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Bears return to Clairton with 4th football title

| Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, 1:24 a.m.
Members of the Clairton Bears football team celebrate at Neil C. Brown Stadium in Clairton Friday evening after winning the PIAA Single A Championship game on Friday in Hershey, Pa. Ronald Vezzani Jr.| Daily News
Clairton Bears Head Coach Tom Nola thanks the crowd for their support upon the teams return from Hershey after winning the winning the PIAA Single A Championship game on December 14, 2012. Ronald Vezzani Jr.| Daily News
Hundreds of fans lined the the street outside Neil C. Brown Stadium in Clairton Friday evening to greet the Clairton Bears football team upon their return after winning the PIAA Singe A Championship game in Hershey on December 14, 2012. Ronald Vezzani Jr.| Daily News

Nearly half of Clairton's population awaited their football team's arrival on Friday night outside Neil C. Brown Stadium.

Coaches and players arrived in the City of Prayer with medals around their necks, smiles on their faces, and a trophy held high after winning their fourth straight PIAA championship at Hersheypark Stadium.

“We're elated,” coach Tom Nola said as he walked through the crowd of 400-500 fans. “This is the most we've ever had up here. This is the best one. (The ride) to (Hershey) was the same (as previous years). (The trip) back home was a little bit more fun.”

Nola's Bears defeated the Dunmore Bucks 20-0, extending their winning streak to 63 straight games.

The team arrived at the stadium via a parade led by Clairton police and firefighters. Excitement began building within the stadium area at 8 p.m. and crescendoed around 10 o'clock with the Bears' arrival.

Louise Florenz, a 1998 Clairton graduate, made the trek to and from Hershey with her son, daughter, aunt and nephew. All had on their state champion T-shirts.

“It's very good for them,” Florenz said. “It's what everybody makes of it ... I've not missed a game since we've gone to states five years ago. The first year we lost, the last four years we've won. It's something for the kids to look up to. They were there with the history.”

Ta'Vaugh Moody, 8, is the younger brother of senior player Vincent Moody.

Ta'Vaugh, a running back for one of Clairton's midget football teams, said his brother plays perfectly, and he plans on being a future football star.

“Next year (I want to) be the king,” Ta'Vaugh said. “I'm faster than everybody.”

Resident Carla Owens, 43, said she has not missed a game in the past 11 years.

Owens, whose three children are Clairton grads, grew up in Clairton, as well.

“This is home,” she said. “I'm ecstatic. If I could I'd do a back flip and a split, but right now that ain't happening.”

Owens said the city comes together not just for the football team, but for its neighbors.

“Even though we might argue and fight, we stand behind each other and we got each other's back,” Owens said. “That's what makes it worth coming back home to. There's no place like home.”

Signs saying “Congratulations State Champions Clairton Bears” and a “Bear Country” poster signed by various alumni decorated both sides of Miller Avenue.

Renee Radlien, a 1981 graduate, was one of the people who signed the poster.

“We've always had pretty thorough football and basketball teams,” Radlien said. “This streak here is awesome. I am so proud of these young boys. They've come a long way with their attitude and their grades. I think it's just an awesome thing to see such a positive thing for the city, and see them excel so well.”

“These kids here brought us to new heights,” Mayor Rich Lattanzi said. “As of right now everybody's concentrating on good, what they did, winning and how professional they are. I don't expect any problems. I just look at all the unity here, black and white. Everyone's enjoying what they did, and that's a big part of the city.”

Nola said he plans to have the team make a return to Hershey next year for a fifth state championship.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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