PIAA football playoffs: 30 years in 30 days — Clairton, North Allegheny roll to ’10 titles
The PIAA had been hosting state playoffs in all but one fall high school sport since 1976. Soccer, volleyball, tennis, golf, cross country and field hockey all crowned state champions once the district playoffs concluded.
The lone exception to the fall state playoff slate was high school football.
It wasn’t until 1988 when PIAA officials finally pulled the trigger on the idea of having a yearly state football playoff.
From George Novak and Woodland Hills losing in a mud pit to Bob Palko and West Allegheny finding the third time really was the charm to Neil Walker and Pine-Richland competing in a heartbreaking overtime loss in a snowstorm and to Tyler Boyd and the golden Bears of Clairton winning four straight state championships.
There have been a lot of thrills and heartbreak in three decades of state championship football. Leading up to the 2018 state finals, the TribLIVE High School Sports Network will look back at how WPIAL teams have fared in the PIAA championships with 30 years in 30 days.
The Year: 2010
The Site: Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey
The Champs: North Allegheny, Allentown Central Catholic, West Catholic, Clairton
The Headline: Clairton repeats, North Allegheny pitches a shutout while South Fayette is drubbed
The Lowdown: In 2010, three WPIAL teams advanced to Hershey and the state finals, which would not be the only time we would see Lions, Tigers and Bears playing for, oh my, PIAA gold this decade.
North Allegheny had just won the first of three straight district titles and won the first of two state championships in that three-year run with a 21-0 shutout of District 12 winner LaSalle College.
Tigers quarterback Mike Buchert did not complete a pass, missing on all six attempts. One pass attempt for North Allegheny was complete as Brenden Conikerr hit Dan Slivka on a 30-yard pass.
But when you run the ball for 220 yards and hold the opponent to under 200 yards of total offense, success through the air was not needed for North Allegheny.
Matt Steinbeck led the way for NA with 120 yards on 20 carries. He scored on a 27-yard run with 47 seconds left in the first half that put the Tigers up 14-0.
Buchert rushed for 51 yards and opened the scoring with a 4-yard first-quarter TD run and closed the scoring with a 1-yard TD run in the third quarter.
North Allegheny limited the defending champion Explorers to 77 rushing yards and 115 yards through the air in the WPIAL’s 11th PIAA Class AAAA championship and second via a shutout.
The Tigers’ second PIAA football championship came 20 years after the first, a 21-14 victory over Ridley in the 1990 state title game.
• For just over one quarter, it looked like defending champion Clairton would not only lose, but get crushed as the Bears trailed District 2 champion Taylor Riverside, 24-0, early in the second quarter.
But the Bears survived the biggest scare in what would be a record 66-game winning streak. They posted the biggest comeback in PIAA championship game history with 36 second-half points in a 36-30 victory.
The Vikings’ 24 first-half points were shocking considering the Bears had only given up 34 points all season.
Clairton was able to right the ship in the second quarter and pull to within four points by halftime.
Desimon Green capped a 65-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run that put Clairton on the board.
On the Bears’ next possession, Green hit Tyler Boyd on a 37-yard scoring pass with 2:47 left in the second quarter.
Capri Thompson hit Josh Page on a 19-yard scoring pass with 33 seconds left in the half as Clairton trailed 24-20 at the break.
Green completed only 4 of 10 passes for the game, but two of them went for touchdowns, including an 83-yard scoring pass on the second play of the third quarter that put the Bears up for the first time in the game.
Trenton Coles scored on a 2-yard run late in the third quarter to complete 36 unanswered points for the Bears.
“Nothing like that has happened to us in three years,” Clairton coach Tom Nola said after the game of his team’s early deficit. “But we responded, and that’s what I’m so proud of.”
• South Fayette stunned Aliquippa, 19-6, in the WPIAL Class AA championship game. The Lions then destroyed both Brockway and Forest Hills by a combined score of 111-40.
But hopes of a perfect season and a first state crown ended in a second.
Second quarter that is.
The Lions led 7-6 after one quarter before Philadelphia West Catholic exploded for 30 second-quarter points en route to a 50-14 pasting of South Fayette.
South Fayette struck first on a Christian Brumbaugh 8-yard pass to Zach Challingsworth.
West Catholic scored the next 20 points before Brumbaugh and Challingsworth hooked up again on a 20-yard scoring pass with 2:55 left in the half to make the score 20-14 Burrs.
District 12 champion West Catholic took control though with two touchdowns in the final 67 seconds of the second quarter to take a 36-14 lead into the locker room.
The Burrs added two more touchdowns in the second half for the 36-point victory and a first state crown.
Trevor Fiorentini led the Lions on the ground with 42 yards on nine carries.
Christian Brumbaugh struggled at quarterback for South Fayette, hitting on 11 of 28 passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns.
The Lions would return and win back-to-back state titles in 2013 and ‘14.
Don Rebel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Don at [email protected] or via Twitter @TheDonRebel.