Gorman: Clairton's streak ends with Monessen
Monessen always maintained the streak that started against the Greyhounds would end with them, as well.
Every season, that boast would ring hollow after another blowout loss.
Clairton didn't just own the longest active winning streak in the nation but the longest in Western Pennsylvania and state history, with five consecutive WPIAL Class A titles and four straight state championships.
The Bears owned Monessen, too, beating the 'Hounds by a combined 190-7 in the past four regular-season meetings.
It all ended Friday night at Neil C. Brown Stadium, where Clairton hadn't lost since 2005.
Monessen 42, Clairton 24.
You read that right.
The streak is over, at 66 games. As unbelievable as it is for you to see that score, it was just as unbelievable to watch.
And with an NBC Sunday Night Football camera crew there for a segment to be shown during the Bears-Steelers game.
There was Clairton, the most opportunistic team in the state, losing a fumble at the Monessen 10.
There was Clairton, once the most cocksure team in the state, squabbling on the sideline after giving up a first-quarter touchdown.
There was Clairton, the team that has recorded 33 shutouts and inflicted the mercy rule 45 times in the past four seasons, staring at a 28-0 fourth-quarter deficit.
And there was Monessen, looking a lot like Clairton of the past four years.
The Greyhounds recovered that Aaron Mathews fumble and marched 90 yards, scoring on Clintell Gillaspie's run. Javon Brown returned a punt 80 yards for another score, sprung by a crackback block that leveled a Clairton player.
By halftime, Monessen had a 14-point lead and a locker room full of pumped-up Greyhounds players who realized they were 24 minutes away from making history.
Monessen coaches stood outside, worrying that their players would waste precious energy by celebrating too soon.
But defensive backs coach Mike Blainefield was screaming, “First, we take the game. Then we take their heart. This game is not over yet. We're just warming up.”
Senior linebacker Justice Rawlins stood on a bench, shouting, “We're going out there down 14. That's the mentality. We need to keep that donut on the board.”
Soon after, Gillaspie turned a short pass into a 69-yard touchdown. And Irvin Green caught a 28-yarder from Noah Rullo for a 28-0 lead.
Clairton hadn't faced such a deficit since the 2010 PIAA final, when it trailed Taylor Riverside, 24-0, in the first half. Back then, the Bears turned to a talented sophomore named Tyler Boyd to rally for the win.
Boyd is now playing for Pitt, as are Trenton Coles, Titus Howard and Terrish Webb from those Bears.
This Clairton team has only one senior starter. Its hopes of continuing the streak rested on underclassmen, almost all of whom were untested.
But the secret to Clairton's success has been the succession of star players from the same families who have helped the Bears reload instead of having to rebuild.
The latest is Lamont Wade, whose family ties to the school stretch to the 1940s. His grandfather, the late Charles Wade, played for the Bears, as did his uncles and cousins, including Clairton defensive coordinator Wayne Wade, star of the 1989 WPIAL champions.
Whether it's a Wade or a Webb or a Williams, a Ford or a Howard or Thompson, these Bears carry on their family pride and legacy by playing football for Clairton.
“We're all born in Clairton,” said Lamont Wade, a 14-year-old freshman tailback. “It's either our dads played with each other or our uncles. It just keeps on going and going.
“We want to add our mark in history. Everybody said since the seniors left, the streak wouldn't extend.”
Unfortunately, they were right. The streak was bound to end sometime, and it did so at the hands of the team against which it started with in a 46-0 victory on Sept. 11, 2009.
With 3:22 left, PA announcer Jim Wessel read from a script he wrote at season's start:
“This has been an incredible run that may not be seen again in this area in some time, if ever. Congratulations to Monessen on the win and being the team to end the streak.”
Perhaps it was an ominous sign for Clairton that I walked into the stadium behind a man wearing a T-shirt that read, ‘You wish you were a Greyhound.' On this night, Monessen was the team to be, not the team to beat.