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Clairton Bears gearing up drive for 5

| Monday, July 16, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

It might be nearly a month before WPIAL football teams can officially practice in pads and 46 days before the regular season begins, but four-time defending Class A champion Clairton already believes it's ready for opening night.

“We've already been doing a lot of practicing ourselves, 7-on-7 and things like that,” Clairton senior receiver Titus Howard said. “I think we're ready for the season right now, especially with the way we played down in Texas.”

That would be at the Red Bull Game Breakers 7-on-7 tournament, played Thursday and Friday in Dallas. Clairton was the lone WPIAL participant and made it out of the opening round-robin portion before losing to Arlington (Texas) in the quarterfinals.

Clairton had a nice bonding trip just to get to the event. The Bears had to travel to Cleveland on Wednesday to catch their flight to Dallas.

Though the finish was a bit of a disappointment — the Bears made it into the 2011 championship before they lost to Arlington Martin ­— the experience of playing against some of the best teams from around the country will help as they prepare to become only the second team to win five consecutive WPIAL titles.

“It was way different from last year's experience ... because we were able to do a little bit of bragging, but it is what it is,” Clairton senior running back Tyler Boyd said.

Clairton will step onto the field for its 2012 season opener against Chartiers-Houston on Aug. 31 carrying a nation's best and WPIAL-record 47-game winning streak. If the Bears remain undefeated and win their fifth consecutive WPIAL Class A championship, they will tie Braddock's record of consecutive outright titles set from 1955-59 and break the all-time state record of 59 straight victories set by Central Bucks West from 1997-2000.

This also will be a team in transition, especially at quarterback, where senior Armani Ford will get the starting nod. Ford was the backup to Capri Thompson in 2011 but saw extensive playing time in mop-up duty.

Clairton won 10 of its 16 games last season with a 35-point mercy rule running clock in effect in the second half and posted nine shutouts. But, Boyd said, defense could be a concern heading into training camp.

“Our offense is really clicking, but our defense is the shaky part,” Boyd said. “The offense was doing great and ... I just think playing down there is really going to help us show our athletic talent because we're playing against better players.”

Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kbarnes@tribweb.com or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1977.

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