When the St. Clairsville Red Devils returned from their appearance in the Division IV State Championship Game Friday afternoon they arrived just as they had left in the morning, escorted by a parade of law enforcement and fire vehicles.
It was a bittersweet moment as the 14 seniors were introduced and walked arm-in-arm one last time across the turf at Red Devil Stadium.
Carl Brown is a dedicated football fan and has not missed a game since the 1980s and was on hand to welcome back the team, "It was a great season and this may be the biggest thing to ever happen in St. Clairsville.
T-L Photo/MIKE PALMER
ST. CLAIRSVILLE senior Corey Ernest addresses the crowd Friday night at the team recognition event held after the Devils returned from Canton and the Division IV State Championship Game.
"With the success of our sports teams, the pride is back in St. Clairsville," Brown continued. "This school has come a long way in the last 12 years and I feel coach McLean and Kelly Rine are the reason for that success.
"We had a big crowd in Canton toady and the city came out and showed a lot of support," Brown added. "In fact, I saw a lot of different varsity jackets from teams all around the valley, so I think the entire valley came out to support our Red Devils."
Bill Androsko said that despite the loss the team had little reason to hang their heads, "the boys did a terrific job all season and we have really enjoyed the run to Canton."
"They have a lot to be proud of and I came out to thank them for a great season," Androsko explained. "Besides, it is nice to be back in the stadium one last time."
Jena Ehni's fiance (Ben Frye) is a member of the Red Devils' coaching staff and she has been supporting both him and the team all season.
"We could not be prouder of this team," said Ehni. "How can you be upset about the game today when they have played so well all season?
"The way they carried themselves in their victories and in their defeat today shows they are a great group of young men and one woman."
"Honestly, after 15 weeks of football, I don't know what I will do with myself now that it is over."
Christa Truchan, a teacher and volleyball coach at St. Clairsville high school explained that the team is not just a group of talented athletes, "They are really good kids.
"I never thought we would go 15 weeks, it was a lot of fun," said Truchan. "I am so proud to be both one of their teachers and an alumni of St. Clairsville."
High School principal Walt Skaggs spoke to the crowd and introduced head coach Brett McLean.
The coach said he was a very emotional person, but rarely showed it outwardly choking back tears at several times during his speech.
He began by thanking the fans and the community for their support.
"It was a great feeling to look up into the stands and see them filled with a sea of red," McLean told the crowd of dedicated supporters gathered for the ceremonies.
"It has been a dream of ours to win the state title for the last 11 years," he told the crowd. "Today, it was a dream come true for our team to play in that game."
Each senior had a turn at the mic and senior lineman Corey Ernest spoke for the team as he held the silver trophy.
He also thanked the fans for all of their support throughout the season.
Mayor Robert Vincenzo spoke to the crowd about the special season, thanked the team for the season of success and complimented them on their fine representation of the city and the entire valley.
One last time the band, cheerleaders, coaches and fans joined in the alma mater and then the team went into the locker room leaving behind an empty field.
The turf will remain silent this winter but next August Red Devils will return and rekindle the hope to have another opportunity to play for a state title.