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Monessen looks to end Clairton's win streak in Black Hills battle

| Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Monessen's Chavas Rawlins breaks up a pass intended Brentwood's Mike Andrews during the game on Friday September 7, 2012. Monessen wins, 35-28. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Monessen's Javon Brown races past Brentwood defenders on a 85-yard kick return TD during the game on Friday September 7, 2012. Monessen wins, 35-28. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Monessen's Clintell Gillaspie takes a pass and turns it into a 88-yard TD play during a game at Brentwood on Friday September 7, 2012. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Clairton running back Tyler Boyd breaks away during a game against California on Sept. 14, 2012. Ronald Vezzani Jr./ for the Daily News
Clairton quarterback Armani Ford looks for room to run during a game against California on Sept. 14, 2012. Ronald Vezzani Jr./ for the Daily News
Armani Ford steps under center for Clairton during a game against California on Sept. 14, 2012. Ronald Vezzani Jr./ for the Daily News

This is how it all began.

Four years ago, on Sept. 11, 2009, Clairton was coming off a shocking 15-8 upset at Laurel when it took the field in its home opener against Monessen. All the Bears did was roll the Greyhounds, 46-0, for the first victory in their WPIAL-record 50-game winning streak.

Now the teams will meet for the first time since what has become a signature night in WPIAL history at 7 p.m. Thursday on Root Sports. Though the venue may have changed, the teams certainly know what will be on the line when Class A No. 1 Clairton (3-0, 3-0) and No. 4 Monessen (3-0, 3-0) renew their rivalry in a Black Hills Conference showdown.

“Monessen and Clairton, that's been going on forever and, (though) we haven't seen them in a while, their streak started here and we're aware of it,” Monessen coach Andy Pacak said.

“You almost have to pay homage to what's been accomplished here by coach (Tom) Nola and the kids. … And to me, it's the greatest accomplishment I've seen in my lifetime in high school athletics.”

That said, Monessen would like nothing more than to end that run in front of both its home fans and a live television audience.

And the one thing the Greyhounds have to do is move on from respecting the streak and avoid getting caught up in it.

“I would never say anything about specific schools or anything like that, but this is Monessen, and our tradition in athletics doesn't take a back seat to anybody's in football or basketball,” Pacak said. “You have to say that they're on a great roll and everything like that, but we're going to play them.”

Clairton joined Monessen in an elite circle of schools last week with its victory over California as it became only the ninth WPIAL school and the first from Allegheny County to win its 600th game. When the teams meet, they will have more wins between them (1,232) than any two Class A schools that have ever played in WPIAL history. They also have combined to win 11 WPIAL titles in various classifications.

And just because they haven't played in three years doesn't mean these teams don't perceive themselves as rivals.

“We see it as a rivalry game, and we know we have to go out there and beat them,” Clairton senior Titus Howard said. “I never thought of them being the first team we beat, but it is kind of special.”

Howard is one of Clairton's three Division I prospects. He has committed to Pitt as a defensive back, Terrish Webb will attend Kent State as a wide receiver and running back Tyler Boyd, the reigning WPIAL rushing and scoring leader, likely will be a receiver once he decides from more than 25 offers.

Monessen will counter with quarterback/defensive back Chavas Rawlins, who has the game-breaking speed that could challenge Clairton's quick defensive backfield. The Bears are ready for whatever challenge the West Virginia recruit has in store, Howard said.

“It's going to be a battle, and we're going to be going at it,” Howard said. “I know that I have to go out there and play him tough because he's a Division I prospect just like me. I know he's going to throw a couple my way, and I have to be ready for it.”

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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