Gorman: Two sons, two playoff teams
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Never in his wildest dreams would Jason Jarrett have imagined that he would have two sons born four months apart, that they would attend different high schools and certainly not that they would be involved in two playoff games less than 18 hours apart on the same weekend.
Yet there Jarrett was Friday night at West Allegheny's Joe P. DeMichela Stadium, watching Devante Gardlock play for the Clairton Bears against Rochester in a WPIAL Class A semifinal. Today, Jarrett will watch Tyrique Jarrett play for the Allderdice Dragons against University Prep in the City League championship at Cupples Stadium on the South Side.
"No, I wouldn't have ever imagined this," Jason Jarrett, 40, said, "but I'm blessed that they are blessed to even have the opportunities they have. I would have never imagined having two kids with a chance to play for championships. It's harder to try to get them to realize how big this opportunity is. It's huge, you know. They're both seniors. That's what makes it so great. I'm really grateful for this weekend. I get a chance to see Devante's playoff game and Tyrique's championship game.
"I'm proud of them."
Theirs is a non-traditional family story, one bonded by football. Jason Jarrett was a star running back at Clairton in the late 1980s - his teammates called the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder Baby Herschel Walker - before suffering a knee injury against arch-rival Duquesne four games into his senior season. He played fullback at Slippery Rock, but never got his burst back.
Jarrett sees himself in his sons, says if you split them down the middle you would have their father. Devante, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound fullback-linebacker, serves as the emotional leader for Clairton and had a 13-yard sack that forced a fourth-quarter fumble as the Bears beat Rochester, 43-7, to clinch a fourth consecutive trip to Heinz Field for the WPIAL finals. Tyrique, a 6-3, 315-pound two-way lineman who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds, is trying to lead Allderdice to its first City title since 1967.
Devante and Tyrique lived together as kids, played their pee-wee football in Clairton and still spend their summers there. They spent only one season on the same team because Tyrique was too heavy and had to play in an older age group, starting as a 10-year-old on a team with players four years his senior.
Then Tyrique decided to stay with his mother, Tamara Harrell, in the West End, while Devante lived with their father in Clairton. Tyrique became a four-year starter for the Dragons, earned Division I football scholarship offers and made a verbal commitment earlier this fall to play for Pitt.
"It is bittersweet," Devante said. "I wanted him to come to play for Clairton, but he wanted to stay there. It's all right. I still support him, even though he doesn't play on the same team as me."
Jason Jarrett would have loved for his sons to play together. Instead, he alternates going to their games every other Friday, unless they play at different times or different days, like this weekend.
"I've got to take turns," Jarrett said. "It doesn't matter how big the game is. If I go to one's game, the next week I go to see the other one. It makes it rough because you want to see both of your kids play.
"That was something I had hoped for, them playing together at Clairton. Tyrique actually was a missing piece for these guys because he played with them coming up. If we had Tyrique, I would practically guarantee another state championship. Everything seemed to work out for him."
Tyrique had a hard time swallowing the success Clairton was having, as the Bears are riding a 43-game winning streak that includes three consecutive WPIAL championships and back-to-back PIAA titles. He contemplated transferring to Clairton, where he could play with Devante and their stepbrother, Tyler Boyd - whose mother, Tonya Payne, is married to Jason Jarrett - and relive the backyard football days of their childhood.
It made Tyrique more determined to lead Allderdice to a City championship.
"This is the last year I would have been able to play with him," Tyrique said. "I definitely did think about it. I wanted to, but at the same time I couldn't leave my team like that. You make a commitment, and you don't want to break that bond. We wanted to do our thing here, win that championship.
"Now that we're there, we're going to cherish that moment."
So will his father and brothers.
There's always room for another championship in the family.
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