Gorman: Wade's pick crushes Jeannette
Gio Vonne Sanders was hit upon releasing the ball and hopeful when he heard the crowd cheer that it had found a Jeannette receiver.
When Sanders looked up, his worst fears came to fruition. The pass had been intercepted. Worse yet, it was in the hands of Clairton star Lamont Wade.
That sinking feeling bottomed out when Wade weaved through the Jayhawks for 83 yards until he reached the end zone.
“It was crushing,” Sanders said. “It definitely took the momentum away. We needed that to win the game.”
Wade's pick-6 — his third of the postseason — sealed Clairton's 26-6 victory over Jeannette in the WPIAL Class A final Saturday at Joe Walton Stadium.
“I was thinking, ‘This could change the whole game,' ” said Wade, who scored on a 101-yard interception return against Fort Cherry and a 56-yarder against Northgate. “I couldn't be denied. I had to get to the end zone.”
Clairton couldn't be denied its 13th WPIAL title and ninth in 11 years. It's no coincidence Wade has played a starring role in the Bears' past three title wins.
As a sophomore, he rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown and had four interceptions against Avonworth.
Last year, Wade had 101 yards receiving, 100 rushing and two scores in Clairton's 40-0 victory over Jeannette.
“I was thinking about that (Friday) night, that I have to show up and put the team on my back,” Wade said. “How can I outdo myself?”
No wonder the Jayhawks were wary of letting Wade take over the game. With Noah Hamlin out with a knee injury, Wade moved to quarterback but had been held in check.
Wade completed 6 of 10 passes for 65 yards — Sanders had a spectacular one-handed interception — and had a 70-yard scoring run negated by a penalty.
“We were playing hard and kept competing,” Sanders said. “I thought this one would be different.”
Trailing 12-6, the Jayhawks already had converted a fourth-and-2 when Sanders ran for 5 more. Jeannette had a fourth-and-14 at the Clairton 35 when Sanders threw a pass intended for junior Tre Cunningham.
Wade, playing safety deep on the left side, first saw Sanders look his way and took a gamble by breaking right. Sanders never saw Wade, and the Jayhawks couldn't tackle him.
“When Wade has the ball in the open field with a running start, he's tough to catch.” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said. “When he got it and was weaving in and out, it was a bad feeling.”
Clairton coach Wayne Wade knows the opposite could have been true.
“It would have been a completion if Lamont's not there,” Wade said. “Lamont just read the quarterback. That was it. The pick was the stop. Making guys miss and breaking tackles, that was the momentum changer.”
Thanks to Wade, Clairton took an 18-6 lead into the fourth quarter. As far as the Bears were concerned, it was insurmountable.
“He's a five-star recruit. That's what he does — make plays,” Clairton junior cornerback Tre'sean Howard said of Wade, ranked the nation's top cornerback and No. 9 prospect by Rivals.com. “We knew the game was over after that. We go up two touchdowns, and it's over.”
Wade later added a 54-yard touchdown run, giving him 100 yards on 21 carries for the game and 6,767 yards and a state-record 120 touchdowns for his career.
That two of the best games of his career came in the WPIAL final against Jeannette crushed the Jayhawks.
“We've been here twice and came away without a championship,” Sanders said. “There's not much difference.”
The difference, as Jeannette knows all too well, was the wondrous play of Lamont Wade.