Clairton wins third straight titleWritten by: Josh Funk on Saturday, December 17th, 2011
And while Clairton’s offense was very much slowed by Southern’s grinding, ball-controling Wing-T offense, it didn’t take long for junior Tyler Boyd to rev his engine to full throttle.
Boyd ran for 218 yards and scored two touchdowns on plays spanning 78 and 68 yards to propel Clairton (16-0) to its 47th consecutive victory and third straight PIAA title with a 35-19 victory over Southern Columbia (14-2) from Hersheypark Stadium Friday afternoon.
Clairton established the new WPIAL standard for consecutive victories, topping Braddock’s 46 straight victories in the mid-1950s. The Bears’ third straight state championship is also a WPIAL first, regardless of classification. And the 47-game win streak by the Bears is the longest active win streak in the nation; Clairton passed New Jersey non-public juggernaut Don Bosco Prep, which had won 46 straight games and finished its 2011 season several weeks ago.
“These kids have accomplished something that is history-making,” said Clairton head coach Tom Nola. “I’ve got good players and I’ve got really good coaches. It’s not just me.”
Another pair of records were also established this day – both by Tyler Boyd. Boyd’s 218 rushing yards gave him 2,400 for the season, surpassing the school single-season mark of 2,234 yards amassed by Deontae Howard in 2009. Boyd’s two fourth quarter touchdowns gave him 12 more points for the season, and he ended the year with 324 points scored (48 total touchdowns, 18 two-point conversions), also a new school record, according to athletic director James Wessel.
The note of the nation’s longest active winning streak was music to senior Trenton Coles’ ears.
“Maybe they (the national media folks) will now be talking about the Clairton Bears,” Coles said.
Coles’ season, unfortunately, ended two quarters prior, when he injured his right knee on what proved to be a successful extra point attempt to give Clairton a 21-12 lead right before halftime. He finished the game on the sideline on crutches and wasn’t putting any weight on his right leg. The extent or severity of Coles’ injury wasn’t immediately clear.
The story for the game was Clairton’s propensity for hitting the big play – four of Clairton’s five touchdowns went for 65 yards or longer – and Southern Columbia head coach Jim Roth noted such.
“We weren’t able to hit the quick, big plays like they did,” Roth said. “We just weren’t able to consistently handle them up front and then they used their athleticism to bust a few big ones.”
Clairton only had three first downs in the second half – all courtesy of Boyd and all via running plays. Beyond the two touchdown runs, Boyd also broke loose on a 12-yard run. He needed just 14 carries on the day.
“Everybody was a little down and we needed to make a big play,” Boyd said. “My number was called and I made a big play (the 78-yard touchdown run). I saw the right was open and I cut back.”
The Bears ran only three offensive plays in the third quarter as Southern Columbia pulled to within two points – 21-19 – thanks to a Matt Moore five yard touchdown reception from Brad Fegley. The touchdown pass was set up by a critical 4th-and-21 conversion where backup quarterback Taylor Young hit Moore for a 23-yard gain. The Tigers ran 20 plays in the third period and 70 for the game.
“For three quarters, I thought we really hung with them,” Roth said.
Clairton got on the board first when quarterback Capri Thompson hit junior Terrish Webb on an 88-yard touchdown pass. Webb also caught a 65-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to push Clairton’s lead to 14-6.
“We weren’t as aggressive in pass defense in the first half as much as I would have liked,” Roth said.
But Southern battled back. The Tigers converted a pair of fourth downs – the second of which was a Tyler Levan five yard run – to get within 8-6 at the 5:57 mark of the second quarter. Southern then pulled to within 14-12 on a Moore three-yard run with 1:47 left in the half.
The Tigers left Clairton enough time to make a move, and did the Bears move. Boyd hit a 55-yard run, starting left, then cutting across the width of the field before leaping toward the right pylon only to be ruled out-of-bounds at the one. Reuben Kelly scored on the next play before Coles’ fateful PAT, where a Southern player was reportedly blocked into the Clairton senior. Clairton coaches were noticably animated about the non-call, but no flag was ever thrown.
Clairton had heard all week about the Tigers’ Delaware Wing-T and, historically, the Bears have had trouble against the misdirection with their attacking defensive style. And, while Moore piled up 136 rushing yards and Levan 70 on 37 combined carries, Clairton forced six sacks and limited Fegley to just 7-of-19 passing for 74 yards and minus-40 rushing yards on 10 carries. Moore caught six passes for 80 yards.
Webb caught three passes for 167 yards for the Bears, who finished with 436 yards of offense on just 39 plays (11.2 yards per play). Thompson threw for 165 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 1,866 yards passing for the season.
Nola, a 130-game winner who is not a man of many words, said the Bears’ success has nothing to do with him and, as he put it, “I’m not taking any credit for this.”
Boyd said Southern Columbia really impressed the Bears.
“They used to be us,” Boyd said. “This (state title) game is the best game ever. We couldn’t take any plays off because if we did, they would make us pay.”
NOTES: Clairton finished the 2011 season with 705 points scored, fifth-best in state history. Southern Columbia finished with 657.
The Bears’ third PIAA championship ties three other WPIAL programs – Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Thomas Jefferson and Rochester – for the most state championships won among any WPIAL program.
Clairton’s 47-game winning streak is 12 shy of tying Pennsylvania’s all-time record for consecutive games won – 59 – set by Central Bucks West from 1997 to 2000.
Photos provided by Matt Topper and Mike Zortman
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