It still seems hard to fathom, doesn't it?
Even after the St. Clairsville players, coaches and fans woke up Saturday morning, they realized what had happened a night earlier at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium wasn't just a dream.
The Red Devils really are heading into Week 15 of the prep football season after an impressive 40-27 victory against defending state champion Creston Norwayne.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE players salute their fans following Friday night’s Division IV state semifinal victory over defending state champion Creston Norwayne, 40-27, at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon. The Red Devils will meet Clarksville Clinton-Massie in Friday’s state championship game at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium. Team members, from left, include Tom Parker, Cole Stephen and Luke Smith.
Let's be honest, making a run in the Ohio postseason is challenging. It's five grueling weeks and as Red Devils' head coach Brett McLean has said over and over again, "it's like a war of attrition."
St. Clairsville has won every battle it's faced thus far, but don't think for a minute that this group of Red Devils' players or coaches are one bit satisfied.
"The mission isn't done," McLean said after the game. "We had the feeling (in August) that this was possible, but it's something you don't go around and pop off about. It's something we kept close inside of our lockerroom. We knew we had the ability to win games, but to this extent? We all believed it, but we weren't going to go out, puff our chests out and brag about it."
McLean's right. In interviewing him week after week, the focus was strictly on the next opponent. And sometimes, keeping a bunch of 16 and 17 year old kids focused on the task at hand is a difficult challenge.
Especially, since the ultimate goal is something this senior class has been eying since they were as young as seventh graders and first strapped on the St. Clairsville uniform.
"When we were in the seventh grade, we used to talk about winning the state title, but it was just a dream then," said St. C. senior Dan Monteroso. "Now, we've got the opportunity and we have to work hard this week to not let this chance get past us. We've come too far to let it get it away."
The mission still has a week to go, but the light at the end of the tunnel is certainly visible and reachable.
The mentality the Red Devils employed the first 14 weeks will be needed again.
Something tells me that McLean and his trusted coaching staff will drive that point home early on in the week because for St. Clairsville it's business as usual.
DOING IT FOR
There's a map inside the state program that shows a dot in each county that's ever won a state football championship.
Unfortunately, despite four other chances, Belmont County's box is still empty.
St. C. becomes the third Belmont County school to reach the state championship game. Bellaire and Shadyside have both appeared in their respective division's final game twice.
"No team in Belmont County has ever won the state (football) title," Monteroso noted. "We want to be the first."
WORK TO DO
So what lies ahead for the Red Devils?
A date with Clarksville Clinton Massie will unfold Friday afternoon at Canton's Fawcett Stadium at 3 p.m.
The Falcons are also 14-0 and have set a state record for points scored in a season with 776. They've not had a game closer than 24 points and that came last week when they dispatched the No. 1 ranked team in the Associated Press Poll, Columbus Bishop Hartley, 45-21.
Clinton Massie, which is located in Clinton County in the southwestern corner of the state, is led by a vaunted running game and junior tailback Bayle Wolfe.
We'll have plenty more on the Falcons during the course of the week.
While this week will be one of the most memorable experiences of the players and coaches lives, the tough part is that Thursday evening when the kids leave the field after their final walk throughs, it'll be the last time they put on their practice gear.
Something tells me that there will be all sorts of emotions running through the Red Devils' special senior class and coaches, but there's no time to get sappy, there's a job to do the next day.
Monteroso is putting together an impressive high school sports resume. He's already re-written St. Clairsville's basketball record book, has been named state player of the year in hoops, been honored on the floor of the Ohio Congress and has an entire season of hoops to come.
However, Monteroso's last basketball game didn't go the way he had envisioned. He and the Red Devils were eliminated in the Division II state semifinals and Monteroso - by his own admission - played his worst game.
Playing in the second state semifinal of his career, Monteroso used that basketball game as motivation.
"I thought about it all week and it made me mad every time I thought about it," Monteroso said. "I was nervous for that game and I told myself afterward I'd never be nervous again for a final four game. I feel like I redeemed myself from that performance."
Monteroso obviously shouldn't have felt the need for redemption seeing that he was the unquestioned leader of the Devils' hoop team, averaging better than 24 points a night and was one of the main reasons St. C. made its run last March.
However, any doubters about his abilities were silenced Friday when he did it on both sides of the ball. He caught 10 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns.
He had five tackles, a sack and two interceptions on the other side of the ball.
Let's be real, Boston College is getting a steal with this kid.
We have a feeling that St. Clairsville will be a sea of scarlet and gray this week and rightfully so. The rest of the Ohio Valley needs to get behind these Red Devils because this doesn't happen too often for teams in our area.
There should be fanfare all over the place. Instead of looking at rivalries, who you like or dislike, this should be looked as St. Clairsville is doing something special here and is carrying the banner for the entire Ohio Valley Athletic Conference.
There's plenty of time to worry about being rivals, but when you're playing in Week 15, that's not the time.
MORE TO COME
Stick with The Times Leader all week to follow the Red Devils as they make their initial appearance in the OHSAA state championship game.
Staskey can be reached via email at email@example.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/TLSportsSeth