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Clairton defeats Monaca for sixth WPIAL title

Written by: on Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

PITTSBURGH – History, it has been said, has a strange way of repeating itself.  Remember the high-flying offense of the 2003 Sto-Rox Vikings – a team which scored 516 points, topped 40 points in 10 consecutive weeks, and earned a WPIAL finals berth against Springdale, only to fall 30-13.

So when Monaca jumped up 6-0 less than two minutes into Saturday’s WPIAL “A” title game, would the vaunted Bears fall into the same trap?

In short…not quite.  But it wasn’t by much.

Troy Webb ran and threw for over 100 yards, and his two touchdown passes propelled Clairton to a 12-6 victory over Monaca at Heinz Field.  It was Clairton’s sixth title in school history and second in the last three years.

With the win, Clairton will take on District 5 champion Windber Area next weekend at a District 5 site, most likely Berlin Brothersvalley High School, at a date and time to be determined.

Monaca had a chance in the fourth quarter to take the lead with two minutes left, taking possession at the Clairton 37 yard line after a botched fourth down snap.  But instead of moving forward, the Indians backed themselves up to their own 43.

Clairton got the ball back and ran out the clock.

“I’m proud of our kids to get to this point,” Monaca head coach Sam Cercone said.  “That last possession, we wanted to control the football, but when you move backward, you can’t overcome the adversity.”

And after the Indians bolted right down the field on their opening possession, taking a 6-0 lead on a Zach Garber 38-yard touchdown run, they couldn’t overcome Clairton’s defense, either.

“Statistically speaking, yes, this is (the best),” Clairton head coach Tom Nola said.  “But last year’s defense had a lot of good athletes on it.  Statistically, this one is the best.”

The stats speak for themselves – 35 total points allowed, seven shutouts, and 13 consecutive opponents which have scored no more than seven points in any game.

And Monaca can attest to it – after the Indians’ 59-yard opening drive, they were limited to just 134 yards of offense.

“That’s the fastest defense we’ve seen,” Cercone said.

Clairton got on the board on its ensuing possession, when Troy Webb found Malcolm Ford for a 23-yard scoring pass, his first touchdown catch of the year.  A failed two-point conversion knotted the game at six apiece.

Webb’s biggest play, though, came in the third quarter of what was becoming a stalemate.  He scrambled toward the Clairton sideline, stopped, then threw a spiral to a wide-open Deontae Howard, who had snuck out of the backfield.  The uncovered Howard crossed the goal line seconds later, completing a 71-yard scoring pass which gave Clairton a 12-6 lead it never relinquished.

“They’re a big play team, and we tried to limit that,” Cercone said.  “It was a broken play.”

Clairton’s defense did the rest, and it was aided by the Indians’ offense, which backed itself up 20 yards on its final possession.

For the game, Monaca finished with 193 total yards of offense and 11 first downs.

Webb, filling in for starting quarterback and 1,700-yard passer Andrew Currington, ran for 103 yards on 20 carries and completed four of his nine passes for 111 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  Currington had a dislocated big toe, and only carried the ball twice for no gain.  He did not attempt a pass.

Howard surpassed 1,400 yards rushing for the year with his 17-carry, 73-yard effort.  Only 1,300-yard receiver Kevin Weatherspoon was severely limited by the Indian defense.  He was held to just a pair of catches for 17 yards.

Zach Garber led the way for Monaca with 123 yards rushing on 21 carries.  But aside from Garber, the rest of the Indians’ rushing attack was contained to a mere 17 yards on 17 carries.

There was an article earlier in the week featuring Monaca which quoted some individuals saying this edition of the Indians wanted to be the best in the school’s history.  Despite the defeat, Cercone felt this team was one of the best.

“There aren’t many 11-win teams in Monaca history – I think there are three,” Cercone said. “These kids had a chance to do something no other Monaca team did (win 12 games in a season).”

Clairton could do something it has never done, and that’s reach the PIAA finals.  But to do so, the Bears will have to cut out the mistakes (6 fumbles, 2 lost), and penalties (13 for 110 yards).

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