WHEELING - When Mike Young assumed the reins of the Wheeling Central football program in 2005, he fancied himself as, not only a coach, but the caretaker of a legacy of success.
In his seven seasons at the helm, Young has guided the Maroon Knights to five West Virginia Class A championships, the latest coming last December at Wheeling Island Stadium.
The 35-21 triumph against Williamstown capped what might have been Young's best coaching job to date.
OVAC COACH OF YEAR — Wheeling Central football coach Mike Young, with Doug Huff, was selected for the News-Register/Bill Van Horne Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Coach of the Year Award Monday night at WesBanco Arena.
-- Rick Thorp
Despite the loss of 12 seniors, having a new quarterback, new tailback and a revamped offensive line, the Maroon Knights never lost a step.
And for that, Young was named the winner of the 44th- annual News-Register/Bill Van Horne Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Coach of the Year Award for the first time Monday night at the 27th-annual OVAC Banquet of Champions at WesBanco Arena.
"For me to be in this elite group is remarkable, so humbling, yet so gratifying for the number of years I've put in and gratifying for the number of great kids I've coached," said Young, who was visibly stunned to have been named the winner.
"I'm very blessed and very, very appreciative of this.
"This is the greatest award you can be recognized with by the OVAC and the (media) and that says volumes.
"I worked with Bill (Van Horne) on the sidelines at track meets and everything and I admired the gentleman. Then, to receive an award named after him is kind of hard to fathom."
Young was part of a stellar group of finalists for the honor that also included St. Clairsville boys' basketball coach Kim Clifford, Steubenville wrestling coach Mike Blackburn, Parkersburg South wrestling coach Paul Jackson and Fort Frye boys' and girls' basketball coach Dan Liedtke.
"To be included in this group, again, I'm blessed," Young said. "It's rewarding to be recognized in this manner."
Young is the sixth Wheeling Central coach to be honored joining Terry Edwards (baseball-2001), Mel Stephens (boys' basketball-2009), the late Skip Prosser (boys' basketball-1983) and the late Jim Thomas (football-1980 and 2003).
Young, also Wheeling Central's athletic director, took over the Central program following Thomas' death in early 2005.
"J.T. set the tone and I was blessed to be able to pick up and continue what he started," Young said.
Young also was a protege of another Coach of the Year winner - George Strager, the legendary St. Clairsville coach who won top honors in 1979 and 1987.
"I love what I do and things like this cause you to appreciate it more," Young said. "It's also great to be recognized by the OVAC, which is a conference I have great respect for.
"I appreciate what is done for the kids and the programs throughout the valley, the coaches I coach against and the kids I coach against.
"This is just a remarkable recognition."
There were plenty of questions surrounding the 2011 Maroon Knights when the season began. Their starting quarterback transferred, their top runner graduated, as did the entire offensive line.
"But I had kids step up who were no-names and I had kids step up who were question marks," Young recalled.
"But they earned their stripes. They were a band of brothers who played hard together and they were a band of brothers who wanted to have their turn in the sun.
"They were united, showed great leadership and worked hard every day."
The Maroon Knights won their first nine games of the season before being thumped by Linsly in the regular-season finale.
"We got our tails beat by a great team, but we rebounded and recovered and were able to make some noise in the playoffs," Young said. "This is just icing on the cake. It's their award, too, not just mine."
Young was referring to everyone associated with Wheeling Central football, especially his assistant coaches.
"They challenged the kids every day," he said. "All of my coaches believed in each other and believed in what we were doing."