Neshannock next to challenge Clairton football juggernaut
It’s Neshannock’s turn.
The Lancers, who outlasted Jeannette, 46-32, last week to advance to the WPIAL Class A semifinals, are the next opponent with hopes of slowing down Clairton’s high-flying football team.
The unbeatens enter Friday’s game at Canon-McMillan with their eyes on a spot in the championship game.
“We want to go to Heinz Field (on Nov. 21) just like anyone else,” Neshannock coach Fred Mozzocio said Tuesday. “We’re coming to win a football game.”
Top-seeded Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (11-0) meets fifth-seeded Avonworth (10-1) in the other semifinal Friday at Mars.
Second-seeded Clairton and third-seeded Neshannock are the top two scoring teams in Class A, but Clairton’s average of 67.3 points per game is nearly 20 more than that of Neshannock’s 47.5.
What’s more, the Bears lead Class A in scoring defense, giving up 3.9 points per game compared to 12.3 for Neshannock, which ranks sixth.
“I don’t think people honestly understand the caliber of a team that we have,” Clairton coach Wayne Wade said. “That’s been our thing all year. This team plays with more of a team concept than the great teams here of the past. This is really a special season, and these young men are hungry.”
Clairton is doing its “thing” with an explosive offense and a nearly untouchable defense. After last week’s 68-7 dismantling of Shenango in the quarterfinals, the Bears have the attention of Mozzocio’s bunch.
“In this sport, as you know, speed kills,” Mozzocio said. “They have speed all over the field. They’re just so dynamic.”
There was a sense of urgency in Mozzocio’s voice as he talked up the game to his players. The victory over Jeannette, and all the others before that, are history.
“Clairton’s next on the list,” he said. “Let’s go. Let’s play 48 minutes, and if they’re on top at the end, we’ll be the first to congratulate them. If we manage to be on top, we’ll be awfully happy. That’s just our mindset.”
The teams last played in the 2012 semifinals during Clairton’s historic streak of 66 victories. The Bears prevailed 37-7.
Neshannock is led by sophomore quarterback Frank Antuono, who has passed for 1,612 yards 19 touchdowns; running back Eli Owens, who has rushed for 1,140 yards and 15 touchdowns; and tight end Anthony Medure, who has an offer to play at Air Force.
“They are very well-coached,” Wade said. “Those kids play hard. I remember that from when we played them a couple years ago. They were one of the tougher teams we faced during the streak. We are going to have to be on top of our game.”
Clairton, which dressed just 22 players Tuesday for practice because of nagging injuries, certainly has been sharp so far, shredding everybody in its way. It’s been so lopsided at times for the Bears that the outcomes of games generally have been decided by the end of the first quarter.
The Bears are led by quarterback Ryan Williams (2,086 passing yards, 27 touchdown passes): sophomore running back Lamont Wade (1,807 rushing yards, 28 TDs); and wide receivers Aaron Mathews (33 receptions, 562 yards) and James Hines (18, 580).
“I’ve just never been associated with a team like this,” said Wayne Wade, who served as Clairton’s defensive coordinator the past five years. “This team has mercy-ruled every team. The fans here are accustomed to us winning, but not like this.
“We’re not just winning, we’re dominating.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected].