Tucked away in the heart of Belmont County, the city of St. Clairsville is rarely known around the state of Ohio. With a small population of just over 5,000 people, the city has never had much of a reason to be recognized statewide.
For St. Clairsville, that notoriety changed this past weekend when the high school’s football team advanced to the Ohio High School State finals.
The Red Devils football team remains unbeaten with a perfect 14-0 record, heading into this weekend’s Championship game against Southwestern Ohio powerhouse Clinton-Massie.
This will be the first time that a St. Clairsville football team has ever earned a trip to the state title game, and the Red Devils are taking it all in stride.
I was able to sit down with a couple of the Red Devils’ players, and get their thoughts on this remarkable season.
Ohio Valley Atheltics: What makes this team so successful?
Luke Smith: It’s our chemistry. Everybody is so close and we all get along so well, it’s a pleasure to come to practice everyday. This team is full of players that know how to win. We have a solid core of players at every single position.
Matt Kinnick: We are a very close group of guys. The seniors on this team have been talking about what we’ve wanted to accomplish this year since 8th grade, and so far we have been living up to the expectations we set for ourselves.
Jaylon Brown: No one on the team is selfish. All we want to do is win, and everyone is willing to do what’s necessary to win. We all know that anyone on this team can make a play, and we believe in each other. We do what we’re coached to do and trust our teammates to do their job.
Corey Earnest: Our team has great chemistry. Every Thursday before our game we all get together at a teammate’s house and have a “Team Meal”. We treat each other like brothers, and I think that is the BIG reason why we are such good team out on the field.
Ohio Valley Athletics: What were your expectations at the beginning of the year?
Corey Earnest: We knew that we had a special team that had the chance to make something happen, but we just took one game at a time. Even though our expectations were high, we kept our heads level and went out each week working hard to get the next victory.
Dan Monteroso: We all wanted to go 10-0 and go deep in the playoffs. We have all been playing together, and talking about this since we were in 8th grade.
Jaylon Brown: I knew that we were going to be a pretty good team, and I think that all of our players had really high expectations. All I wanted to do was make it to week 15.
Nick Vanvoltenburg: To be honest, we all had extremely high expectations. We heard the media talk about us all year and it truly motivated us. A state title was a high goal that we talked about, but we also talked about going 10-0 on the season, and then hopefully playing for a regional championship. We took it one week at a time.
Ohio Valley Athletics: Is there a particular game that sticks out the most for you?
Matt Kinnick: The opening game against Wheeling Park sticks out in my mind. We were losing at halftime and Dan (Monteroso) came in and gave a speech that really picked everyone up. We ended up winning that game and I believe it taught us early on how to handle adversity.
Luke Smith: The Martins Ferry game. We’ve had a great playoff run, but I’ve been apart of some tough losses to the Riders, and it really felt good to get that monkey off our backs. They’re one of our biggest rivals and I feel as a team we stepped up and played an outstanding game against the Riders.
Jaylon Brown: The 2nd round of the playoffs against Johnstown was an exciting game. They took our receivers out of the game with double coverage all night, so I had to step up for my team. The line opened up big holes for me, and I took advantage of what the Johnstown defense was giving us.
Ohio Valley Athletics: What has the community support been like?
Luke Smith: The community support for our team this year has been wonderful. Whether it be a parade or just simply attending the game, the community has really backed us up. It’s nice doing something that really brings the community together, like this football season has done. At games there is nothing better than looking up in the stands and seeing so many people cheer you on.
Matt Kinnick: It has been great. For all of our away games, we’ve had a good following of fans. Even now in the playoffs, a lot of people are still willing to make the long drives to different places to support us… and we really appreciate it.
Jaylon Brown: It’s been amazing. The whole community is behind our team. We had people come watch our practice on Thanksgiving, which was awesome! Our last few games, we didn’t get back in town til really late and the whole town has been waiting for us at the courthouse.
Nick Vanvoltenburg: In a town with a little over 5,000 people, football is a huge part of the community. The whole community has been behind us no matter what, through thick or thin, they are always there to support us. Every Friday night, no matter who we were playing, the stands are full with thousands who come out to support. It has been really amazing.
Ohio Valley Athletics: Matt, your holder brother (Zach) was the quarterback for St. Clairsville before you, what kind of role has he played in your development?
Matt Kinnick: My freshman and sophomore year I got to be on the sidelines and watch him play. I feel like during those two years I learned a lot that transfers over to my style of play. Even today he still gives me pointers on things that I need to work on, and schemes to look for when playing different teams.
