Clairton's streak hits 66, but coach not happy after victory
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Clairton coach Tom Nola stood on the field in the moments after his team's 32-7 victory at California, his head down, his face expressionless.
One would have thought Clairton's nation-leading 66-game winning streak had come to an end.
It hadn't, of course, but perhaps a chunk of the Bears' invincibility had been taken.
Clairton (3-0, 3-0) struggled to move the ball all night, racked up more than 150 penalty yards and struggled in almost every facet against California.
Nola, rarely one to criticize his team, was extremely unhappy following the contest.
Clairton, with one senior in its starting lineup, is one of the WPIAL's youngest teams. Nola doesn't care anymore.
“You know,” he said, “I'm really, really tired of making excuses. I don't care if we're young or not. We're just making so many mistakes, the kind of mistakes that you can't make. It's time to stop making excuses for these guys and to start playing better football.”
Clairton's defense hasn't been a problem this year, as the seven points allowed against California (0-3, 0-3) mark the only seven points it has permitted in three contests this season.
The Bears offense, though, was shaky at best.
Nola was quick to give the Trojans some credit.
“That's a tough bunch of kids,” he said. “I thought they played really well.”
Clairton fell behind, 7-0, before scoring three unanswered touchdowns, all with starting quarterback Aaron Mathews running the show.
However, Mathews suffered an injury to his right ankle and did not return.
The sophomore is expected to be healthy for next week's showdown against Monessen and wanted to return. Nola and the Clairton coaching staff, however, vetoed Mathews' request to enter the game because the verdict seemed well in hand.
Clairton was never in danger of losing, but it never moved the ball smoothly after Mathews left.
Lamont Wade managed to rush for 109 yards and wideout Jimmy Hines caught two touchdown passes. Otherwise, the Clairton offense often went backward.
“I'm very proud of how we played tonight,” California coach Bo Teets said. “We played them tough. We made some mistakes, and you can't make any against a team like that. But we did some good things on defense.”
Although Clairton is young and the likes of Tyler Boyd no longer remain, Teets isn't buying the idea that Clairton is vulnerable.
The Bears are still the team to beat until they are beaten, he insists.
“They've won 66 games in a row for a reason,” Teets said. “That's still a good football team.”
The Clairton coaching staff was not pleased with the team's work in practice leading up to the game. Many coaches believed the Bears were distracted by the fact that rival Monessen is waiting on the schedule in Week 4.
Clairton's overall offensive performance simply wasn't close to its standard.
“We just made mistake after mistake,” Nola said. “I'm not happy. I wonder if we had more penalty yards than we had total yards. It was just a really bad game.”
Clairton produced 250 total yards of offense, far below its norm.
Harrison Dreher and the Clairton defense performed well.
Dreher, a sophomore, forced a fumble in the first quarter and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. He later caused a safety.
But on a night when little went smoothly for the four-time defending PIAA and WPIAL champions, Nola wasn't giving any of his units too much credit.
“We still missed plenty of defensive assignments,” he said.
Nola simply was happy to emerge with a victory.
“It's time to grow up,” he said. “We need to be much, much better than what we were tonight.”
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.
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