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November 23, 2012

Clairton wins WPIAL title, record 60th straight

As the final minutes ticked away at Heinz Field, a few members of the Clairton football team's support staff began moving around on the sideline. They began spreading gray t-shirts on the steel benches, and a few players began to put them on.

On the front, the shirt displayed the Clairton logo with all of the WPIAL championships listed. On the back? "Bout Dat! 60!"

What seemed inevitable for so long became a reality Friday afternoon. After a slow start, Clairton cruised to a 58-21 win over Sto-Rox for its fifth straight WPIAL title and 60th consecutive win. The Bears' streak is the longest active streak in the nation and broke the state record of 59 set by Central Bucks West in 2000.

The streak has also put Clairton briefly in the national consciousness. Articles on the team have appeared in USA Today and the New York Times, shining a brief positive light on one of the state's poorest and smallest school districts.

"Clairton's not the best place but it's not the worst either," senior Robert Boatright said. "Even adults can look to us as a positive."

Just like last year, Sto-Rox matched Clairton early. The Vikings bottled up star running back Tyler Boyd, holding him to minus-9 yards at the half thanks in large part to a botched snap. With Boyd quiet, Clairton handed the keys to the offense to quarterback Armani Ford. Ford tossed two touchdown passes in the first half, one to Titus Howard for 35 yards and another to Terrish Webb for 22 yards.

With his team up 14-7, Boyd found another way to make an impact, taking the ball on a double reverse and tossing a 74-yard strike to Santeaun Sims to stretch the lead to 22-7.

"They do stuff like that all the time," Sto-Rox coach Dan Bradley said. "It's up to you to stop it."

Thanks to a Brendan Blair touchdown run just before the half, Sto-Rox was within striking distance at the break, trailing 22-13. But Clairton found a way to unleash Boyd in the third quarter.

"They had an extra guy on the defensive line, so we adjusted and ran our plays to where he wasn't," Boyd said.

Boyd ran for 145 yards in the third quarter alone, scoring on a 14-yard run and putting the game away with his 77-yard touchdown that made it 43-21. It erased a 54-yard run by Lenny Williams had had kept Sto-Rox's hopes up.

"Lenny had a great run and at that point, I think we were still mentally in the game," Bradley said. "But physically, I don't know. We probably play about 13-14 guys, and we started to wear down."

Boyd finished with 144 yards on 16 carries, as well as 87 yards passing and 21 yards receiving. Ford complted 9-of-16 passes for 180 yards and three touchdowns, as well as a 1-yard touchdown run. Webb and Howard combined for seven catches for 159 yards. William threw for 106 yards and ran for 103 yards in the loss for Sto-Rox.

With the state record broken, the question becomes how long Clairton can keep this rolling. Is the national record of 151, held by California's De La Salle High, next in line?

"No, that's not happening," Clairton coach Tom Nola said with a wry smile. Nola has contemplated retirement in the last year or two, and he added, "Not for me. Maybe for the team."

Clairton will go for win No. 61 next weekend against the District 5 champion.

PaPreps publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at achiappazzi@yahoo.com

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