On the biggest stage of their high school football careers, St. Clairsville's two Division I recruits shined the brightest.
With a berth to the Division IV state championship game on the line last Friday at Massillon's Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, Dan Monteroso (Boston College) and Michael Ferns (Michigan) played their best games of the season.
As a result, the Red Devils (14-0) punched their ticket to Canton's Fawcett Stadium with a 40-27, victory over defending state titlist Creston Norwayne. They will face Clarksville Clinton-Massie (14-0) in the title tilt Friday at 3 o'clock.
THE ST. Clairsville duo of Dan Monteroso (left)?and Michael Ferns (right) have been instrumental in the Red Devils’ success all season. Both will be playing at the major college level. Monteroso is committed to Boston College, while Ferns, just a junior, is headed to Michigan in 2014. Both were named first-team all-Ohio earlier this week.
So, did giving their early verbals take some, or a lot of, pressure off of them this season?
"It took a little bit, but not much," the 6-3 Monteroso said earlier this week prior to a practice session. "I still focused on this season and went out and did what I had to do to help the team win."
Ferns, only a junior, added, "Yes, it did. The plan going into the recruiting process was to get it out of the way as soon as possible so that I had time to focus on my team this season."
Monteroso caught a career-high 10 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns.
"Like I said after the (semifinal) game, I went to a final four game in basketball last season and I didn't play well," Monteroso recalled of that fateful day last March in Columbus against Elida.
"I didn't live up to expectations. I wasn't going to let that ever happen again, to me or my teammates. I wanted to go out and play my best, and I did."
Included in those totals were nearly 200 yards in the first half alone when the Bobcats only utilized one defender on him.
"Sometimes it matters to me," he said of getting the ball thrown his way. "Sometimes Jaylon (Brown) gets rolling when they double cover me. It's easier for him to run like that, but we tried to pick on a couple of kids the other night.
"We executed the game plan."
Ferns was among the mainstays of the Red Devils' defensive unit. He charted eight tackles, but most of the season he has been pursuing ballcarriers as teams have run away from the 6-3, 220 pounder.
"It was a team effort the other night," Ferns said before practice Monday. "I'm not one to care about stats. It's all about winning. I do what I have to to help the team. As long as we keep rolling, I'll be happy."
One aspect of Monteroso's game that fans rarely see is his punting. He's averaged nearly 40 yards when he has been called upon to kick, which hasn't been too often.
"That's probably my favorite thing to do in football," he said with a huge smile. "I love to punt, but we don't do it that much. But that is okay, too."
Both players have younger brothers on the team.
Michael Monteroso and Brendan Ferns, who are a sophomore and freshman, respectively, had fine seasons with the JV squad.
"It would mean a lot to all of us," Monteroso advised.
"This is one chance, maybe the only one, that St. Clairsville could have to win a state football title, and it would be nice to have our names etched in the record books together."
Ferns added, "It would be great to win a state title with my brother. Opportunities to get this far are very seldom. To make this happen would be a great thing for our team and Belmont County."