Gorman: Clairton QB delivers on dream
Ryan Williams always dreamed of being a starter on a Clairton team that won a WPIAL Class A football championship.
Just like his dad.
Remondo Williams reminded his son of how he helped the Bears win the WPIAL Class A title in 1989, holding it over Ryan’s head.
“We joke about it all the time,” Ryan said of his father, Clairton’s receivers and secondary coach. “He talks about how they won a championship his senior year, and I didn’t have my own yet as a starter. It pushed me to work harder.”
Neither of them dared to dream of a day like Friday at Heinz Field, when Remondo watched Ryan become a man before his very eyes.
Avonworth vowed to stop Clairton star sophomore Lamont Wade, a 2,000-yard rusher already on the radar of major-college programs.
The Antelopes relied on a zone defense that put Clairton’s receivers in single coverage, challenging Williams to beat them with his arm. So he did just that.
Ryan completed 16 of 24 passes for 301 yards, throwing five touchdown passes to four receivers for scoring plays of 39, 26, 36, 34 and 28 yards.
Afterward, Avonworth coach Duke Johncour spotted Williams outside Clairton’s locker room and stopped to shake his hand.
“That’s the kid who killed us,” Johncour said. “Their quarterback had a special, special day. Those two touchdowns in the first half, we had guys right on them. He threw balls over outstretched hands, and they made exceptional catches. They were phenomenal throws by their quarterback. He had a great game.”
Williams not only spoiled Avonworth’s first WPIAL finals appearance since 1959 but also led Clairton to a 46-14 victory for its sixth WPIAL Class A championship in seven years, seventh in nine years and 11th overall.
In one breath, Clairton coach Wayne Wade reveled in Williams’ story, calling it “any dad’s dream” to see his son star at quarterback for a championship team.
In another, he marveled at the maturation of Ryan, who admittedly was “self-centered” prior to his senior season.
“I would have never thought Ryan would take command of the team and show the poise that he has,” Wade said. “My hat’s off to him. He’s had a great year.”
It took some serious growing up this past year, however, for Ryan to get there.
Ryan rotated at quarterback last season with Aaron Mathews, worrying after every mistake that he would come out of the game. When he was replaced, he pouted.
“I thought it was all about me,” Ryan said. “I realized it was a team effort. You can’t win a championship with just one player. It takes all 11.”
That’s a lesson he learned from his older brother, Remondo Jr., an undersized tight end-defensive end who selflessly played offensive guard for the Bears’ 2011 WPIAL and PIAA champions, when Ryan was a ball boy.
“To see how he was last year emotionally, he didn’t have confidence in himself because he was always in and out of the game,” Remondo Sr. said of Ryan. “For him to grow in front of my eyes was great to see. I try to stay in his ear and make him focus and remind him, ‘You’re the leader. You have to keep a cool head.’ ”
Ryan has done that this season after Mathews made a permanent move to receiver. It solidified Clairton’s passing game, which got little attention despite Ryan’s 2,525 yards and 32 touchdowns.
After going 12 for 21 for 138 yards and an interception in the overtime victory over Neshannock in the semifinals, Ryan knew he did not play his best but believed he was “due for a big game.”
“They keyed on me,” Ryan said, “so I knew when I passed, I had to do big things.”
It was a moving moment for Remondo, who watched his son play the game of his life and then embraced him.
Remondo never won a state title as a player, so Ryan has a chance for bragging rights.
“I’m never surprised, but I’m at a loss for words,” Remondo said. “The way he controlled the game and his numbers, he’s grown up so much this year. I’m overwhelmed. I teared up, just to see my son have that type of success.
“He’s tough on himself. He tries to be a perfectionist. To do that on this type of stage speaks volumes. Now he can say, ‘Dad, we both won championships as Clairton Bears.’ ”