WPIAL finalists have chance to make history
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Like the rivers that lead to the stadium sitting on the banks of the Ohio, a confluence has led Clairton's return to Heinz Field.
The Bears are back in the WPIAL Class A championship game for the fifth consecutive year amid a nation's-best 59-game winning streak.
With a victory over Sto-Rox (11-1) Friday, Clairton (12-0) will make history in two ways: The Bears can join Braddock (1954-59) as the only WPIAL schools to win five consecutive league titles, as well as break a tie with Central Bucks West (1997-2000) for the state's longest winning streak.
“It's brought a lot of positive attention to our little city,” Clairton coach Tom Nola said. “That's always welcomed. We're so proud of what the players have accomplished, and everyone in the community feels the same way.
“We tell them that all the time, that they're doing something special and historic that they'll remember for the rest of their lives.”
Clairton's record run will be the start of what promises to be a historic day at Heinz Field.
Not only can Clairton claim a first, but North Allegheny (12-0) can become the first to win three consecutive WPIAL Class AAAA championships since the classification was formed in 1984. It would also assure Tigers coach Art Walker of tying his father, Art Sr., by winning his fifth Quad-A crown.
Standing in their way is Woodland Hills (10-2) and George Novak, who can become the first coach to win six Quad-A titles and would join New Castle's Phil Bridenbaugh in winning seven — Novak led Steel Valley to the 1982 Class AAA title.
“Just playing at Heinz is special,” Novak said, “and that adds a lot more to the mystique of being at Heinz Field for the WPIAL.”
Aliquippa (12-0) can extend its record of WPIAL titles to 15 with a victory over Washington (12-0) in Class AA, which would give Quips coach Mike Zmijanac his fifth league title.
If West Allegheny (11-1) beats West Mifflin (11-1) in Class AAA, Bob Palko would win his sixth WPIAL title in as many tries and join Bridenbaugh, Braddock's Chuck Klausing, Novak and, possibly, Nola as the only coaches in league history to achieve that feat.
The parade of accolades isn't limited to teams and their coaches.
Washington junior Shai McKenzie needs 85 yards to break the WPIAL single-season rushing record of 2,740 yards, set by Hopewell's Rushel Shell in 2009. McKenzie was held to zero yards against Aliquippa in the quarterfinals last year.
Clairton senior Tyler Boyd also can break Shell's WPIAL career touchdown record with four against Sto-Rox. Boyd, who has 41 this season, scored three times in a 42-6 victory over the Vikings in the Class A final last year.
WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley sees the WPIAL finals at Heinz Field as the perfect place to have a record-setting day.
“We've always felt that it's a significant event, and the people that advanced to play there have accomplished one of their major goals,” O'Malley said. “Being there is an accomplishment in itself. That it is tied to the records, speaks volumes about the tradition of the schools and the capability of those directing the programs. The records that are on the line can be directly attributed to the people that lead their programs. I think they have to be given their due for what they've done.”
Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7812.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.