MCDONALD, Ohio (WKBN) – The McDonald Blue Devils have a long, rich tradition of winning football – so last season’s 3-6 record is quite an anomaly. It is also the result of an incredibly young team.

This season, the Blue Devils plan on flipping that script — and they possess the senior leadership and mindset to do just that.

“Going into the first scrimmage we were a young football team.  We only really had two starters who were seniors,” head coach Dan Williams said about the 2021 season. “Going into last season was tough on us because we didn’t have a lot of time in the summer and this year they (OHSAA) gave us another week for acclimation time prior to our first scrimmage.”

He added, “We were playing four or five sophomores and two or three freshmen last year, and a lot of times you’re going to have growing pains. It’s going to take time to get everything going. We played well at times and we were close to winning where we could have potentially won another game or two, but it didn’t work in our favor.”

“From the start of the season last year to the end, it was embarrassing,” senior lineman Kyle Crown said. “But it motivated us to get in the weight room and on the field to work harder and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

On the bright side, the Blue Devils closed the 2021 season with a big win over league rival Jackson-Milton.  That victory gave them momentum heading into this past off-season.

“Any time you win your last game, although we didn’t make the playoffs, it builds momentum for the following year,” Williams said. “It’s a way to send your senior off in a good way and your young kids have that winning taste in their mouth heading into the off-season weight room program.”

Williams pointed out that this past season was very successful for the Blue Devils team.  The underclassmen were dedicated to being in the weight room and improving themselves both physically and mentally.

“We had a great off-season,” Williams said. “The kids came in and really focused on becoming stronger and working on their conditioning.  We grew up a little bit and hopefully, that is going to help to be more competitive this year.”

“Last year we were a strong team, but we definitely didn’t reach our full potential,” Crown added. “I got everyone together in the weight room and said, ‘Hey listen, everyone here last year knows what we need to do to get stronger and faster.’”

Williams is quick to point out that the expectations for the McDonald football program are high. They put a lot of expectations on themselves to be better this year.

“The expectations are high here in McDonald,” Williams said. “The kids want to win.  We have a winning tradition here, and of course, they are not happy when it doesn’t happen.  They did all the things they needed to do in the off-season, and so far here in the summer to get themselves ready to not allow that to happen again.”

This year the Blue Devils will have a more veteran team with six to eight senior starters, along with the strong weight room dedication in the off-season, Williams expects a successful 2022 season for his team.

Crown is one of those seniors that Williams is going to lean on to turn things around this season.  And Crown has embraced the opportunity to provide senior leadership for his team.

“I took the role pretty seriously,” Crown said. “I started in my sophomore year, so I knew it was going to be one of my roles.  My brother was a senior captain when he played, so he kind of told me to get my team in shape.”

Although the Blue Devils look to be much improved, Springfield should still be the team to beat in the MVAC this year despite the graduation of star quarterback Beau Brungard. Williams expects the league to be a dogfight every Friday night.

“The league is as good as I have seen it in its six years,” Williams said. “The parity, you have Springfield, but you also have Western Reserve, and Lowellville has an awesome team there.  Mineral Ridge is going to be really good and Jackson-Milton is always a scrappy, tough team. With Sebring having a new coach, you don’t know what to expect there. So from top to bottom in our league, you have to come ready to play every week.”

The Blue Devils will be tested right away in this 2022 season when they play at Southern Local on Friday, Aug. 19. The Indians are arguably the top team heading into this year in the EOAC.