Clairton football seniors seek another title
When the Clairton football players stepped into the locker room after its 44-12 win over Port Allegany in the PIAA Class A semifinals, they were given an individually packaged Hershey's bar.
It was a symbolic gift that every Bears player probably knew a year ago that they would get this week. They had set their sights on returning to Hershey to play in their fifth consecutive state championship game, and the candy was only a small, sweet reward for pulling within striking distance of becoming only the second team to win four consecutive PIAA Class A state titles.
“I think this year is kind of bigger because this is my senior year, and it's going to mean more to me that it's the last game I'm going to be playing with my bros,” Clairton wide receiver Terrish Webb said. “Those guys are like my family, so we want to win it all.”
Only Southern Columbia, the team Clairton dispatched in the finals in 2011, has won four straight championships. The Tigers, in fact, won five straight from 2002-06. Berwick won four consecutive state Class AAA titles from 1994-97.
Clairton (15-0) will be trying to close out the greatest four-year run in state history. The Bears head into their game at 1 p.m. Friday at Hersheypark Stadium against District 2 champion Dunmore (14-1) riding a state-record and national-best 62-game winning streak.
Even more important is that this senior class has lost only one game — the first game of its freshman year — and the group wants to close out their careers with a victory.
“This means a lot,” senior quarterback Armani Ford said. “This is my first year starting at quarterback, and the team put its trust in me and put it on my back, and now, we're going to Hershey.”
This won't be the first time Clairton has faced a District 2 team in the state finals during its run. In 2010, Riverside gave the Bears all they could handle as they fell behind, 24-0, in the second quarter before a then-relatively unknown Tyler Boyd broke a 30-yard run on a busted play to set up the team's first touchdown.
He then caught a 37-yard touchdown from Desimon Green before the end of the half and hooked up with Green for an 82-yard scoring pass on the third play of the second half to help storm back for a 36-30 victory.
Since that game, Boyd has become one of the most desirable college prospects in the WPIAL. Over the past two seasons, he's scored 97 touchdowns to give him 116 in his career and break the all-time record of 110 set by Hopewell's Rushel Shell from 2008-11. His 5,638 yards place him sixth on the WPIAL's all-time rushing list, 111 behind McGuffey's Jason Barr.
Still, he knows better than anyone that a candy bar just isn't going to cut it for this particular group of players. They want the brass ring, and after winning in their past three trips, they know what to do to make it happen.
“This is the best feeling because we're seniors, and we know what it takes,” Boyd said. “There might be adversity to get there, but everybody is in here stepping it up and making plays.”
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1977.