Clairton headed for more than one historic stop this season
A 15-8 loss at Laurel remains a memory for members of the Clairton football fraternity.
That momentous day was the turning point for the Bears' fortunes.
Since that 2009 upset, Clairton has grown into a perennial postseason contender in the smallest classification in the state that has a national audience looking at its results on various websites every week. That's what happens when a team strings together a nation-best 47-game winning streak and sets the all-time WPIAL record for consecutive victories with a win in the state championship.
Not only are high school football fans across the country tuned into the Bears' tear, but alumni have returned to support the team, both in person and through social media.
“I love it because I know the way our city is, we don't get a lot of recognition and we're always looked at like we have a bad environment,” said Kevin Weatherspoon, a 2010 graduate who plays at Pitt. “So when you see things like that, it gives us a bit of a (lift) and lets everyone know we're going well.”
And it's not like this has been done with the same group of players. Leaders have come and gone and the torch has been passed, from Weatherspoon to California (Pa.) University freshman Desimon Green to its current bearer, Tyler Boyd yet all of them knew going in what it was like to carry the Clairton standard Friday nights.
“Everyone knows who's going to be the next great one and who's going to stand out every year,” Green said. “It went from Kevin to me and Tyler, but everyone knows and you can see it and you can tell that, in the big games, they're going to step up.”
Those three players were key components in Clairton winning four consecutive WPIAL Class A championships, making it to the past four state finals and winning three straight PIAA Class A championships. But that is the most recent group of outstanding athletes to have passed through the program.
There is a deep tradition at the school that is often overlooked because of the current run. The Bears have one nine WPIAL titles, beginning with the first in 1929. If the streak holds and Clairton wins its first three games this season, not only will it extend its winning streak to 50, but Sept. 14 in its home opener against California, it will also become only the ninth current WPIAL program to post a 600th victory.
“I think that it's really just an attitude that starts early in Clairton with the little league program and it just carries on,” said Clairton defensive coordinator Wayne Wade, a 1990 alumnus. “It's just an attitude that, I wouldn't say a powerhouse, but people in Clairton, they love football and the kids love to play and love to win and it's a little bit contagious.”
Don't forget competitive. Each graduating class over the past four years has had a major accomplishment to its credit and the stakes have gone up exponentially, from winning a WPIAL title to winning a state title to finishing a perfect season to setting the all-time WPIAL record for consecutive victories.
Now, the Class of 2013 has two goals. It can reach 600 wins in Week 3 and, if it finishes the regular season undefeatedv and wins the WPIAL title at Heinz Field, it will notch its 60th consecutive victory to eclipse the current state mark set by Central Bucks West from 1997-2000.
“If we do that, it would be the greatest accomplishment in Clairton history,” Boyd said. “It would mean that our class is the best class.”
Though the wins and championships are important to the players, the galvanizing force of those victories on the city has not been lost on the players. For a struggling community, the winning streak and state titles have been a unifying factor, a common ground that has been a bright spot for an area known more for being a victim of the economic downturn.
“This has been good because it's one of the best accomplishments that's going on here in Clairton right now,” Boyd said. “Everything seems to be bad, and you don't hear about too much good. But everybody likes the football team, and they follow us because they know we're doing good things for the community.”
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.