ST. CLAIRSVILLE - St. Clairsville coach Brett McLean said living through the 2012 season, one in which his Red Devils reached the Ohio Division IV state title game, was like living in a dream world.
It's a place the 11th-year coach certainly enjoyed.
Faced with a mountain of expectations because of an embarrassment of high-end talent, a slew of unsung heroes, and a veteran coaching staff, the Red Devils tackled nearly all of them, with McLean leading the way.
St. Clairsville football coach Brett McLean, back right, has been named The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register Coach of the Year for the third time. He’s shown with wife, Victoria, as well as sons, from left: Ian, Beau and Sam.
For his efforts, he's been recognized by his Ohio Valley football coaching peers as The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register Coach of the Year.
It's the second consecutive year McLean has collected the award, and he also won it in 2007.
In the history of the honor, which dates back to 1939, though there were no picks between 1941-46, only three other coaches have been selected more than twice - Steubenville's Reno Saccoccia (1984, 2003, 2005), Shadyside's Ty Fleming (1989, 2000, 2001), and Bellaire's John Magistro (1995, 96, 97, 2006), the only four-time winner, and McLean.
THE INTELLIGENCER/NEWS-REGISTER COACH OF THE YEAR WINNERS
2012 - Brett McLean, St. Clairsville
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 Central
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 Central
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.
While the award is sponsored by the Wheeling Newspapers, it is voted on by fellow OVAC football coaches.
''Wow,'' McLean said. ''It's an honor. I know what the valley holds in terms of coaches and programs. It's something I don't take for granted, that's for sure. I try to be humble in everything I do, in every approach. There's a lot of hard work that goes into this and it's really rewarding to be identified by your peers.''
Well before winning last year, McLean recalled the 2011 preseason when, coming off a 9-3 season, many observers chuckled when they visited August practices, McLean said.
''You guys graduated everybody, a lot of these guys are little, you don't have a lot of veterans ... '' were some of the comments he recalled.
''So we did kinda sneak up a little for at least couple weeks,'' on their way to a 9-1 regular season and a trip to the Division IV, Region 15 semifinals.
It wasn't like that in 2012. To many, anything but a deep run into the playoffs would have been a disappointment.
McLean and his guys didn't disappoint.
''We had a sour taste in our mouths (after last season),'' McLean said. ''We felt like we left something on the field, we were really motivated, and we had some really mature seniors. It's a tough task to juggle expectations, but the kids did just as good as coaches, they never got selfish, never got complacent.''
Led by the likes of Mike Ferns, Matt Kinnick, Jaylon Brown, and Dan Monteroso, the Red Devils were a force from the start.
They trailed at halftime of the season opener against Wheeling Park.
''When we went into that locker room, a couple of older kids spoke up and laid down groundwork for the rest of the season,'' McLean said. ''From that third quarter, that was the team we were from that point on. Halftime of that Wheeling Park game was the best thing that happened all season.''
The Red Devils rolled to one decisive victor after another from there, as they were rarely threatened after halftime and carried that momentum all the way to the state title game.
''To make it as far as we did in Ohio, you have to have talent,'' McLean said. ''Amidst our highly recruited kids, there's a lot of meat-and-potato kids that did a lot of hard work. We couldn't have won games without them or coaches that work hard all year. That's the big thing. There's a lot of pieces in the puzzle that had to go into place.''
That's two different seasons, two different types of expectations, two different Coach of the Year honors.
Growing up in Brooke County, playing for the Bruins during their heyday, then going on to Mount Union, McLean was well aware of what high expectations meant and how to handle them.
''I'd be lying if I didn't tell you when I was playing college football, there was not a season where Mount Union wasn't a preseason No. 1,'' he said. ''In high school, it was the same thing. We were expected to be in playoffs and do big things.''
He's built that at St. Clairsville now, a place he revered a bit as he watched the Red Devils play against Brooke behind Wellsburg Middle School in the mid-1980s.
''We're turning into that culture now, but it's never been taken for granted,'' McLean said. ''It's not just going to happen, you have to make it happen. It's something that really builds off itself.''
In the end, St. Clairsville's ultra-successful coach has gained a little perspective on the entire thing.
''My youthful coaching experience, I thought was all about wins and losses,'' he said. ''There's kids that are lawyers and doctors that have played for me. We have a lot of kids that weren't stars or starters, but they come back and come to practice and Facebook and e-mail me. It feels great to know you were a part of their life and a positive influence in some way.''