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Frazier prepares for tough test against Clairton

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 11:39 p.m.
Frazier's Charles Manack (11) evades Mapletown's defense during Frazier's game on Friday, Oct. 26, 2012 at Commodore Stadium in Perryopolis. Lori C. Padilla | For the Daily Courier
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

There probably aren't many people giving the Frazier football team much of a chance in Friday's first-round WPIAL Class A playoff game against Clairton. But that's just fine with Frazier coach Mike Steeber.

“I think the kids know that they've faced challenges before and they've faced doubters before and they've come out ahead,” Steeber said. “I think that could help us.”

The 16th-seeded Commodores (7-2) will likely need all the help they can get. After all, the top-seeded Bears (9-0) have won the last three Class A state championships and the last four WPIAL Class A titles. Clairton has also won 56 games in a row and has outscored its opponents this season, 431-62.

“They are a very good football team,” Steeber said. “Offensively, they have a lot of weapons and they play with confidence.”

The Bears (9-0) feature senior quarterback Armani Ford, who has completed 40 of 59 passes for 1,042 yards and 13 touchdowns. Senior Terrish Webb (17 receptions, 432 yards, 5 TDs) has been Ford's top target. Clairton is equally impressive on the ground, with senior running back Tyler Boyd (102 carries, 1,316 yards, 22 TDs) leading the way.

Frazier's defense will no doubt be tested, but the Commodores are hoping that their offense can also provide a challenge for the Bears.

Junior quarterback Charles Manack made the switch from tight end to signal-caller and has had a big season, completing 112 of 182 passes for 1,657 yards and 20 touchdowns. Senior Jaime Fell (42 receptions, 773 yards, 9 TDs) has caused a lot of problems for opposing secondaries, and he has been complemented nicely by junior Michael Luce (29 receptions, 399 yards, 3 TDs). Junior running backs Chaise Bertocci (71 carries, 481 yards, 3 TDs) and Zachary Mastowski (25 carries, 368 yards, 4 TDs) have provided production out of the backfield.

While the Commodores enter the game as serious underdogs, they also come in with plenty of confidence. After a somewhat rocky start that likely cost them a chance at a home playoff game, the Commodores have won four in a row.

“We've cleaned up our play,” Steeber said. “Early in the season, we were sloppy, but we've put together a nice string of wins and hopefully we can carry that into the postseason.”

The challenge facing Frazier is great, but the Commodores have won games many didn't expect them to win this season, including a 21-14 victory over Beth-Center in Week 7.

It was the Bulldogs' only loss of the season. Earning big regular-season wins could help in a heightened situation like the playoffs, and so could playoff experience.

After a long drought, the Commodores have now qualified for the postseason for the second year in a row.

“Last year's playoff experience could be big,” Steeber said. “It could go a long way for our team. We have a lot of young kids that are getting a lot of excellent experience, and they've really turned the corner. It's a big challenge (against Clairton), but we're not asking why, we're asking why not.”

Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com or 724-626-3534.

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