Clairton wins 11th WPIAL football championship
Lamont Wade barely could contain his excitement, and who could blame him? His Clairton football team had just won another WPIAL championship.
Wade, the Bears’ standout sophomore running back, sprinted across the turf at Heinz Field and jumped into the crowd’s waiting arms at the 30-yard line Friday after No. 2 seed Clairton secured its 11th WPIAL title with a 46-14 victory over No. 5 Avonworth in the Class A championship game.
“When I was a fan and a manager on the team, I remember guys like Tyler Boyd and Titus Howard and Trenton Coles doing that here,” Wade said. “I just felt like I had to do it, too. I just wanted to jump up and down and show some love.”
While Pitt’s Boyd was among the fans cheering him on, Wade probably was thinking, too, about his all-around performance that produced two touchdowns on offense — one rushing and one receiving — and four interceptions as a cornerback on defense.
It was Clairton’s sixth WPIAL title in seven years and seventh in the past nine.
The Bears remain in the running for a fifth PIAA crown since 2009, advancing to the PIAA playoffs next week at Elizabeth Forward a time to be determined against the winner of Saturday’s scheduled District 5 championship game between Berlin-Brothersvalley and Meyersdale.
“It’s been a great experience,” Clairton coach Wayne Wade said of his second year as coach at his alma mater and first since 2001, when he spent just that season in the job before being replaced by Tom Nola and settling in as the team’s defensive coordinator.
“Since we took over in March, we’ve tried to keep the guys in the same position all year,” said Wade, a cousin of Lamont. “We’ve tried to keep them focused on the ultimate goal.”
Other than a 48-42 overtime victory over No. 3 Neshannock in the semifinals, Clairton has overwhelmed its opponents this season. Before Friday’s 32-point victory over Avonworth, the Bears’ closest margin of victory was 58-14 (44 points) over Jeannette.
Wade, usually the center of attention on a talented team, took a back seat of sorts on offense to QB Ryan Williams, who passed for 301 yards and five touchdowns for Clairton (13-0), which won for the 81st time in 83 games since the start of the 2009 season.
With Avonworth (11-2) crowding the line of scrimmage to guard against Clairton’s lethal running game, Williams picked apart the Antelopes secondary, completing 16 of 24 passes, including a 34-yard scoring strike to Wade in the third quarter that gave Clairton a 34-7 lead.
“Ryan got us the ball in perfect spots,” said Clairton’s James Hines, who had four receptions for 98 yards, including touchdowns of 26 and 28 yards from Williams. “The linemen gave him time, but it was a little shady at first. We asked them to step up, and they stepped up, and Ryan did what Ryan does.”
Of Wade’s 128 yards rushing, 98 came in the first quarter, including a 54-yard touchdown run to give Clairton a 6-0 lead.
The touchdown was set up when Clairton gained possession on Jyleel Hall’s fumble recovery at the Clairton 46.
Wade showed his versatility as a defensive back with four of Clairton’s six interceptions.
“The preparation was to stop Lamont Wade,” Avonworth coach Duke Johncour said. “The pass is what killed us today.”
Avonworth went in front 7-6 on Brandon Wasko’s 2-yard touchdown run, but it was a short-lived lead that was erased on Williams’ 39-yard touchdown pass to Noah Hamlin less than a minute later, putting Clairton ahead 12-7.
A pair of Williams touchdown passes of 26 yards to Hines and 36 yards to Aaron Mathews in the final 3 minutes, 45 seconds of the second quarter provided Clairton with a 26-7 halftime lead.
Avonworth, which was playing in a WPIAL title game for the first time since winning in 1959, opened the fourth quarter with Joshua Drwal passing 37 yards to Cole Jenkins for a touchdown.
Clairton responded with Williams finding Hines for a 28-yard TD and Harrison Dreher intercepting a Drwal pass and returning it 65 yards for the final score.
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected].