Special teams scores lead Clairton in rout of Frazier
There was plenty of hype surrounding Frazier’s stifling defense vs. Clairton’s explosive offense coming into Friday’s WPIAL Class A semifinal showdown at Elizabeth Forward. However, it was the Bears’ special teams that stole the show.
Harrison Dreher opened the game with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and less than two minutes later Noah Hamlin scored on a 59-yard punt return as the top-seeded Bears built a 16-0 lead and cruised to a 56-15 win over the fourth-seeded Commodores.
“Getting two special teams touchdowns early in the game kind of set the tone,” Clairton coach Wayne Wade said.
Clairton will play Jeannette for the WPIAL Class A championship Nov. 28 at Heinz Field. The Bears (12-0) will be looking for their second consecutive title and eighth championship in 10 years.
The Commodores (11-1), who trailed by two touchdowns in each of their first two playoff games this year, didn’t have another comeback in them.
“I thought our defense still played well, but you can’t give up special teams touchdowns,” Frazier coach Mike Steeber said. “And with the turnovers we had, you’re just not going to beat a team like that.”
The Commodores turned the ball over five times, but it was the special teams scores that forced Frazier to fight an uphill battle. On each score, the Commodores surrounded the ball, but Dreher and Hamlin each broke containment for highlight-reel returns.
“We had a lot of Frazier jerseys around the football and we nearly pinned them, but then we didn’t,” Steeber said.
Dreher finished with five touchdowns. He caught six passes for 107 yards. Quarterback Aaron Mathews completed 14 of 21 passes for 186 yards and three scores.
“When you have the talent we have, it becomes difficult to guard all of them,” Wade said.
Frazier did manage to cut the deficit to 16-8 early in the second quarter thanks to a Hunter Patterson 1-yard touchdown run. But the Bears put the game away with 20 unanswered points before the half ended.
Mathews scored on a 7-yard run and found Hamlin on a 17-yard touchdown strike. Dreher completed the first-half scoring with a 3-yard run. The Bears went into the half with a 36-8 lead and never looked back.
Twelve of Clairton’s second-quarter points came off of Frazier turnovers. Clairton’s defense held Frazier to just 64 yards of total offense.
“Our defense has been pretty stout all year, and it was a challenge for us to show that we are the No. 1 defense,” Wade said.
Clairton added a pair of scores in the third quarter as Mathews hooked up with Dreher on touchdown strikes of 38 and 45 yards to push the Bears’ lead to 50-8.
Dreher scored his fifth touchdown of the game on an 18-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
“They were able to make plays that we’re not used to seeing with that kind of speed and athleticism,” Steeber said.
The Commodores managed to close the scoring when Caleb Cox found Damon Lovis on a 40-yard touchdown pass with just over a minute remaining.
“Our guys didn’t quit,” Steeber said. “I’m as proud of them now as I was last week, and their effort was tremendous until the end.”
For the Bears, preparation will begin for a championship clash with the Jayhawks.
“Overall, it was a good effort, and we’ll be ready to play (next week),” Wade said.
Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.