Returning veterans for the four-time defending WPIAL Class A champion Clairton Bears are Titus Howard (front), from left, Tyler Boyd, Armani Ford, Tyus Booker and Terrish Webb. One of their goals this season is to lengthen their WPIAL-record winning streak.
By Mike White Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
About half of Clairton's football players have Twitter accounts with the username of "boutdat_" followed by their jersey number.
"It's just like we all want to represent and let everyone know what we're about," said star senior Tyler Boyd. "So we just use 'bout dat.' "
Never mind the explanation, if there was one Twitter account for the entire Clairton team this season, it might be "boutdat_streak."
Clairton plays its first game tonight at Chartiers-Houston, and the talk surrounding Clairton is all about that streak.
That is the number of games Clairton has won in a row.
There is an Internet site for a group that calls itself the "47 Society." But, in terms of high school football, Clairton has its own "47 society," and there is currently only one member.
Clairton's 47-game streak is the longest active one in the country, a game ahead of perennial power Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J. No team in more than 100 years of WPIAL football has had a streak such as Clairton's. And with more wins this season, this streak could take on more historical significance.
Although Clairton set the WPIAL record for the longest winning streak last year (Braddock teams in the 1950s racked up a 56-game unbeaten streak, but the Tigers had a tie after their first nine wins, then won 46 in a row), the Bears have a chance at the state record this season.
If they go undefeated in the regular season and make it to the WPIAL title game, they would break Central Bucks West's state-record 59-game winning streak, set from 1995-2000.
But more "boutdat streak." If Clairton makes it to the WPIAL title game with an undefeated record, the Bears also would move into the top 20 longest streaks all-time in the country. If Clairton wins a fifth consecutive WPIAL title and a fourth consecutive PIAA title with an undefeated record, the streak would reach 63. Clairton, though, needs just a "little" more than that to reach the longest streak in the country. De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) won 151 in a row from 1992-2003.
The last time Clairton lost a game was the '09 season opener to Laurel, 15-8. And while the Bears coaches and players will tell you the most important things are WPIAL and PIAA titles, don't think this winning streak doesn't carry importance. Heck, the streak is one of the main reasons Tom Nola is back as coach.
Nola seriously considered retiring as coach after last season. It was late winter and he still hadn't made up his mind.
"Two things brought me back," Nola said. "One is this senior class. They're good kids. They're good in the classroom and good overall. The other thing is the streak. You can't leave in the middle of a streak like this."
The statistics during the streak are staggering. The Bears have outscored opponents, 2,077-188. In conference games, they have outscored opponents 1,094-42. In 39 of 47 games, Clairton has won by 20 points or more. Only three of 47 games have been decided by seven or fewer points.
"I don't know if the kids themselves really understand the ramifications and significance of this and what they are actually doing," said Wayne Wade, Clairton's 40-year-old defensive coordinator and a former Bears quarterback-defensive back. "This is something nobody around here may ever do again."
Wade and Nola said the streak isn't talked about often on the team.
"We put it out there at the beginning of the year that if we win everything again, we would get to 63," Wade said. "But that's where we left it. We haven't mentioned it since."
Boyd said, "We bring it up every now and then as players. Basically, when it comes out the most is when we're at practice and we might not be working hard, and someone will say, 'Let's go, you're going to snap the streak.' "
Clairton football has always been important to many of the folks in Clairton, but the streak has added more interest. It's not uncommon to go to a Clairton practice and see a group of men who have no ties to the team -- other than being fans -- watching from the sideline.
"We have a few guys who come watch practice every day -- every single day," Wade said, with a laugh. "That's how much they care. They're harmless, though. They're just there for support."
The main question with the streak, though, is will it last through this season?
The Bears most certainly are strong again. Boyd, who will play running back, receiver, quarterback and defensive back, is one of the best players in the state and has two dozen Division I college scholarship offers.
Titus Howard is a defensive back who has committed to Pitt, and receiver-defensive back Terrish Webb also is a Division I college prospect.
But almost all the starting linemen from last season have graduated. On top of that, a handful of players will miss the first few games because of academic suspension or school attendance issues from last year.
"We're going to be missing some pretty decent players the first few games," Nola said.
When Boyd was asked if this team could be as good as those in the past few years, he was honest in his assessment.
"I think athlete-wise, we probably can be just as good," Boyd said. "But I don't know because of the line, and we had some great linebackers on some of those other teams. But we've made a couple adjustments to the line, and everything should be cool."
Boyd then stopped for a second before adding, "We just have to work harder than ever before."