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Clairton underclassmen have big shoes to fill next season

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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Clairton's Brandon Murphy eludes Dunmore's Mike Boland during the third quarter of the PIAA Class A state championship game Friday Dec. 14, 2012 in Hershey.
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By Keith Barnes
Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, 8:02 p.m.
 

For most of the season, the Clairton seniors had their eyes focused on 60 consecutive victories.

It was a lofty goal, one that would break the all-time state record of 59 set by Central Bucks West from 1997-2000.

Once the Bears reached 60 — in a 58-21 victory over Sto-Rox in the WPIAL Class A championship game at Heinz Field — they reset their sights on finishing with 63 consecutive wins and ending their high school careers with their fourth state championship.

Mission accomplished.

Now those players can walk away knowing they ended their careers with a fourth consecutive PIAA Class A championship thanks to a 20-0 win over District 2 champion Dunmore and, more importantly, with the streak intact.

“We definitely didn't want to be the one to have the streak snapped,” Clairton senior Robert Boatright said. “(The coaches) beat that into our head.”

Now that the Class of 2013 finished with a record of 63-1, with their only loss a 15-8 defeat at Laurel in the first game of their freshman year, the seniors can walk away knowing they did something no team in Pennsylvania ever accomplished.

But because of that lone defeat, they also left the returning Clairton players something to shoot for next season — 64-0.

“You always want to keep it positive, and we've got to keep the streak going,” junior running back Brandon Murphy said. “We can't be the ones our senior year to lose the streak, so we've got to go hard all year.”

This junior class has never lost a game, and the players will enter next season with a record of 48-0 with three state championships. And, as that loss to Laurel motivated the current crop of seniors, extending the nation's longest current winning streak will be the carrot dangling in front of the Class of 2014.

If they can finish next season undefeated, the Bears will extend their streak to 79 games and become only the second team (Southern Columbia 2002-06) to win five consecutive state titles.

“We want to just get better, and we just want to keep going,” junior defensive end JoJuan Bray said. “Everything we do is a big story, so we just want to keep going for the city and, most likely, everything is going to go good next year.”

It's not only the returning juniors who have a stake in this. No player who will be on next season's roster has lost a high school game, and they really don't want to know what that feels like, they said.

“We just have to get the younger guys that didn't start this year to get them on track with what's going on, which is a lot of preparation and a lot of dedication,” sophomore center Vance Gibson said. “I don't know what's going happen if we lose.”

Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kbarnes@tribweb.com or 412-664-9161, Ext. 1977.

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