Clairton offense shows new look
When Clairton last entered a football season as something other than the defending WPIAL Class A champion, George W. Bush was still in the White House and the Steelers were five-time Super Bowl winners.
The unfamiliar concept of losing — it happened twice to the Bears last season as a 66-game winning streak was snapped — didn't go over well.
One year later and, perhaps more importantly, one year older, a still youthful Clairton group might be the team to beat in Class A because of a potentially prolific offense.
“The success that Clairton has always had,” new offensive coordinator Shawn Liotta said, “is going to continue. No doubt about it.”
Liotta, who is also the head coach of the Erie Express arena team in the CIFL, promises a spread offense that will utilize Clairton's speed.
“Wait until you see this offense,” assistant coach Eric Fusco said. “It's going to be unbelievable. Shawn is good. He's really good.”
In something familiar to Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly's approach, Clairton will play a hurry-up offense.
“We're a spread offense,” Liotta said. “I don't want to categorize it, though. We'll play one-back, two-back and three-back sets. We're going to get the ball into the hands of our playmakers. We want to take advantage of our mismatches, and there will be mismatches.”
The brightest star on Clairton's offense figures to be junior Aaron Mathews, a 6-foot-5 junior who played quarterback and wide receiver as a sophomore. Look for him to play wideout more regularly this season, but he'll see playing time in multiple roles.
“I don't want to let all the secrets out about how we're going to use him,” Liotta said. “But he's a for-sure Division I kid. There is absolutely no doubt about that. He's only going to get better.”
Skill position players have long been a Clairton strength, and Mathews isn't the only standout.
Two running backs figure to make their mark this fall.
Sophomore tailback Lamont Wade started as a freshman and gives the Bears a steady presence in the backfield. He'll be joined by junior Harrison Dreher.
“Those two are both so good,” Fusco said. “In this offense, you're going to see the ball spread around to a lot of different people. You're in good shape if you've got those two getting touches.”
Senior fullback Raymone Clifford also will play a role on the offense.
The on-field general of the offense will be senior quarterback Ryan Williams, who saw considerable playing time under center last season.
Liotta believes Williams is the perfect quarterback for this offense.
“He has a tremendous ceiling,” Liotta said. “He can make all the throws, and his mechanics are greatly improved. More than anything, he's really grown into a leader. Guys will look to him.”
Plenty of people will be looking to Liotta, also.
Clairton, now under the direction of former defensive coordinator Wayne Wade, expects to return to the WPIAL and PIAA championship games. Former coach Tom Nola claimed four PIAA titles and six WPIAL championships with a different offense.
“Let's put it this way,” Liotta said. “I wouldn't want to have to defend us. We're really, really good. And the kids work harder at Clairton than people think. It isn't just about their talent. We're going to be ready.”