Led by veteran coach, Dunmore ready for Clairton
It's not an exaggeration to say Dunmore coach Jack Henzes has football in his blood.
His father, John, is a charter member of the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches' Association Hall of Fame, selected in the inaugural 1986 class, while Jack went in 11 years later. And the son didn't need name recognition to gain the nomination.
Henzes, who is in his 46th season on the sideline, is second only to longtime Berwick coach George Curry among state coaches with 371 career victories.
“My dad coached for 33 years and he told me that you prepare the kids. It's not the coaches, but the players, that win the game,” Henzes said. “They've got to make big plays.”
They may need to make more than they ever have Friday when he leads Dunmore (14-1) onto the field at Hersheypark Stadium to take on three-time defending champion Clairton (15-0) in the PIAA Class A title game. The Bears will be making their fifth consecutive state finals appearance and enter the game riding a state-record 62-game winning streak.
It will be the third appearance in the state finals for Dunmore, which won the Class A title in 1989 and lost to a Terrelle Pryor-led Jeannette squad in the 2007 Class AA final.
“That 2007 team had the greatest player that I've ever coached against with the Pryor kid, but they had a lot of really good players on that team, and you don't make it this far without a lot of good players,” Henzes said. “Clairton, I watched them on tape, they're very physical, they run to the football very well, they have good athletic skills on the outside, and their receivers just go up and get the football. They're very aggressive the way they come off the ball, and they're well-coached.”
Henzes has not changed his style much over the years, but his old-school pound-it-out offensive philosophy was very effective throughout the season. His basic approach certainly came in handy early in the season when the team suffered several key injuries, including the losses of both of their top running backs. Junior Daiqwon Buckley and senior Austin Seamon, both 1,000-yard rushers, led to the Bucks' only loss of the season at Old Forge before they rebounded to win their final 10 games.
Instead of collapsing, the team shrugged off that 21-0 Week 4 loss and exacted a measure of revenge when it defeated Old Forge, 7-6, in the District 2 championship game.
“I have to give our other players a lot of credit because they were able to stay together, and we had some holes, but they just grew up and filled in quickly,” Henzes said. “They say that adversity builds character, but were thrilled because of the way our seniors reacted to this … and now we're thrilled about playing the No. 1 high school team in the country.”
Dunmore's strength is in its lines, and Clairton could have some problems containing 6-foot-5, 265-pound senior two-way tackle Mike Boland, a Division I prospect. Though the Bears' offensive line had some problems opening holes in their state semifinal game against Port Allegany, they will get a boost this week when senior Devonte Harvey returns after missing two weeks with a knee injury suffered in the WPIAL final against Sto-Rox.
“I've been ready and I've been watching the line struggle a little bit, and I'm just anxious to get back out on the field,” Harvey said. “In Coach (Tom) Nola's words, I'm one of the best linemen on the team. I'm not scared of no one. I'm not the biggest guy, but I got a heart.”
Having the ability to win a game is one thing. Clairton expects to win every week and has been in this game each of the last four seasons. That experience might be the most difficult thing for the Bucks to overcome.
“We're playing well right now, but we have a great task in front of us,” Henzes said. “We're going to play a team that has won 62 games in a row, and we watched them on tape, and they're extremely athletic and extremely fast, which is a great concern.”
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.