ST. CLAIRSVILLE - If anyone thought St. Clairsville's grid matchup against Renaissance Christian Academy on Friday night was going to be a cakewalk, it wasn't Red Devils head coach Brett McLean and his staff.
McLean's beliefs about the Rising Tide came to fruition as the non-conference tilt at Red Devil Stadium came down to the final moments before the home team emerged victorious, 27-20.
Jaylon Brown rushed for 144 yards and three touchdowns for the Red Devils (3-0). That performance offset the stellar one put forth by the Tide's Troy Simons, who finished with 126 yards and all three of RCA's TDs - all in the second half.
Simons' final score - a 3-yard run - capped a 13-play, 54-yard drive that ended with 5:30 left in the game. The xtra-point failed and St. Clairsville still held a 27-20 advantage.
The Red Devils began their ensuing possession at their own 36. Brown carried the ball four straight times before St. C. was faced with a third-and-five at the RCA 40 with 3:32 left. Mike Monteroso's pass was incomplete and the Red Devils were forced to punt, giving the Tide one more shot to tie, or possibly, go ahead.
But St. C.'s defense would have none of it.
RCA (0-2) started its march at it's own 37 and Simons was stuffed on first down. On second down, Keiv Southern rushed for three yards as the clock hit 2:45.
On third down, Simons stepped back and lofted the ball downfield toward Arrington Johns. Johns was wide open at the Red Devils' 35, but the ball fell out of his hands, forcing RCA into a fourth-and-long situation. Southern's pass fell incomplete, ending the threat.
McLean was also pleased with his coaching staff, which had to adjust after RCA came out in the 'wildcat' in the second half, with Simons leading the attack.
''In the locker room at halftime, we said ''If we had him, we'd just snap the ball to him,'' McLean said. ''They struggled to get him the ball in the passing game because that's what they wanted to do early. And, lo and behold ... they lined him up at quarterback most of the second half.
Neither team found a rhythm offensively in the first half, but the Red Devils took a 14-0 lead into halftime behind a 5-yard TD run by Brown and 32-yard scoring jaunt by Michael Ferns.
Both teams fumbled the ball away on their opening possessions and the Red Devils turned it over twice.
As did RCA. The second turnover, an interception by Brown, gave the hosts the ball at the RCA 33. Three plays later, the Youngstown State recruit scored to help make the score 7-0.
The Tide muffed the ensuing kickoff, giving the Red Devils the ball at the RCA 32. This time it only took St. C. two plays to score. Ferns busted up the middle with 1:31 left in the quarter to hit paydirt. The second of three Zach Musilli PAT's completed the first-half scoring.
Simons exploded right out of the gate in the second half. He ran eight times on RCA's first two series - all eight plays - and scored on TD runs of 46 and 30 yards to help tie the game at 14-14.
The Red Devils came right back, regaining the lead at 20-14 on a four-play, 69-yard drive, capped by Brown's 45-scamper with 3:29 left in the third quarter.
Brown's final run, a 14-yarder, came with 10:33 left in the game.
The Red Devils begin Buckeye 8 play next week with a trip to unbeaten Martins Ferry.
''We'll get to work again this week and try to use this win to help us get encouraged to get better,'' McLean said.