Clairton's high-powered offense boasts wealth of talent
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All season teams have geared up to stop Clairton's Tyler Boyd and with good reason. The Division I recruit is on the cusp of becoming the greatest touchdown scoring machine in WPIAL history and can beat teams with his legs, hands and arm.
No one has really slowed him down, much less halted the senior multipurpose back who has 2,507 yards of offense and 42 touchdowns this season.
About the only thing that did put a crimp in an otherwise flawless season came during the Bears WPIAL Class A semifinal win against Neshannock, when Boyd was limited by a sore back. For a moment it may have appeared Clairton was finally beatable.
Instead, what everyone learned was just how diversified and skilled the Clairton offense really is.
With Boyd's role reduced Clairton switched from a run-first team that utilizes multiple sets and a versatile Wildcat attack to a pass-first offense with the game on the shoulders of senior quarterback Armani Ford. Instead of slipping, the Bears offense thrived as Ford completed 10 of 14 for 154 yards and four touchdowns.
“When I went down with that back injury, it opened up things a whole bunch,” Boyd said. “Everybody started getting touches ... and I think coming into Heinz (Field for the championship game) we were a little overconfident.”
If anyone thought his showing against Neshannock was a fluke, Ford silenced his doubters in the WPIAL Class A championship game against Sto-Rox at Heinz Field when he shook off a pair of interceptions and completed 9 of 18 for 180 yards and three touchdowns and capped the scoring in the 58-21 blowout with a 1-yard sneak with 3:19 remaining in regulation.
“On offense we just have to step it up, play by play,” Ford said. “A lot of teams get up on top of us, and we've just got to make plays happen.”
Coming into the season, the quarterback position was a question mark. Clairton won two WPIAL championships and two state titles with Desimon Green, then won the WPIAL and PIAA Class A titles in 2011 with his backup, Capri Thompson, running the show.
Though Ford had considerable playing time thanks to the Bears many blowouts and running clock games last season, the coaches experimented with a three-quarterback system using Ford, Boyd and Bryon Clifford. Though Boyd does take considerable snaps in the backfield in the Wildcat, the base offense has been successfully — albeit quietly — run by Ford.
So far this season, he has completed 61 of 100 passes for 1,534 yards and 22 touchdowns.
“It feels good to put the team on my back and lead them,” Ford said. “It's nice to let them know I've got faith in them, know they've got faith in me and we can just ride it out.”
It doesn't hurt that Ford has two Division I receivers to throw to on the outside in Terrish Webb, a Kent State recruit who just this week received an offer from Pitt, and Pitt recruit Titus Howard. The two each have more than 500 receiving yards and have combined for 15 touchdowns.
With the passing game coming into its own, it should make things even more interesting when Clairton (13-0) looks to extend its nation's best and state-record winning streak to 61 on Friday at 7 p.m. against District 5 champion Berlin-Brothersvalley (11-1) at Golden Eagle Stadium in Somerset for the PIAA Class A quarterfinals.
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1977.
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