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by Chris Errington and Joedy McCreary
EDITOR'S NOTE: West Virginia University football has a very special place in the hearts of many state residents. Across the border in Ohio, there's also a unique affection for Ohio State University's team. Sports writers Joedy McCreary and Chris Errington traveled the Buckeye State earlier this month to learn about it prior to next Saturday's game between the Buckeyes and Mountaineers.
(August 30) Nestled near the Ohio River about five miles west of Wheeling on Interstate-70, St. Clairsville is mired right in the middle of pre-game trash talk.
For example, Todd Killdow works as an attorney in Wheeling with several West Virginia University graduates. That's why he says he's tired of hearing about the Mountaineers.
"I hope Ohio State kicks their (butts)," Killdow said. "They should. I hope it's not a good game."
Mike Evonek, a 24-year-old worker at Pizza Outlet, said St. Clairsville's close proximity to West Virginia may lend itself to WVU fans, but it's still Buckeye country.
"People around here love Ohio State," Evonek said, "and they expect them to blow West Virgina out. Since they were picked No. 1, everyone expects them to win the national title."
In the Upper Ohio Valley, high school football is king. Wheeling has hosted the "Super Six" West Virginia prep football championships for the past four years, but more importantly to Ohio fans, is the site of the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference's annual high school all-star game. The game pits a team from West Virginia against its Ohio counterpart.
Ohio claimed its fourth straight win with a 41-14 win last month.
It's neat to watch a scarlet-and-gray clad team butt heads with a team wearing gold-and-blue, Joe Gaudio said. But he warned that you can't take the high school game as a precursor to Sept. 5.
"That's more of a real relaxed atmosphere," Gaudio said. "A lot of parents go to that. They root for one individual player, not for West Virginia or Ohio."
But the high school pipelines can explain why Ohio State perennially is considered a Top 10 team, while WVU is sporadic, Roy Swallie of Belmont said.