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Clairton football moves into tougher neighborhood

| Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Move over, Clairton football: The WPIAL has decided it's time to spice up your schedule.

The Bears, along with Serra Catholic and Monessen, are out of the Class A Black Hills Conference, renamed the Ohio Valley Conference, and will compete in the Class A Eastern Conference in 2014-15, the WPIAL announced Tuesday.

Among the other new Eastern Conference teams are former Class AA powers Greensburg Central Catholic and Jeannette.

“They were good in AA, and they're both in the same conference as us. That's two good teams,” Clairton coach Tom Nola said.

In other moves, Yough joins the Class AAA Greater Allegheny from the Class AA Interstate and South Allegheny moves to the Class AA Century Conference from the Class AA Allegheny Conference.

Other regional teams in the Century are East Allegheny and Steel Valley.

Clairton's move to the Eastern coincides with Nola's decision to return to the team for a 13th season. He had been undecided until recently, but confirmed Tuesday his desire to continue coaching the Bears.

“It's a good conference,” he said of the revamped Eastern. “Those two teams will really make it a tough conference.”

WPIAL executive director Tom O'Malley said the league will be as competitive as any.

“There are four very good teams in this one,” O'Malley said, referring to Clairton, Greensburg CC, Jeannette and Monessen.

Clairton's other new conference opponents are Leechburg, Riverview, Springdale and Wilkinsburg.

“I actually thought it would be us, Monessen and GCC,” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said. “But I was a little surprised about Clairton.”

For years, the Bears had their way, winning a Pennsylvania high school record 66 consecutive games and finishing the 2013 season in a three-way tie for first place in the Black Hills with a record of 8-1 (10-2 overall).

The competition could become a bit more fierce beginning next season, and Nola hasn't been one to back down.

“Whatever it is or whatever came out of it, you can't change it and you don't have any say-so,” Nola said. “You play whoever you play. That's the way it is and that's the way it's always been. Nothing else matters.”

Four Black Hills members — Bishop Canevin, Brentwood, Chartiers-Houston and Fort Cherry — will remain together and compete in the newly named Ohio Valley. California moved to the Class A Tri-County, Carlynton goes to the Class AA Century and Imani Christian has dropped its program.

In Class AAA, Yough will move up from Class AA and compete in the Greater Allegheny with Franklin Regional, Gateway, Greensburg Salem, Hampton, Hollidaysburg, Indiana, Knoch and Mars.

In Class AA, Carlynton, East Allegheny, South Allegheny and Steel Valley will join Keystone Oaks, Quaker Valley, Seton-La Salle, South Fayette, South Park and Sto-Rox in the Century.

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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