Rollin’ right along to a PIAA title: Steel-High wins second straight
Written by: Josh Funk on Friday, December 12th, 2008
HERSHEY, Pa. – Andre Campbell’s first two passes in the Class “A” state championship game weren’t exactly perfect.
His sixth one, though, was a thing of beauty.
Campbell’s 59-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Smith down the Roller sideline, coupled with a bad Clairton punt deep in its own territory, helped Steel-High (16-0) claim its second consecutive PIAA championship 35-16 Friday afternoon at Hersheypark Stadium.
Those two events came in a third quarter in which things just snowballed for Clairton (15-1), which was making its first-ever PIAA finals appearance. The Bears’ offense was limited to just 16 yards of offense and four penalties. Couple that with a six-yard punt, and it spelled disaster.
“We played good in that first half, but the third quarter was our downfall,” Clairton head coach Tom Nola said.
The funny thing was, Steel-High’s record-setting tailback, Jeremiah Young, wasn’t at his best. He did eclipse 9,000 yards rushing for his brilliant career, but he didn’t score a touchdown and averaged fewer than five yards per carry.
Instead, it was Andre Campbell’s time to shine. And did he ever – Steelton’s senior quarterback threw for 129 yards and a touchdown, and added three rushing scores and a two-point conversion run.
“Jeremiah makes everything easy for me,” Campbell said. “Sometimes, I’ll score, and everyone’s chasing Jeremiah.”
Clairton came out swinging, using its ground game in the form of Deontae Howard, Eddie Ball, and Troy Webb to keep the Roller defense off-balance. The Bears grabbed an 8-0 lead when Webb (19 rush, minus-16 yards, 2 rush TD) scored from a yard out.
Steel-High countered on the ensuing kickoff, when Jordan Smith returned the kick 92 yards, and Campbell’s two-point run knotted the game at 8-all.
“We outplayed them in the first half, really,” Nola said. “In total yards, we doubled them up (179 to 73) in the first half. We should have had more than eight points.”
Clairton did have a chance to put more points on the board late in the first half, but Howard fumbled, and Steel-High recovered at the 20 yard line.
“The kids were confident at halftime,” Rollers’ boss Rob Deibler said. “When you have seniors like that who have been around and that have been through this, it really helps.”
The Rollers began the second half with a touchback on the kickoff, and after that, it all rolled in favor of the silver and blue.
Campbell hit Smith on a play action pass to give Steel-High a 14-8 lead just three plays after the Clairton punt.
“On that play, I play-actioned (to Jeremiah), and the receiver was wide open,” Campbell said. “Once we did that, I knew it was enough for our defense.”
Steel-High ratcheted up the pressure, totaling six sacks in the game, and the Rollers got three short touchdown drives, all of which culminated in touchdown runs by #10.
Clairton finished the scoring in the game when Webb dove in from a yard out with just seconds left in the game.
Young, who finished his career with 9,027 yards, ran for 81 yards on 14 carries. Davis finished with two catches for 40 yards.
Howard and Ball did most of the damage for Clairton on the ground. Howard ran for 104 yards, and Ball hit 74 yards on five carries. Webb finished 6-of-16 for 70 yards.
NOTES: Steel-High became the first ever District 3 team to win consecutive PIAA titles, and join five other PIAA affiliates with a 2-0 record in the state finals. The Rollers also set a new school record for points in a season, with 563. They set a record with 557 points last year.
Clairton topped the 600-point mark, finishing the year with 612 points, becoming the 26th known team to hit 600 or more points in state history.
In the last seven PIAA “A” championship games, the West has been outscored 290-90. The WPIAL is 0-5 in those seven years.
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