Unbeaten Clairton not taking Avonworth lightly
While Clairton’s overtime victory over Neshannock in the WPIAL Class A semifinals sent a thrill through the Bears’ locker room, it didn’t last long.
After limiting opponents to an average of less than four points per game, giving up 42 points just wasn’t their idea of a fun night.
Clairton won the see-saw battle 48-42, when Lamont Wade, who rushed for 281 yards, scored the winning touchdown on a 10-yard run after Neshannock had rallied from a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter to tie it at the end of regulation.
“Being in that situation wasn’t the best thing, but you need moments like that to test your heart,” Clairton senior quarterback Ryan Williams said.
“Every fight just isn’t going to be a cakewalk.”
Though you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the Clairton community who wouldn’t have thought otherwise.
“You’ve got to work hard, no matter who you’re playing,” Williams said. “You’ve got to have the same mindset every time out.”
Williams, who has engineered the WPIAL’s top-scoring offense this season, has benefitted from a number of quick-strike threats, from running backs, such as Wade, to wide receivers to his very own ability to eat up huge chunks of yardage at a clip.
Williams and his skill-position mates have been at it for some time now, including another very productive offseason of 7-on-7 competition prior to Clairton’s current unbeaten run that reached 12 games with its semifinal-round victory last Friday at Canon-McMillan.
“Really, all we’ve known is winning,” Williams said. “We saw it growing up, and we’ve been very successful as high school players.”
Other than its most recent game, Clairton pounded every team it faced this year, averaging 65.7 points per game on the season.
“Neshannock had the best coaching staff of any we face this year,” Clairton coach Wayne Wade said. “I knew they were going to be a better team than anyone else we had played so far. They were very well prepared to handle what we had to give them.”
Wade said his players have convinced him this week that they, too, believed that Neshannock would be a tough test.
“They were a good football team,” Wade said. “They took advantage of our turnovers, and we had a lot of them (six). Give that team credit. They were not the least bit intimidated.”
Second-seeded Clairton (12-0) will play fifth-seeded Avonworth (11-1) in the WPIAL championship game at 11 a.m. Friday at Heinz Field, and Williams is excited for another round of competition.
He isn’t worried about the whispers that Clairton had been running up scores against weaker competition or that the Bears’ narrow victory last week was a possible signal of their demise.
“Me, personally, I don’t think that any of my teammates look at it that way at all,” Williams said. “We’ve all just wanted to accomplish the same thing that the teams before us did, and that’s beat our opponents. All of them.
“It’s like if you aren’t the best, there’s something wrong. The pride of Clairton is so deep, if you don’t win a state championship, you let people down.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected].