Clairton's streak hits 55 with bizare win
There is the mercy rule, and then there is mercy. Serra Catholic received both Friday.
Clairton coach Tom Nola, concerned that his starters could harm Serra players, removed his first-string players with 4 minutes, 25 seconds left in the first quarter of a bizarre 41-0 victory at Neil C. Brown Stadium.
“I took my guys out early because I didn't want to see anyone get hurt out there,” said Nola, whose team extended its nation's-best winning streak to 55 games. “I mean, some of their guys were already getting hurt. I didn't want to see that anymore.”
Nola was referring to the game's signature play. Clairton's lead was a comfortable 15-0 when star senior Tyler Boyd produced a touchdown jaunt that was memorable for many reasons.
Boyd ran toward the left sideline — as the play was designed — and found little room. So, he changed direction and sprinted all the way to the opposite sideline.
As Boyd was running toward the Clairton (8-0, 8-0) sideline, three Serra (0-8, 0-8) players were injured on three separate. clean but extremely vicious blocks.
“I've never seen anything quite like that,” Boyd said.
Boyd jogged the final 30 yards of the 42-yard touchdown run.
And at that point, Nola had seen enough.
“The Serra people are my friends,” he said. “I don't want to embarrass anyone out there, and I don't want people getting hurt. I didn't want my top players to get such little playing time, but I felt like I didn't have a choice. It was the right thing to do.”
Boyd touched the ball only twice all game, scoring touchdowns on each occasion. He also recorded a 72-yard punt return for a score.
He immediately picked up on the uncomfortable nature of the blowout.
“We really didn't even practice much all week because we knew this was going to happen,” Boyd said. “We never take teams lightly, but this really wasn't even a game. We didn't even want to be out there, to be honest. And we didn't want anyone getting hurt.”
Before the game, Serra requested that the contest be played with a running clock. The WPIAL ruled against the idea.
However, following a first quarter that included Clairton taking a 28-0 lead and four Serra players leaving with injuries, an odd ruling was made.
Both coaches agreed to play eight-minute quarters for the rest of the game instead of traditional 12-minute quarters.
Serra, in an attempt to avoid injury and keep the clock running, ran up the middle on almost every play and punted and kicked every ball out of bounds on purpose following Boyd's first-quarter punt return.
“Just a weird game out there tonight,” Boyd said. “Wasn't even a game, really.”
Clairton senior Titus Howard, a Pitt recruit, threw two of the game's biggest hits and started the scoring on Clairton's first play by hauling in a 38-pass from quarterback Armani Ford.
Howard's score began a trend.
Clairton posted touchdowns the first six times in touched the ball, including on each of its first five offensive plays and Boyd's punt return. Serra did not record a tackle in the first half; Clairton took a knee on the final two plays.
“You don't really get better in games like these,” Nola said. “But that's just the way it is. We still had to play, but we don't want to embarrass people.”
The victory gave Clairton its second shutout. Nola's team has not lost since the season opener in 2009 against Laurel and hasn't been defeated at home since 2005.
Serra finishes the season against Bishop Canevin next week. Clairton will host a talented Imani Christian team.
“They have really good skill position guys,” Nola said.
“It will be more of a test against them.”
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1975.