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“We’d be proud to take credit for how every one of those kids handled themselves that night, but we can’t. That was what their parents taught them. And Paul, he was one of those great dads _ usually dressed head-to-toe in our colors, always supportive of all of his kids and the kind of guy a coach loves,” McLean said, “because other than cheering, he never made a peep.”

The unbeaten Red Devils (8-0) have two games remaining on their regular-season schedule, and already are guaranteed a spot in Ohio’s prep playoffs. No matter how long their run lasts, McLean doubts he’ll be at a loss for motivational words.

“I still haven’t been able to wrap my head around it, not completely,” he said. “We like to say as coaches, we’re here to teach kids life lessons, but this has worked sort of the other way around. The team, the coaches, the community _ we’ve all learned things about ourselves.”

The best part?

“I’m not sure,” he began, “maybe it was the bus ride home that night. I think we all felt a little bit closer heading home, like we were part of something bigger than a group that gets pulled together just to play 10 football games.”


Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at) and follow him at