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100 years of Clairton Bears

| Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, 2:36 p.m.
Members of the graduating classes from the 1960s pose for a picture during homecoming festivities in Clairton.
Members of the graduating classes from the 1960s pose for a picture during homecoming festivities in Clairton.
Ken Barna, Class of 1971, greets former football and basketball teammate Aaron Ellis, also Class of 1971, at Clairton's homecoming. Ellis resides in Parkersburg, W.Va.
Ken Barna, Class of 1971, greets former football and basketball teammate Aaron Ellis, also Class of 1971, at Clairton's homecoming. Ellis resides in Parkersburg, W.Va.
Clairton Mayor Richard Lattanzi, Class of 1992, welcomes back Tyler Boyd, Class of 2012.
Clairton Mayor Richard Lattanzi, Class of 1992, welcomes back Tyler Boyd, Class of 2012.
Clairton's alumnae Honey Bears perform during the parade at homecoming festivities.
Clairton's alumnae Honey Bears perform during the parade at homecoming festivities.
Cynthia Lukens, along with Clairton alumna Louise Florenz, Class of 1998, and future alumna Amanda Florenz, Class of 2018, head to Clairton's homecoming celebration with the next generation of Bears.
EMILY CARLSON | DAILY NEWS
Cynthia Lukens, along with Clairton alumna Louise Florenz, Class of 1998, and future alumna Amanda Florenz, Class of 2018, head to Clairton's homecoming celebration with the next generation of Bears.
Gary LeDonne, Class of 1952, and Mike Butler, Class of 1953, have their photo taken my fellow alum Minnie (Arnold) Marshall, Class of 1954, at Clairton's homecoming celebration.
EMILY CARLSON | DAILY NEWS
Gary LeDonne, Class of 1952, and Mike Butler, Class of 1953, have their photo taken my fellow alum Minnie (Arnold) Marshall, Class of 1954, at Clairton's homecoming celebration.

OK, so the 66-game-winning streak dating to 2009 ended two weeks ago.

In Clairton, two weeks, or even four years, is but a blink of the eye when you considers the high school's football program dates back a century.

The 100-year history was celebrated on Friday night by more than 200 alumni of Clairton High School, who returned for the Bears' homecoming game against the Brentwood Spartans.

Don Taylor, Class of '49, and Ed Caton, who graduated a year later, were the most senior alumni participating in the event, which started with a parade from the Clairton Education Center to Neil C. Brown Stadium just before game time.

Caton, who lives in Clairton, sang the Clairton Fight Song, a number known by more than a few in the stands.

Taylor noted the song is actually the same one sung at West Virginia University games. He said when Clairton residents go to see a Mountaineer game, it's like they're being serenaded.

“I'm proud of Clairton,” said Taylor, who taught history at the high school and organized the school's first homecoming in 1963. That event included a parade with lots of old convertibles dating back to the '20s and '30s, he recalled.

Friday's parade included a few sporty automobiles, shiny SUVs and slew of fire trucks. The private vehicles were marked to indicate the years and decades of graduates riding inside. A crowd lining Miller Avenue cheered the old-timers and the peewee footballers alike.

Jawanna McDougald Warren, Class of '86, was near the stadium gate pointing out notable Bears.

“He was my dad's football coach,” she said, gesturing toward Don Baker, who coached the team from 1966 to 1970.

Standing near Baker was George Jones, Class of '68, who played under the coach and then went on to play football at Nebraska.

Jones said his old mentor brought a collegiate style of coaching to the high school when he was playing there. Jones remarked he was one of many Bears to benefit over the years by playing at college.

Pitt Panther and Daily News Athlete of the Year Tyler Boyd, Class of 2013, was among the athletes lining the young end of the spectrum in the stadium on Friday. He was part of a lineup that included band members, majorettes and cheerleaders.

Michael “String” Ramseur, Class of '88, said he was enjoying himself, seeing “lots of old faces.”

Though he didn't immediately recall everyone there, Ramseur said, “As soon as you see the name tag, the memories come back.”

Ramseur, who played tight end and also was a forward on the basketball team, said he'd like to see a similar reunion for the basketball team. “That would be nice.”

The event stirred memories for many in attendance.

Louis Pompey, Class of '80, said he wished his late son Phillip Bowman, who played wide receiver for the Bears, could have been at the game.

The parade of old Bears made Marie Sopko, Class of '77, think of her daughter Heather Sopko, Class of '88, who was a kicker for the team and played first trumpet in the band. Sopko said her daughter went on to play with the Pittsburgh Passion and is now going to school for nursing.

District public relations coordinator and event organizer Alexis Trubiani said she was pleased with the turnout.

“We had over 200 alumni,” she said. “People came all the way from Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland ...”

David Morock, Class of '67, was among those who traveled a long way for the reunion. He now lives in Kansas City but spent years in Nebraska after playing for the Cornhuskers.

“I was the Monsterman,” he said, referring to an old nickname. “We won the 1970 National Championship after beating LSU in the Orange Bowl.”

“This is a celebration,” Morock said of the Bear gathering.

Turbo Wilson, Class of '64, no doubt agreed.

“I bleed orange and black,” said Wilson, a former tackle who still lives in Clairton.

Also at the game, senior Noaha Berry was crowned homecoming queen.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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