Clairton (7, 15-0)Written by: Josh Funk on Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Sixty-two up. Sixty-two down.
That’s been the story facing the opposition since September 2009, when Clairton began its winning streak following a surprising season-opening loss.
Only a small percentage of those last 62 opponents have come close to Clairton – take Riverside jumping out to a 24-0 lead in the 2010 state championship game, before falling, 36-30. Or Southern Columbia, who trailed by two points in the 2011 PIAA championship game before Clairton revved up its engines and pulled away. Or Chartiers-Houston to open the 2012 season – the Bucs lost to mighty Clairton by two points.
Clairton’s been like an iPod programmed on repeat, but it’s only playing one tune over and over and over – winning.
Ten-time WPIAL champion Clairton (15-0) seeks to add to its state-record winning streak of 62 games when it faces District 2 champion Dunmore (14-1) Friday afternoon in the PIAA A championship game at Hersheypark Stadium, with kickoff slated for 1 p.m.
Something notable will happen when the Bucks and Bears toe the pigskin and kick off Friday’s state title game. It will mark a pair of 600-game winning programs facing off in the biggest game of the state’s smallest classification. Dunmore has won 618 games in its history and Clairton, who joined the 600-win club this year, has 612 victories. It is believed to be the first time that a pair of 600-win programs have ever met before in a PIAA A title game.
While that statistic is certainly remarkable, Clairton has put on a show for the last handful of years that has also been quite remarkable. Of course the first thing that jumps to the forefront of discussion when talking about these Bears is “the streak”. Sitting at 62 consecutive victories, Clairton’s streak is of course a state record, but it is also the longest active winning streak of any high school football team in the nation. Clairton’s streak became the longest active streak when it claimed PIAA gold last December over Southern Columbia, moving it to 47 wins in a row, surpassing Don Bosco Prep’s 46-game streak.
Then, there’s the fact that Clairton is gunning for its third consecutive 16-0 season. Only one other program has multiple 16-0 seasons – Pittsburgh Central Catholic, in AAAA (2004 & 2007). No coach has ever had multiple 16-0 seasons, until Tom Nola accomplished the feat last year. Nola would become the first coach with three 16-0 seasons in school history with a win Friday.
Even though the Bears rested its starters in many games, the team is still putting up ridiculous scoring numbers. The Bears have scored 720 points this season, the third straight 700+-point season in program history and fifth straight season with 600+ points scored. Both streaks are state records. Clairton is also a mere 26 points shy of its school single-season record for points scored in a season, which is 746. That record was set in 2010. The 2011 team scored 705.
Clairton is eyeing up a fourth consecutive PIAA championship, a feat only matched once before in Class A, when Southern Columbia won a state-record five consecutive crowns from 2002-06. Only one other program, Berwick, a AAA school, won four consecutive state football titles, doing so in a span from 1994-97.
In the Bears’ three prior state title victories, the final scores haven’t been of the runaway variety, even though they’ve been especially dominant in the western half of the state. The team’s average margin of victory in those three wins has been 11.3 points (final margins of 12 in 2009, 6 in 2010 and 16 in 2011).
Nola, the Bears’ head coach, enters the PIAA championship game Friday with an overall record of 145-47. He’s spent most of his coaching career at Clairton, but has also coached briefly at Serra Catholic, a Class A school located in McKeesport. Nola has won six WPIAL championships as a coach (2006, 2008-12) and joins a list of active WPIAL coaches including Bob Palko (West Allegheny) and George Novak (Woodland Hills) who have won six championships.
Clairton has rolled into the PIAA finals averaging exactly 48 points per game. The Bears once again boast a lineup loaded with talented athletes, including a trio of Division-1 FBS prospects in WR/DBs Terrish Webb (Kent State recruit) and Titus Howard (Pitt), and, most notably, senior standout and star running back Tyler Boyd.
Boyd, Clairton’s biggest of all of their home run threats, stands poised to rewrite the Clairton record books. He already broke his own school single-season rushing record last weekend against Port Allegany and now boasts 2,450 yards rushing on 195 carries while adding 9 receptions for 168 yards. He’s rushed for 5,885 yards (easily Clairton’s career rushing yardage record) and scored 117 total touchdowns in his career, a new WPIAL record. He’s also broken Clairton’s single-season record for total individual touchdowns scored (50 – he previously held the record of 48 in 2011) and is just four points shy of tying his school record for individual points scored in a season (324, set in 2011. Boyd currently has 320 points).
In all, Boyd has scored 50 total touchdowns for the Bears. Forty-one of those have come by way of rushing touchdowns, but he adds four receiving scores, three punts returns for touchdowns, an interception return and a fumble return. He’s also added 10 successful two-point conversions either rushing or receiving.
But Clairton’s bevy of talent doesn’t stop with Boyd. Quarterback Armani Ford has completed 78-of-118 passes for 1,853 yards and 24 touchdowns. Byron Clifford is the team’s second-leading rusher with 716 yards on 64 carries. Webb has a combined 51 touches between rushes and receptions – he has 835 receiving yards and 370 yards rushing with 14 total touchdowns. Howard has rushed for 189 yards and caught 20 passes for 510 yards, scoring six total touchdowns. Clifford doubles as the team’s kicker and has converted 31 extra points and two field goals.
Defensively, Robert Boatright, Webb, Howard and Boyd anchor a unit which has notched five shutouts and allowed an average of 7.2 points per game.
Can Clairton defeat Dunmore and make it a 63rd consecutive victory and fourth consecutive PIAA championship in a row?
Find out Friday.
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