Clairton's nation-best winning streak snapped at 66
The streak is finally over.
And it ended with an unimaginable whimper.
Clairton's 66-game winning streak — the nation's longest streak and the longest in state history — ended at Neil C. Brown Stadium on Friday with a 42-24 loss to Monessen.
This marks Clairton's first loss since Sept. 4, 2009, against Laurel. Coincidentally, the Bears' winning streak began the next week in a blowout victory against Monessen.
“I think this just goes to show how incredible our streak was,” an emotional Clairton coach Tom Nola said.
“We played bad, and Monessen was great. But I'm proud of what we did and of what the team accomplished.”
The tables finally turned in what had been a one-sided rivalry as the king of Class A football was dominated almost from the opening kickoff.
Clairton's starting quarterback, sophomore star Aaron Mathews, played with an injured ankle and was immobile to the point that Monessen's defense simply teed off on him on nearly every passing attempt.
There was a clear sense, however, that even had Mathews been healthy, this was Monessen's night.
The No. 9 Greyhounds (3-1, 3-1) simply dominated every facet of the Black Hills Conference game. In particular, Monessen manhandled No. 9 Clairton (3-1, 3-1) at the line of scrimmage the way perhaps no team has at any point during Nola's 11-year run as coach.
Clairton moved the ball well on its first drive of the game, threatening to score before Mathews fumbled a snap and Monessen recovered.
“That was the play that killed us,” Nola said. “It changed everything.”
The Bears never recovered.
Monessen used a methodical, 85-yard drive to take the lead for good. Running back Clintell Gillaspie scored on a 2-yard plunge to give the Greyhounds a 6-0 advantage.
Gillaspie was one of two Monessen's stars on this night.
He and senior wideout Javon Brown had their way with a Clairton defense that looked, of all things, slow. The Bears are known for their speed but were helpless as Brown returned a second-quarter punt for a touchdown to make it 14-0.
Gillaspie later scored on a 69-yard screen pass to put the game out of reach. The running back simply bullied Clairton all night and was easily the finest player on the field. Gillaspe finished with 163 yards on 13 carries and 155 receiving yards on three catches.
He scored four touchdowns.
“What a player,” Monessen coach Andy Pacek said.
“And what a game. I'm very proud, but at the same time, it's bittersweet because I have so much respect for what Clairton did.”
Clairton is the four-time defending state champion and the five-time defending WPIAL champion. The Bears had rarely been threatened during that stretch, their only truly close call coming against Rochester in the 2010 WPIAL title game.
There was nothing close about this game as Monessen dominated from start to finish, sending a stunned Clairton crowd to the exits long before the contest was over.
Clairton tried to rally in the fourth quarter as Vance Allen returned a kickoff for a touchdown and Jimmy Hines hauled in a pass from Mathews, who missed most of the game but returned for the fourth quarter.
But it was too little, far too late.
“Now it's over,” Nola said. “It never really happens, but we lost to a better team tonight.”