WHEELING - On a night where the Weirton Madonna athletic program won its fourth straight Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 1A overall championship, the night belonged to St. Clairsville football coach Brett McLean.
He won the top coaching prize the OVAC awards during Monday's annual Banquet of Champions at WesBanco Arena.
After guiding the Red Devils to a 14-1 record and trip to the school's only appearance in the Division IV state champion game, McLean was voted the recipient of the Bill Van Horne OVAC Coach of the Year.
"I hadn't given this much thought, but this is a huge honor," McLean said. "I sincerely appreciate the recognition, but I am a humble guy. We had kids who took us to a new level and I am proud to be at St. Clairsville with those types of kids that are participating for us."
The Blue Dons, Steubenville Catholic Central (2A), Linlsy (3A), St. Clairsville (4A) and Morgantown (5A) were the overall class champions.
All of the championship winning teams picked up their pennants and more than $26,000 worth of scholarships were presented.
Madonna won championships in golf, volleyball and football.
The Crusaders collected titles in boys soccer, volleyball, baseball and softball.
St. Clairsville won six team championships, including football.
The Red Devils went on as memorable season as any Ohio Valley team had ever experienced. They entered the season with a tremendously high level of expectations as most of the spring was spent by McLean dealing with college coaches coming through St. C. to take a look at either Dan Monteroso, Michael Ferns or one of the other high profile players the Red Devils boasted.
"I had an old coach tell me once that to get to the (state) finals in Ohio, 'you have to have talent, talent, talent and more talent,'" McLean said. "He wasn't lying, either. It was a tough pre-season, but our kids just continued to go about their business and didn't get caught up in anything."
McLean and his quality coaching staff, however, was able to find a happy medium and get everyone's attention each and every week.
St. Clairsville was never challenged outside of trailing Wheeling Park at halftime in the season opener last August.
"We knew we had some special talent and they just had to mature, grow and they did," McLean said. "The entire group handled the expectations well. We stayed healthy, which is a huge key, and we took it week by week."
The Red Devils steamrolled everyone that got in their path for 12 straight weeks before having to get past Johnstown-Monroe in the regional championship game and Creston Norwayne in the state semifinals.
The St. C. magic carpet ride came to an end on the final day of November when the Red Devils fell, 46-36, to Clarksville Clinton-Massie in the title game.
"We'll never forget this group or this season," McLean said. "We just want to soak up the moment and enjoy it as much as we can. There's going to come a time when we might look back at it as the 'glory days.'"
Unfortunately for McLean and St. Clairsville, Monday night's award and presentation of their OVAC Class 4A championship banner officially closes the book on the 2012 season.
"I don't ever want to close the chapter on this season," McLean said. "I hope it's instilled a lot in our program and I think it's made our kids hungry to continue to be successful. We'll never forget the 2012 season."
McLean was also quick to congratulate the four other finalists, which included Kim Clifford (St. Clairsville basketball), Mike Blackburn (Steubenville wrestling), Dan Liedtke (Fort Frye girls basketball) and Ed West (John Marshall softball).
"Coach Clifford is a mentor to me and I work hand-in-hand with him almost every day," McLean said. "Two of his sons (Ryan and Justin) have worked with me and his third son (Kurt) played for me."
Also receiving a high level of thanks and praise from McLean was his coaching staff.
"I think my coaching coaching staff is underrated by some, but I certainly don't do that at all," McLean said. "They do a ton of things for me and sacrifice day in and day out and I can't ask for anything more from them."