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Trio of signal-callers poised to lead Clairton offense

| Friday, Aug. 24, 2012, 1:46 a.m.
Clairton's Bryon Clifford is in a camp battle for the starting quarterback position. Ron Vezzani | For The Daily News
Clairton's Armani Ford is in a camp battle for the starting quarterback position. Ron Vezzani | For The Daily News

The names of recent quarterbacks in Clairton are almost as big as the school's football tradition.

A trio of players, though, isn't shying away from the pressure of being the signal caller for the team with a 47-game winning streak.

Armani Ford, Bryon Clifford and Tyler Boyd — yes, that Tyler Boyd — will all see time under center for the Bears.

Most coaches prefer one player to become the unanimous quarterback, but Clairton's Tom Nola seems at ease with this season's plan.

“Armani Ford is going to start our first game at quarterback because he's earned that, and because he's really been able to take control of the offense and the huddle,” Nola said. “But we're going to do a lot of different things.”

Here's how the Bears' quarterback situation figures to shake out:

Ford, who missed most of last season with an injured knee, will see the majority of snaps under center. He reminds Nola of last year's quarterback, Capri Thompson, in that he isn't an especially gifted athlete but that his intelligence and understanding of the offensive scheme make him the ideal player to run Clairton's powerful offense.

“He's really impressed me during camp,” Nola said. “He's gotten better and better. He's been better than I expected, to be honest. He can really play.”

Clifford, though, could play a significant role in Clairton's offense this season, and Nola isn't afraid to use the senior in any situation.

Although not as accurate as Ford, Clifford is a better runner. Assistant coach Eric Fusco calls him “electric, a deadly option quarterback.”

Clifford is convinced he is even more than just a good option quarterback.

“I pretty much feel like I can do it all,” Clifford said. “Yeah, I can run and we'll do the option. But I can put the ball in the air, too.”

Nola said that “everybody loves when there's only one quarterback,” but said he isn't troubled by the realization that no one has claimed the responsibility of handling 100 percent of the snaps. Rather, Nola feels like he simply has too many weapons at his disposal to use only one quarterback.

“Armani will see many of the snaps but whether he's struggling or not, Clifford is going to play some quarterback,” Nola said.

And then there is Boyd.

Being recruited as a wide receiver by schools such as UCLA, Michigan State, West Virginia, Penn State and Pitt, Boyd will see most of his time this season at running back.

Of course, Nola will make sure he gets snaps at quarterback, too.

“He's got the best arm on the team,” Nola said matter-of-factly of the player he has called “by far” the best Clairton player during his decade-long stint as head coach.

A wildcat package is in place for Boyd, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards last season. The catch is, he isn't always going to run out of that package.

“Not at all,” Nola said. “We'll have him throw a lot out of it. You watch. He's capable of being a great quarterback.”

Clairton is no stranger to those.

Starting with Andre Carr in 2004, Clairton's starting quarterbacks have been among the most prolific in school history. Leroy George, Andrew Currington, Troy Webb, Desimon Green and Thompson have all led Clairton to WPIAL titles under Nola.

“We'll be just fine,” Clifford said. “You'll see one guy in on one play, and then somebody else. And it's going to be hard to defend.”

Nola has two primary concerns entering the season: The conference is more difficult than any point over the past decade, and his offensive line is suspect.

The quarterback position, however, appears to be in good hands.

“They've all done well,” Nola said. “I'm confident in what they can do.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jyohe@tribweb.com.

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