PIAA championship notebook: Injured Clairton receiver still plays a role in title game
HERSHEY — Titus Howard had been dreading this moment all week.
Clairton was walking from the locker room and about to take the field for the PIAA Class A championship game against Dunmore.
He found out Monday he wasn't cleared to play because of a dislocated left elbow suffered during a state quarterfinal game against Berlin-Brothersvalley.
Howard, though, dressed in sweats and his game jersey with his left arm tucked under in a sling, stepped to the front of the line and led the Bears onto the field. He also took his place with the team captains at midfield for the ceremonial coin flip.
“It meant a lot to me because I wasn't going to play in my last game, and they came to me and told me they wanted me to lead them out there,” Howard said. “That meant a lot to me and showed me these guys had my back no matter what.”
Another No. 6
Even though Howard didn't get into the game, his jersey did. Late in the first quarter, a Clairton player took the field wearing Howard's familiar No. 6.
It wasn't Howard, though, but fellow senior Robert Boatright, who was forced to switch jerseys when his No. 9 shirt ripped.
“He was out there making plays, and they were calling my name (on the public address) and everything,” Howard said. “He was out there doing his thing, and it did feel a little different, but as long as we won this game, it didn't matter how it feels.”
Howard wasn't the only one seeing his uniform number on someone else. Senior receiver Santeaun Sims had to do a double-take when he took the field and saw another player wearing No. 2 and standing on the sidelines.
There were no worries that he was going to be replaced at the start of the game since the guy wearing the jersey, Trenton Coles, graduated last spring after helping the Bears continue their torrid win streak.
“It's nice,” Coles said. “The last time I wore it, I was playing here.”
In fact, the last time he wore it, he was carried off the field with a knee injury suffered when he was run into while kicking an extra point late in the first half in the 2011 finals win over Southern Columbia. Coles, who was redshirted for his freshman year at Pitt, came back from the injury to win the 2012 WPIAL Class AA title in the 100 meters.
“They did it again,” Coles said. “That's all that counts.”
Boyd's injury scare
Tyler Boyd gave several college recruiters in attendance a scare when he went to the sideline grabbing his left shoulder with 3:57 remaining in the third quarter. Boyd stretched out for a pass from Armani Ford on fourth-and-21 and landed awkwardly.
Boyd immediately took off his pads and sat out the ensuing defensive possession. He stood on the sideline for the Bears next three offensive plays before he went out as the punter. He then took his normal place at free safety with the defensive unit.
Boyd said he is shutting himself down until he plays in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 5 in San Antonio. He will not play for the Bears basketball team until after that game.
Boyd finished his career fifth on the WPIAL's all-time rushing list with 5,755 yars and a WPIAL-record 117 touchdowns.
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.