PIAA “A” State Championship – Clairton Preview
Written by: Josh Funk on Thursday, December 17th, 2009
The South Hills of Pittsburgh has become a hotbed for football in the recent past, especially in the smallest classification. Just look at the list of WPIAL champions – Clairton won titles three of the last four years. Duquesne, now defunct, won the 2005 championship and faced Southern Columbia in the state finals. And in 2007, Serra Catholic, based in McKeesport, won the title and advanced to Hershey before being flattened by Steelton-Highspire.
Here, in 2009, Clairton represents the WPIAL in the PIAA playoffs, and, for the second consecutive year, will play for the PIAA title. The Bears (14-1) will face a potent Wing-T offense in Bishop McCort (14-0) Friday afternoon from Hersheypark Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.
But even though the South Hills has been a mainstay these past few seasons in terms of the PIAA playoff landscape, they’ve not yet brought back a golden football to the region. Duquesne lost to Southern Columbia by 31; Serra Catholic was done in by one Jeremiah Young; Clairton lost the 2006 state semi-finals to West Middlesex and then let an early 8-0 lead get away from them against Steel-High last year, falling 35-16.
In the last seven Class “A” state title games, western representatives have been outscored by a combined 290-90. The West’s last state champion in Class “A” came in 2001, when Rochester defeated Southern Columbia, 16-0.
It’s the main storyline that emerges in this title tilt each year, it seems. Each year, the question arises whether or not this latest Western challenger is good enough to top the East.
Clairton certainly has the goods to bring the South Hills its first small school state title since South Park captured “AA” gold in 2005. That Eagles’ team, like this Clairton team, scored 600 points and featured a couple of Division-1 football prospects.
Clairton had rolled through its 2008 competition to the tune of a 15-0 record. Prior to last year’s title game, the most points the Bears’ unrelenting defense had surrendered was 21, to Farrell, in last year’s Western Final. Clairton had given up a mere 54 points entering last year’s PIAA title game.
This year, aside from an opening week loss to Laurel and the WPIAL title game against Rochester, Clairton has held all other opponents to 7 points or less. For the season as a whole, Clairton has only allowed 58 points, with eight shutouts.
Technically, Clairton did keep Farrell’s offense out of the end zone Friday night at Slippery Rock University, so the Bears did pitch a shutout in the figurative sense. The Steelers’ lone touchdown came on a return of the opening kickoff.
These last two editions of the Clairton Bears have each scored over 600 points – 612 last year and 619 thus far in the ’09 season. Only two other PIAA affiliates, the 1999-2000 Erie Cathedral Prep Ramblers and the 2003-2004 Southern Columbia Tigers, have accomplished that feat. Clairton’s 619 points are a school record.
The Bears are keyed by dual-threat QB Desimon Green, who has thrown for more than 1,500 yards, run for over 800 more, and accounted for more than 20 total touchdowns. Green is also a major player on defense from his spot on the defensive line. He’s a sack machine, having totaled 20 sacks last year as a sophomore. And just last week, Green forced the deciding fumble that was returned for a touchdown against Farrell.
Green, only a junior, is a potential Division-1 prospect.
Running back Deontae Howard is nearing the 2,100-yard mark on the ground this season. Howard surpassed 4,000 career rushing yards in the WPIAL finals against Rochester, running for 73 yards and a score in that game. Howard’s 2,084 rushing yards this season come on the heels of a 1,746-yard junior campaign. He’s now run for 4,260 yards in his career, which is a new school career record. Zaire Washington finished his career in 2007 with 4,050 rushing yards.
Wide receiver Kevin Weatherspoon is headed to Pitt. He’s not eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark like he did last season, but he’s a lights out player in all three phases of the game. And linebacker Eddie Ball, one of the team leaders in tackles, might just be the best linebacker in the entire “A” classification.
Since the start of the 2003 season, Clairton is an impressive 77-15 overall (.836), and has won at least 12 games in a season each of the last four years.
So, is Clairton going to finally be that first western representative to bring home a PIAA title in Class “A” since 2001? It’s been forever since that happened. Will the Bears’ staunch defense stuff the McCort Wing-T attack until it begs for mercy?
Find out Friday afternoon if Clairton can avoid joining the list of state reps, including Seton-LaSalle, Woodland Hills, Blackhawk, South Williamsport, Sharon Area, and Pottsville, to go 0-2 or worse in PIAA finals games.
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