Ohio Valley Athletics: Jaylon, what were your personal goals for the season in terms of statistics?
Jaylon Brown: I wanted to rush for over a thousand yards. Last year I was close but I got injured at the end of the season.
Ohio Valley Athletics: With so many talented skill players on this team, you don’t hear about the linemen very much, and you guys probably don’t get the credit you deserve – has that been hard?
Corey Earnest: This is a team sport. Sure, players like Dan, Matt, Jaylon, Mike, and Jerrid get a lot of press and that’s great for our team. As far as credit goes, it doesn’t bother me because each week we come together as a team. Everyone does their assignments, and we come up with the victory, that is all of the credit we need.
Nick Vanvoltenburg: It has not been difficult at all. The coaches always remind us that “it starts up front”, and without the line our skill players couldn’t do what they do best. Our skill players are always quick to give thanks to the offensive line and what we do, and that feels great.
Ohio Valley Athletics: Dan, as a multi-sport athlete, how has basketball helped prepare you for football?
Dan Monteroso: In basketball, we made it to the Final 4 last year. I told myself all last week that I wasn’t going to let what happened to us in basketball, happen to us in football.
Ohio Valley Athletics: Luke, what kind of personal goals did you have entering this season?
Luke Smith: My personal goals this season as an outside linebacker were to fulfill all of my assignments whether it be defending the run or pass. I wanted to be as close to perfect as possible playing the position. Another goal of mine was to not let any of my teammates down. They expect me to do my job as well as I expect them to do theirs. For the most part I feel like I’ve accomplished both goals.
Ohio Valley Athletics: Matt, with so many big names on this team, you’ve kind of been the unsung hero. How does that make you feel?
Matt Kinnick: I’m fine with it. Great things happen when you play unselfish football and I believe that we have proven that this year. As a team, there have been many different names mentioned in the media for us.
Ohio Valley Athletics: If you were to pick the MVP of this team, who would it be, and why?
Dan Monteroso: I would have to say Matt Kinnick. He is the driver, the glue that holds our offense together. He is our quarterback.
Jaylon Brown: I would have to go with Matt. Without him a lot of things don’t happen. He’s the one who sparks our offense. He’s a great team leader and he’s pushed all of us, all season, to get better each week.
Matt Kinnick: If I had to pick a team MVP it would have to be Dan Monteroso. He has been a playmaker all year for us. The game against Norwayne proved what kind of player he is with some of the big plays he made.
Nick Vanvoltenburg: Picking out a team MVP is truly difficult. We have so many contributing players, its hard to single out just one individual. Without picking a particular person, it has to be our coaching staff. They push us for excellence and they are excellent at what they do. Not only do they teach us how to excel in football… but in life too. I believe we have the best coaching staff in the state and wouldn’t want to play for anyone else.
Corey Earnest: There are so many players on our team deserving to be MVP, but one player stands out to me the most, and that’s Dan Monteroso. Not only is he a great athlete but he is a great teammate. What makes him the MVP is how he is off the field. He motivates every player on the team, leads them in the right direction, takes younger kids under his wing and teaches them everything he knows. He is just all around a great person and I’m glad to call him my friend and teammate.
Ohio Valley Athletics: As a Senior, you’re about to suit up and play your last game ever as a Red Devil. What will you miss the most?
Corey Earnest: I’m going to miss everything about this program. I’m gonna miss every coach, every player, and every Friday night. I’m going to miss coming out on that field to a packed house, ready to go to war. I love this community, this team, and it is going to be sad when everything comes to an end after this Friday’s State Championship game. It feels good to make history for our school, and to go to Canton for a chance to be state champs.
Matt Kinnick: I’m going to miss this group of guys and all the great memories we had together.
Ohio Valley Athletics: What’s next for you after the season is over?
Nick Vanvoltenburg: After the season I plan to workout with my team and on my own. I want to get stronger in every way that I can. I love to lift and I’m always in the weight room in the off season.
Matt Kinnick: I’m going to work on some college things and go support our basketball team.
Jaylon Brown: Until track season I’ll just be lifting a lot. I want to put on a little bit more weight for next season.
Luke Smith: After this season I will not be playing a winter sport, so I will cheer on the basketball team, in hopes of them making a state title run. It will be nice to have a break and really soak in everything that has happened during the past couple months.
Special thanks to Luke Smith, Jaylon Brown, Dan Monteroso, Matt Kinnick, and Nick Vanvoltenburg for contributing to this article.