Clairton's speed, skill match up with Guilfoyle size in PIAA title game
In the world of Clairton football, losing is a bad word. Not a swear word, but a bad word.
Losing isn't something that Clairton ever expects to do, or even has experienced very often lately.
Come Friday afternoon at Hersheypark Stadium, though, the first of four Pennsylvania teams in four different classifications will be required to accept a loss.
It will be either Clairton or Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic, who square off at 1 p.m. in a PIAA Class A confrontation between teams with 15-0 records.
Clairton, the highest-scoring high school team in a season in the history of the state, has lost just two times in the past six years, both in 2013.
It also happens to be the only year during that span Clairton failed to earn a state championship trophy.
“The players change, the coaches change, but the expectations are the same,” said Wayne Wade, Clairton's coach who took over this year after serving as an assistant to Tom Nola during the front end of the program's remarkable run.
Wade also coached the team in 2001, but the results (4-5 record) were much different then.
If Clairton's latest remarkable season is any indication, the Bears aren't about to change their ways any time soon.
Their top running back (Lamont Wade, 2,550 yards, 39 TDs) is a sophomore, and the leader in receptions (Aaron Mathews, 39) is a junior. Both, among others, are projected as Division I talents.
“We've played some teams this year with one or two guys that you really have to focus on,” Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic coach Justin Wheeler said. “But Clairton? Man, they've got a lot of them.”
The game features a clash in styles: Clairton's speed against Guilfoyle's size. But, just as the District 6 champion Marauders from Altoona haven't seen as much speed at one time as they're about to go up against Friday. The WPIAL-winning Bears haven't been faced with as weighty a situation as they'll find in BG, whose offensive line averages 245 pounds.
What's more, Guilfoyle running backs Sam McCloskey (2,023 yards, 40 TDs) and D.J. Kitt (1,021, 12) hover around the 200-pound mark, and quarterback Brandon Chadbourn is every bit of 6-foot-1, 194.
McCloskey is committed as a safety at Lehigh, while Chadbourn (1,344 yards, 16 TDs) will attend Villanova as a receiver.
The Marauders' front four on defense averages 248 pounds, and that includes the dwarf of the bunch: 6-3, 210-pound senior defensive end Owen Wolf.
“They're big, that's for sure,” Wayne Wade said. “I believe they're going to try to line up and run us over. But our kids are tough. We've played these types of teams in the state championship before.”
Wade called Guilfoyle “a solid football team” but countered with a familiar refrain.
“Speed and skill,” he said. “That's our advantage.”
He hasn't gotten any argument from opposing coaches, either — Wheeler included.
“For sure, there's speed everywhere,” Wheeler said. “For us, it's about taking good angles to where they're going. We have guys up front who need to be solid and get to the perimeter to contain those guys. We have some quickness, a lot of guys who run below 5.0 40s.”
Wheeler, who played at Penn State, is in his fourth season at Bishop Guilfoyle. His first team went 1-8 in 2011, but he led the Marauders to nine wins in 2012, 10 in 2013 and 15 so far in 2014.
This year's team counts among its victories a 27-3 decision over District 5-AAA champion Somerset, which reached the PIAA semifinals.
“We've got guys who are tough and athletic,” Wheeler said. “We're going to play power football like we've done for the last five weeks. Anything can happen in 100 plays.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.