Clairton puts 66-game winning streak on line vs. Monessen
Tom Nola is so used to being asked about “the streak” that he often brings up the subject first when he is talking to a sports writer.
“To win 66 games in a row, I mean, I'm sure it has been done before. But to me, it is just unbelievable,” Nola said. “Whenever I think about it, I am just amazed at what these kids have done. I just shake my head when I think about it. Not only do we play in a tough conference, but we play against good teams in the playoffs, too. And we have beaten them all. That is something.”
The first team Clairton beat to start “the streak” five years ago was Monessen. The Bears posted a 46-0 win at home in the second week of the 2009 season.
The Bears (3-0, 3-0) host the Greyhounds (2-1, 2-1) in a battle of Black Hills Conference rivals Friday night.
The only thing that kept this game from being a battle of unbeatens was Monessen's stunning 49-33 loss to Fort Cherry last week.
“As we were hearing the scores from that game, we couldn't help but think they had to be thinking ahead to this game,” Nola said of the Greyhounds. “Monessen has got a really good football team.”
And so do the Bears.
However, after losing so many key players from last year's team, including several Division I players, this Clairton team is much younger than the one that torched Monessen, 52-7, a year ago.
Nola uses the streak as a motivational tool in dealing with this youthful bunch of Bears.
“We tell them this is their streak now,” he said. “We tell them that if it is going to continue, its up to them to keep it going. They are not intimidated by the streak. They thrive on it.”
Monessen coach Andy Pacak also admits to be being in awe of “the streak.”
“To win 66 games in a row is a testament to the kids who wear that uniform and the guys who coach them,” Pacak said. “They have just done an amazing job.”
Two of the key new Bears are sophomore quarterback Aaron Mathews and freshman tailback Lamont Wade.
“They are young, but they are the next big stars around here,” Nola said. “They are talented kids.”
In last week's 32-7 win over California, Mathews ran 48 yards for one score and threw for another, while Wade rushed for 109 yards.
For the season, Mathews has completed 11 of 19 passes for 195 yards and two TDs. He has rushed for another 192 yards and two more scores.
Wade is the team's leading rusher with 346 yards on 31 carries with five TDs.
But with all that young talent, there are mistakes.
“We as coaches try to get them in the best position to succeed,” Nola said. “But sometimes they don't always do what they are coached to do. And that will be the key against Monessen. They need to do the things they are taught to do for us to win. We can't make mistakes.”
Nola is well aware of the abilities of the Greyhounds.
“We think that (Clintell” Gillaspie is their best player, but we know they have a lot of other good players like (Justice) Rawlins and (Javon) Brown.”
Pacak said the one thing any team can't do against Clairton is make mistakes.
“Whenever you put blood in the water,” he said, “sharks will come. You can guarantee if you turn it over, they will make it hurt you.”
Pacak said the keys to being the team to beat Clairton are first, to control the ball, and then to actually believe you can win.
“The teams who have stayed close with them have had some success with the football,” Pacak said. “The more you have it, the less opportunity they have to score.
“And I don't care how much or how well you coach your kids. The team that beats them is going to have to believe they can win.”
Does Pacak believe Monessen — the team that started the streak — can end it?
“If we didn't think we could win, we wouldn't bother going there,” he said.
Of course, actually winning the game is another matter.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.