Sto-Rox's Mallory Clayburn scores despite the defensive efforts of Neshannock's Rocco Fazio in a game Sept. 12.
By Craig Meyer Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Clairton's famed and much-discussed 66-game winning streak derailed the dreams and aspirations of any Class A team it faced over the course of its four-year run. In each of the past two seasons, no team made it closer to its goal without reaching it than Sto-Rox, which lost to Clairton in the WPIAL championship game in 2011 and 2012. With the streak now over and the Bears retooling after the loss of several stars, this season presents as good a chance as any for the 4-0 Vikings to win their first WPIAL championship since 1987 (which came when they were in Class AA). With a standout quarterback and a glut of talented playmakers on offense, Sto-Rox hopes to make the most of its opportunity.
A dynamic quarterback
After a junior season in which he accounted for 3,426 yards of total offense, quarterback Lenny Williams has picked up where he left off. Through the team's first four games, he has thrown for 939 yards -- 141 more than he had at the same point last season -- with a completion percentage of 71.4 percent, a sizable improvement over his 55.9 percent mark from 2012. For his career, he has thrown for 6,738 yards and 83 touchdowns, putting him five short of the WPIAL record of 88. Williams holds scholarship offers from Temple, Rutgers, Bowling Green, Toledo and Akron and has also garnered interest from West Virginia, Maryland and Penn State. Though Williams has been slapped with the "athlete" label, Sto-Rox coach Dan Bradley believes that Williams can play quarterback in college. "I think he has a lot of tools that would make him a successful college quarterback," Bradley said. "It will be based upon his opportunity for whatever college he chooses and their willingness to offer him an opportunity."
A famous connection
Aside from Williams, the Vikings have a number of other offensive options that have allowed the team to average 46.3 points per game. One of them is running back Brendan Blair. This season, Blair has rushed for 228 yards -- averaging just shy of 8 yards per carry -- and four touchdowns. Blair is a cousin of DeJuan Blair, a former Pitt and Schenley standout and current member of the Dallas Mavericks. Blair, a senior, has not received any scholarships offers, but Bradley is confident that his running back will be playing somewhere next year. "He has a future in football, whether it's defensively or in the slot," Bradley said. "He'll be playing football next year, that's for sure."
Leading the way
Last season was Bradley's first as head coach -- he was previously the offensive coordinator -- and he took the Vikings to the WPIAL championship game. Four games into his second season at the helm, Bradley has compiled a 15-2 record at one of the traditionally strong programs in Class A -- or, as Bradley describes it, a program that has "always been a good place to coach." He also is the head basketball coach at Avonworth.
The Sto-Rox School District made headlines last summer when it announced it would eliminate its baseball and softball programs as part of larger district-wide cuts. For a school with an enrollment of fewer than 400 students, questions naturally have arisen about the football program. In the meantime, Bradley and those associated with Sto-Rox are hopeful that it, and the school as a whole, can stay afloat. "When budget cuts come around, athletics and transportation are usually two that rise to the top," he said. "Hopefully, we'll be around a few more years playing football and, hopefully a lot more years of kids going to school here."