Clairton seniors trying to better marks of previous classes
For the past four years, the Clairton senior classes have been playing a game of one-upmanship with the ones that came before.
In 2008, the team won the WPIAL Class A championship game but lost in the state finals. In 2009, the Bears lost their season opener against Laurel, then ran the table with 15 consecutive victories that brought the school its first PIAA Class A title.
Not to be outdone, the 2010 Clairton team finished the season 16-0 and capped things off with a second consecutive state championship. Then the 2011 Bears ended their careers by capping a second consecutive perfect season by breaking Braddock's WPIAL record for consecutive victories and extended their nation-best winning streak to 47 games.
It left a tough chore for the Class of 2013, but there are still worlds to conquer. If the Bears go undefeated through the regular season and cap off the WPIAL playoffs with a victory at Heinz Field in the championship game, they will have won 60 in a row and break Central Bucks West's state record of 59 consecutive wins and tie Braddock for the most consecutive outright WPIAL titles.
“There's just a feeling that the next class has to do better than the previous class at something,” Clairton coach Tom Nola said. “Now this class, it's going to be hard to beat 16-0 and the WPIAL (consecutive wins) record, but now they want to set the state record.”
It's not like Clairton doesn't have the players to make it happen. The Bears return 2011 WPIAL rushing leader Tyler Boyd to lead an offense that has scored an average of 44.2 points per game during its winning streak, but the team will be breaking in a new quarterback and could use a tandem setup with seniors Armani Ford and Bryon Clifford splitting time.
Not only will Boyd be relied upon to carry a significant load on his shoulders, he's being showered with scholarship offers from some of the top Division I colleges.
“Teenagers like the attention, but when the time comes he'll make the right decision,” Nola said. “It's hard for him to pick, but I know he's got some frontrunners.”
Even if the offense falters a bit, the Clairton defense has been a stalwart, allowing only 188 points (4 per game) and posting shutouts in 27 of its last 47 games. It will be led by senior cornerback Titus Howard, a Pitt recruit. Defense, though, might be a problem for the Bears because this is a largely inexperienced batch of players still learning the intricacies of playing on that side of the ball.
“Coach Wayne Wade does a very good job preparing the defense, and I'm sure he'll do another good job with that,” Nola said. “But part of the Clairton mindset is that defense is what we do the best and they'd rather hit somebody than score a touchdown. They love playing defense. They really do”
Still, despite the fact this team has been so dominant, it plays with a fear of failure.
This current group of seniors has only one loss on its résumé, that 15-8 loss at Laurel, and the seniors don't want to add another.
“They've got a lot of confidence, and it's not really overconfidence, but they just believe that they can beat anybody,” Nola said. “And the seniors, they still use that game against Laurel, the first game when they were freshmen, as motivation.”