Clairton wins 4th straight PIAA title
HERSHEY — A long list of contributors has helped sustain Clairton's record-setting run, a spectacular span that now includes 63 victories and a fourth consecutive state title.
Add Armani Ford's name near the top.
The senior quarterback threw one touchdown and ran for another in Friday afternoon's 20-0 victory over Dunmore in front of 3,851 fans at Hersheypark Stadium where the Bears became the first WPIAL team to win four PIAA Class A championships. The victory earned Clairton (16-0) its third straight perfect record, and each of those teams had a different starting quarterback.
This time Ford led with little fanfare.
The stars were Tyler Boyd, who scored his 117th career touchdown, and Terrish Webb, who had another 100-yard receiving game. The Bears' undersized linemen were also outstanding against a much larger opponent.
But Ford, who watched last year's title game mostly from the sideline, quarterbacked three scoring drives and two others that reached double digits in plays.
“We won a state championship,” Webb said, “so you've got to give Armani some credit.”
Ford deserves his share after completing 10 of 18 passes for 150 yards. He surpassed 2,000 yards for the season (2,008) and had 25 touchdown passes.
With 40 seconds until halftime, a 21-yard touchdown pass to Webb gave the Bears a 14-0 lead over Dunmore (14-2), the District 2 champion. When Ford ran 29 yards to the end zone in the fourth quarter, his touchdown sealed the victory with 4:06 left. It was a much-needed performance from a quarterback who peaked at just the right time.
“In August when we first started, we were unsure whether (Ford) would be the starter,” Clairton coach Tom Nola said. “He shared time at our passing camps and did well enough to be our starter. In the first few games he was inconsistent. But I guess as the season went along he got more confidence. ... At the end of the regular season he started playing really well. I guess it's just that confidence, where you know you can do it.”
Webb also helped Ford with a spectacular 13-yard catch along the sideline. Webb kept his foot inbounds while his momentum carried him out late in the fourth quarter. Ford scored his touchdown run on the next play.
Webb had seven catches for 100 yards. He caught two touchdown passes from Capri Thompson in last year's state title game, but Webb appreciated this victory more.
“I'm not going to say it's more important,” he said, “but it means more to me my senior year.”
Ford would say the same. He played only special teams a year ago when Clairton beat Southern Columbia in Hershey. For its two Hershey trips before that, Desimon Green was Clairton's starting quarterback.
“I wanted to be in there,” Ford said. “That motivated me.”
Boyd rushed for 117 yards on 20 carries and claimed fifth place on the WPIAL's career rushing list with 5,755 yards. The senior played with a sprained shoulder suffered last week, an injury that limited him in the second half against Dunmore. He left for a few plays in the third quarter after one particularly painful collision.
“My shoulder is killing me,” he said. “I was cool coming into the game, but I kept taking hits.”
Boyd scored a 5-yard touchdown run on Clairton's opening possession — a drive that had the Bears facing first-and-35 at their own 12. To escape, Ford threw 12 yards to Boyd, 10 yards to Webb and 16 yards to Webb on consecutive completions.
“We couldn't have done this without the entire team,” Boyd said. “One heartbeat — that's what we say every game.”
Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.