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Football Lookahead: Stiles Taking His New Team Against His Old One

October 31, 2013
By RICK THORP , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Bruce Stiles and Brett McLean will tell you it's just another game.

But there will have to be some special emotions bubbling inside both of them when Union Local visits Red Devil Stadium on Friday night to face St. Clairsville.

Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.

Article Photos

The St. Clairsville offensive line is hoping to pave the way to a 9-1 season.

Stiles served as an assistant coach for the Red Devils for 23 years. But when the opportunity presented itself to take over the reins of his alma mater this season it was too good to pass up.

''But I'm still a teacher at St. Clairsville; I teach high school science,'' Stiles said.

''I've rooted for (St. Clairsville) for nine games. But, there will be a lot of mixed emotions. I still teach there and see the kids. I really wish the best for them.''

For McLean, he'll be looking across the field at a friend. But this week, that friend is the opponent.

''It's a game and the kids are going to play it,'' he said. ''We will want to compete and they will want to compete.

''It's Week 10 and it's a big week and it's important.''

St. Clairsville vs. Union Local used to be known as the 'Fair Game' and was played the week of the Belmont County Fair. But when the fair moved to its new location outside of the city the game was moved to the final week of the season. That hasn't changed its importance.

''It's always been a great rivalry,'' Stiles said. ''The kids know each other and hang out and stuff like that. Union Local takes it really serious. Between Barnesville it's the two top rivalries.''

For the Jets, a victory would make their season.

Union Local started 2013 with three victories, including a Week 1 triumph against Monroe Central (6-3). Since then, however, the Jets have hit plenty of turbulence, dropping six straight.

Stiles is hoping a strong performance Friday will be a springboard to a strong offseason.

''My biggest thing is I want us to improve and accept the challenge of playing a team like St. Clairsville,'' he said. ''I want to see that glint in their eye that we're here to play and compete.''

The goals are much different for the Red Devils.

''There are a lot of incentives, but the biggest incentive is I know we have a senior class that's been successful, but their legacy has yet to be written,'' McLean said.

A victory would give the Red Devils a 9-1 mark, at least a tie for the Buckeye 8 title and most likely a home game for the first round of the Division V, Region 17 playoffs. Not bad for a school that lost plenty of firepower from a team that got all the way to the state championship game a year ago.

''We're valuing every second we have left together,'' McLean said. ''It's the end of the regular season. After this week we're living on borrowed time.''

Stiles is all too familiar with St C.'s prowess on both sides of the ball. Because he coached there, he doesn't think it will give him any sort of an advantage.

''Ben Frye has taken over the defense and he's done a great job,'' he said. ''He's put his own wrinkle on it and they've changed some things.

''The thing about them is now they're healthy. (Michael) Ferns is a great athlete and Jaylon (Brown) is one of the best running backs we've seen all year.

''Mike (Monteroso) does a great job of running their offense. And they have many kids on defense that don't get the recognition they probably deserve.''

UL's top offensive weapon is quarterback Travis James. Last week in a loss against Bellaire, James racked up nearly 300 yards of offense, including 155 yards on 26 carries. As a team, the Jets amassed 246 yards on the ground.

''They are very physical and they will get after you,'' McLean said of the Jets.

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