The next challenger to Clairton's long winning streak is the most prolific passer in the history of Pennsylvania high school football. And Clairton will have to face the record-breaking quarterback without one of its best defensive backs.
Titus Howard, senior defensive back and Pitt recruit, will not play against Port Allegany and quarterback Matt Bodamer Friday in the PIAA Class A semifinals because of a dislocated left elbow.
Howard sustained the injury Friday night in a quarterfinal victory against Berlin Brothersvalley. Howard was taken off the field on a stretcher and taken to a hospital. He saw a doctor Sunday in Pittsburgh, where he was told he couldn't play this week.
But if Clairton beats Port Allegany, there is a chance Howard could play in the PIAA championship the following week in Hershey. Clairton has a 61-game winning streak, the longest in the country.
"I'm out this week for sure, but I might be back," said Howard, who also is a standout receiver for Clairton. "It's disappointing. It's my senior year and I want to play. I definitely want to play in the championship."
Bodamer brings a different challenge to Clairton because the Bears haven't faced many passing teams in recent years. Bodamer, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior, has thrown for 10,779 yards in four seasons and also has 2,282 yards rushing. His father, Mike, is Port Allegany's coach.
In a quarterfinal game Friday against Sharpsville, Bodamer threw an 11-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds left to give Port Allegany a 28-21 victory.
Howard believes Clairton's defense will be fine against Bodamer.
"At the end of the day, we will have great athletes and not just me," Howard said. "We'll still come to play."
Howard is the second Clairton starter lost to an injury in the past two games. Lineman-linebacker Devontae Harvey sustained a season-ending knee injury in the WPIAL championship against Sto-Rox.
The PIAA announced sites, dates and times for the semifinal games.
North Allegheny will play Wilson of West Lawn in Class AAAA 3 p.m. Saturday at Mansion Park Stadium in Altoona.
In Class AA, Aliquippa will meet Richland 7 p.m. Friday at North Allegheny.
In Class A, Clairton will play Port Allegany 7 p.m. Friday at Deer Lakes.
North Allegheny, Aliquippa and Clairton have dominated just about every opponent this season, and they dominated PIAA quarterfinal games like no trio of teams in WPIAL history.
The three teams won their games by an average of 46.3 points and forced the mercy rule. Since the PIAA playoffs started in 1988, there has never been a round where three WPIAL teams forced the mercy rule. Under the rule, the clock runs continuously in the second half when one team takes the lead by 35 points or more.
If Aliquippa and Imhotep Charter of Philadelphia win their semifinal games this week, the PIAA Class AA championship will feature four 1,000-yard rushers.
Aliquippa's Dravon Henry and Terry Swanson surpassed the 1,000-yard mark earlier this season. Imhotep Charter's David Williams and Eerin Young also have more than 1,000 yards rushing. Young reached the milestone only two weeks ago.
Williams is considered by some scouting services as the No. 1 running back in the state. He has 1,764 yards on 173 carries this season and has dozens of scholarship offers from Division I colleges. He has narrowed his list to South Carolina, Ohio State, Miami and Nebraska.