Canevin could give Clairton first test
Bishop Canevin might not score a point against Clairton and might not even avoid being the Bears’ 11th straight mercy rule victim when the teams clash tonight in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals at Elizabeth Forward.
The Crusaders, however, have already earned one distinction: They are the first opponent this season to receive Clairton’s undivided attention.
Clairton will attempt to stay undefeated and return to the WPIAL semifinals tonight against a worthy opponent.
In fact, Bishop Canevin (9-1) is an opponent the Bears (10-0) don’t even think they should play until later in the postseason.
“They’re by far the best team we’ve played this year,” Clairton star Desimon Green said. “There’s no way we should be playing them in the second round. No way. They’re a really good team.”
The numbers back up Green’s claim.
Bishop Canevin has only lost once this season, a setback against Springdale. The Crusaders have outscored their opponents 380-122 and have produced a number of quality wins, including a victory over Class A power Avonworth. Bishop Canevin is the best third-place team in Class A, hands down. In fact, the Crusaders only got the No. 3 seed in their conference because of a tiebreaker.
“They just do everything really well and they definitely have our attention,” Green said. “They just look so big on tape. We’ll need to be ready.”
The Crusaders are a well balanced team and showcase one of Class A’s best offensive lines. Clairton has had its way with every offensive line it has faced, remarkably allowing only 19 points in 10 games.
Clearly Clairton enters the game tonight as a heavy favorite, but this could be a test.
“They are a very good team and a very well coached team,” Clairton coach Tom Nola said. “I have a lot of respect for them. It isn’t going to be easy.”
Clairton had no trouble with Carmichaels in the opening round of the playoffs, earning a systematic 42-0 victory. The Bears have blanked seven of their 10 opponents.
Bishop Canevin, meanwhile, defeated Fort Cherry in the opening round, 21-14. Fort Cherry probably gave Clairton its toughest test of the season, if a 42-7 Clairton victory can be considered a tough test.
“Just because they only beat Fort Cherry by a touchdown doesn’t mean they’re only a little better than Fort Cherry,” Green said.
Clairton is clearly focused for this contest. In previous seasons, the Bears have admittedly been guilty of overlooking certain opponents. They infamously took a victory over Springdale for granted in the 2007 WPIAL semifinals and fell in a 22-21 thriller. Granted, there were other issues of relevance in that game, but lessons of the past appear to have positively affected Nola and his team.
Clairton isn’t overlooking anyone during its quest for another WPIAL and PIAA championship, to say nothing of perfection.
“We had a really great week of practice,” Nola said. “Everyone was really good, really focused. We know we’re playing a good team and that we’re going to have to be ready to play our best.”
Clairton enters the game in a good frame of mind and in healthy form. Running back/linebacker Brandon Small has endured nagging injuries in recent weeks but is ready to go tonight.
“Everyone is going to play,” Nola said.
The winner of this game will play the winner of the Springdale/Monessen quarterfinal. Interestingly enough, plenty of people in the Clairton program believe Bishop Canevin is a stronger opponent than either Monessen or Springdale.
For Clairton to show an opponent such respect is rare.
“But they’re good and we know they are,” Green said. “Maybe it’s what we need. We haven’t had a close game all year. We’re ready for one if we get it.”
Green may very well be the difference. Bishop Canevin’s defensive line is very big, which could create a problem when Clairton attempts to unleash its vaunted rushing attack.
Should the Bears fail to run successfully, they can always rely on Green’s arm. The senior has thrown 23 touchdowns and only one interception.
If there is a huge advantage for Clairton in this game, it comes in the speed department. It would seem highly unlikely that Bishop Canevin possesses the speed to contend with Clairton, especially speedy wideouts Josh Page and Trenton Coles.
“We definitely might have to throw the ball some in this game,” Nola said. “Desi has a lot of confidence throwing the ball right now. He’s playing really well.”
The whole team has a lot of confidence, just like always. But Clairton doesn’t seem to have too much confidence entering this game, which might be a good thing.
“We aren’t taking anyone lightly and they’re a good team,” he said. “But we’ll be ready.”