One win away from making history, and for once, these Clairton Bears felt a little threatened.
Their reaction? Attack.
The team that rarely has been challenged the past few years trailed after the first quarter and led by "only" nine points at halftime. But the Bears came out in the second half, showed their teeth and put a thumping of historical proportions on Sto-Rox.
Clairton clobbered the Vikings, 58-21, in the WPIAL Class A championship Friday at Heinz Field. It was the fourth-highest point total for a team in a WPIAL championship, but that wasn't the most significant historical achievement.
Clairton set a state record with its 60th win in a row, breaking the mark set from 1997-2000 by Central Bucks West, a suburban Philadelphia school. The Bears also moved into the top 20 winning streaks all time in the country.
"We're living legends. We're going to remember this even when we're old," said Tyler Boyd, Clairton's do-it-all senior star who fueled the second-half surge.
Clairton (13-0) put its name in the record books with an exclamation point in the second half. While the Bears traveled Route 51 to get to the game, they used the final two quarters to turn the contest into rout 60. The Bears finished with 501 yards offense.
But not since a 22-20 victory against Chartiers-Houston in the season opener had Clairton been challenged like this. Sto-Rox (11-2) led, 7-6, after the first quarter and trailed only 22-13 at halftime against a team that had won its past 11 games by at least 35 points.
But Clairton ended up celebrating its fifth consecutive WPIAL title, a streak equaled by only one other team in WPIAL history (Braddock in the '50s).
"Sto-Rox played well," said Robert Boatright, Clairton's standout senior defensive end who had three sacks and 12 tackles. "I wouldn't say we were worried, though, because we have faith and confidence that we'll always win. We're not cocky. We're just confident."
Having Boyd builds confidence. One of the top 10 rushers in the history of the WPIAL with more than 5,000 yards, Boyd had minus-9 yards rushing on seven carries in the first half. Some of the lost yardage came on a few bad snaps from center when Boyd lined up either at quarterback in the wildcat formation or punter.
"We made some adjustments at halftime, offensively and defensively," said Clairton coach Tom Nola.
The most important thing Clairton did was put the ball in Boyd's hands more often. In the second half, Boyd ran for 153 yards on nine carries and finished with 144 yards on 16 attempts. He scored two second-half touchdowns on runs of 14 and 77 yards. In the first half, he also lined up at slotback and threw a 77-yard touchdown pass to Santeaun Sims on a double-reverse pass.
"The biggest thing we were able to do was contain Tyler Boyd in the first half," said Sto-Rox coach Dan Bradley. "But he runs like water. He's smooth, he's quick and he gets downhill fast."
Besides Boyd's touchdown pass to Sims in the first half, Clairton also got two first-half touchdown passes from Armani Ford -- 35 yards to Titus Howard and 22 yards to Terrish Webb. On both scoring plays, Ford basically threw a "jump ball" and let Howard and Webb outleap smaller Sto-Rox defenders.
In the first half, Sto-Rox got an 18-yard touchdown pass from Lenny Williams to Elisha Bonner and an 8-yard touchdown run from Brendan Blair with 42 seconds left in the second quarter.
"I definitely wanted to step up and make some plays in the second half," Boyd said.
Nola said: "We started running away from the extra person [Sto-Rox] had on the line. It opened up some holes for Tyler and our line started blocking better."
Clairton took a 28-13 lead before the second half was three minutes old when Webb caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Ford, who finished 9 of 16 for 180 yards. Webb had four catches for 99 yards.
Boyd's two second-half touchdown runs gave him 109 for his career, one short of the WPIAL record. Bryon Clifford later scored on a 26-yard run and Ford on a 1-yard jaunt.
Sto-Rox's only score of the second half came on Williams' 52-yard run. Williams put up a valiant effort, rushing for 103 yards on 19 carries and completing 7 of 22 for 106 yards. He made some big plays, but Clairton simply had more playmakers.
"They're a complete team, plus they have Tyler Boyd," Bradley said.
Clairton's team motto this season has been "Bout Dat," a play on the words "about that." They say they are simply "bout dat." Many Clairton players have Twitter accounts with the username of "boutdat_" followed by their jersey number. After Friday's game, all of Clairton's players wore T-shirts with this on the back: "Bout Dat 60."
Now Clairton is "Bout Dis": A PIAA championship. The Bears play in the quarterfinals next weekend.
"Most of this 60 falls right there," said Nola, pointing to his players. "It's mostly them. We have good athletes and they just go play."
Especially when they feel threatened.
For more on high school sports, go to Varsity Blog at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: email@example.com, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh. First Published November 24, 2012 5:00 AM