For one day, Pittsburgh high school gridders roam the Steelers' home

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Danaya Ellman, who spent the morning on her feet yelling loudly for the Sto-Rox High School football team, had one word to describe what it felt like to watch her brother and cousin play on Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"Exhilarating," she said.

Today was the biggest game of the season for the Sto-Rox Vikings and the Clairton Bears, who faced each other in the WPIAL Class A championship game, with Clairton seeking to add one more win to its 59-game winning streak and Sto-Rox hoping to disrupt their record-setting attempt.

A big game was made even bigger, thanks to the Heinz Field venue.

"This is what you play for," said Carthele Smith, 42, of McKeesport, who graduated from Clairton High School in 1989 and played football for the Bears, but never made it to a championship game at Heinz Field.

An end-of-season goal for the players is also a treat for the fans, who pay $10 to watch the four high school championship games played in the stadium today, starting with Clairton vs. Sto-Rox at 11 a.m.

"This is all you see on Twitter, Facebook, everything," Ms. Ellman said about the game.

Austin Saar, 16, a sophomore at Sto-Rox, was having trouble believing that he was seeing his classmates playing on the same gridiron usually graced by big names such as Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu. The game has been the main topic of conversation at his school, he said.

"It was the biggest thing everybody talked about," he said.

There was no mistaking today's game for a Steelers' game, even though the two high school bands provided a halftime show and the game action played over the Jumbotron.

The fans may have been loud, but their numbers were puny when compared to the capicity of the stadium, with only a handful of the sections of the lower bowl of the stadium filled on each side.

Yet from her yellow perch, Bonnie Clifford, 50, of Clairton, said she felt like a queen. Her son, Clairton's No. 3 Bryon Clifford, was feeling like a king playing on the Steelers' field, she said.

"That gives so many kids an opportunity to feel special," she said. "I feel special just sitting here."

Her team defeated Sto-Rox 58-21, setting a Pennsylvania record with its 60th consecutive victory.

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Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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