Clairton set to face familiar foe in Black Hills rival Brentwood
Brentwood coach Kevin Kissel didn't need to scout or beg coaches for game film of the Spartans' opponent in the second round of the WPIAL Class A playoffs.
He already had everything he needed, including the obligatory matchup nightmares, when he began preparing to play top-seeded Clairton (10-0) in the quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Belle Vernon.
After all, Brentwood (7-3) had already lost a 42-7 decision to the Bears on Oct. 5 in a Black Hills Conference game.
Because of the fact Clairton already has a regular season win over Brentwood — incidentally, the 53rd of their current nation's best and WPIAL-record 57 consecutive victories — and that the Bears have had a mercy-rule running clock in their last nine games, no one is really giving the Spartans a chance. And they are OK with that.
“There's no pressure on us because we're the only ones that think we can win this game. I'll guarantee you that. So we're going to go out there and play as hard as we can,” Kissel said. “I guarantee they're going to break big long runs on us. I guarantee they're going to score touchdowns on us. But we have to be able to match them at times and control them at times. It's not going to happen the whole game, I'll guarantee you that, but we'll come out and play hard and see what happens.”
Only the weather and some early-season personnel issues have been able to contain Clairton, and that was only in the season opener against Chartiers-Houston when the team competed 10 players short on a 90-degree night in a 22-20 victory. Outside of that game, the Bears have been their usual dominant selves, averaging 51.9 points per game with three shutouts.
Of course it helps when you have some of the best talent in the WPIAL, with Division I receivers Titus Howard and Terrish Webb to complement all-purpose back Tyler Boyd, who leads Class A with 35 touchdowns, including six in last week's 58-6 come-from-behind win over Frazier in the postseason opener.
With his 238-yard, six touchdown performance last week, Boyd has 375 carries for 4,749 career yards (a 12.7 avg.) and passed Zaire Washington (4,539) as the school's all-time rushing leader.
“It feels great, especially when I know there were a lot of good athletes before me,” Boyd said of breaking Washington's record. “It's a big accomplishment.”
His total also elevated him into the rarefied air of some of the best rushers in WPIAL history. He ranks 17th on the all-time WPIAL rushing list just behind Derek Bochna of Mapletown (4,793). He has a chance this week to become only the 14th player in WPIAL history with 5,000 career rushing yards. Boyd has also racked up 101 touchdowns in his career.
“Obviously, Tyler Boyd might be the best player I've ever seen, and we played against Terrelle Pryor a few years back,” Kissel said. “But this kid is just head and shoulders above everybody.”
Of course, Brentwood has a solid runner of its own in Justin Vickless who finished 1-yard ahead of Boyd (1,317-1,316) in rushing during the regular season. And the Spartans will use him as much as possible in an effort to control the clock and limit the Bears' offensive scoring opportunities.
“We ran the ball a little bit against them in the first half (the first game), and that's kind of where you've got to try to contain them,” Kissel said. “It don't take them long to score, but if you can keep them off the field a little bit and control the clock, it will help a little bit. ... But if you can't run the ball and you have to throw, you might as well forget it because they have three Division I defensive backs back there.”