's
1962 - George Strager, Wheeling Central
1940 - Bill Dorsey, Powhatan and Stan Plummer, Bridgeport
1939 - Bob Roe, Warwood
*No picks between 1941-1961.