High School Football Notebook: Graduation could endanger Clairton's impressive streak
Clairton fans at Hersheypark Stadium cheer on the Bears as they play Dunmore in the PIAA Class A championship game Friday. Clairton won, 20-0, to claim their fourth consecutive state title and stretch their state-record winning streak to 63 games.
Tyler Boyd is one of many Clairton seniors who won't be back next year to help the new-look Bears build on their winning streak.
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With a third consecutive perfect season behind them and a fourth consecutive PIAA title in their grasp, there is one major question for the Clairton Bears.
After winning the PIAA Class A championship, Clairton has the country's longest winning streak at 63 games. But the Bears' starting lineup was loaded with seniors and almost half of the 38 players on the team's roster were seniors. The Bears' top playmakers will graduate. Next year's team doesn't look nearly as strong as the past four or five.
"They just have to build a new legacy," said Tyler Boyd, a star senior running back-receiver-defensive back. "We want them to continue the streak."
But two other major questions surround Clairton. Will coach Tom Nola retire? Will defensive coordinator Wayne Wade return?
Nola, 59, almost retired after last season and will think about it again.
"I don't know. I said at the beginning of this year that I can't leave during this streak, so ... ," Nola said. "But I'm not saying anything yet."
Wade has been instrumental in Clairton's success. When asked if he would return, Wade said, "That's a good question. Some things are floating around out there about other schools and me. I love Clairton and I want to be here. But I'm going to take some time off, weigh my options and we'll go from there."
Boyd had planned to make his college choice public during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl all-star game Jan. 5 in San Antonio. But Boyd said he doubts he will have a decision by then.
"I'm not sure when I'm going to announce now," Boyd said.
Boyd plans to make January visits to West Virginia, Penn State, Michigan State and Rutgers. He already has visited Pitt.
Boyd also is one of Clairton's best basketball players, but probably won't play basketball until after the Army game.
"I'm still trying to take a little rest, too," Boyd said.
The four title games attracted some of the best crowds in a while.
Attendance for the entire weekend was 18,876, which was slightly better than last year's 18,500. It was only four years ago the games drew only 12,418. In 2009, the games drew 15,661, and 15,141 in 2010.
Good weather was one of the reasons for the increase in attendance, but some of the teams in the games came from small towns and had big followings. The biggest crowd was 6,047 for the Class AAAA game. The Class AA final drew 5,530, the A final 3,851 and the AAA final 3,448.
North Allegheny and Clairton's championships gave the WPIAL 36 PIAA champions, by far the most of any district in the state since the PIAA playoffs began in 1988. But the WPIAL is by far the biggest district in the state in terms of number of teams.
Districts 11, 4 and 3 are next with 11 championships each.
This was the fifth time the WPIAL had two champions. If Aliquippa had defeated Wyomissing, the WPIAL would have had three champions for the fourth time, all since 2001.
There were 7,013 reasons why North Allegheny was glad Mack Leftwich moved into the district in 2011.
Leftwich moved to Pennsylvania when his father, Spencer, became a Pitt assistant coach under Todd Graham (Spencer Leftwich is now a University of Arizona assistant). Although Leftwich played only two seasons, he had 7,013 yards of offense. Leftwich completed 303 of 498 passes for 5,554 yards and 65 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,459 yards on 286 attempts.
Leftwich's 3,331 yards passing this season is second best in WPIAL history. He was at his best in the playoffs. In seven postseason games (WPIAL and PIAA), Leftwich completed 95 of 141 (67 percent) for 1,610 yards and 22 touchdowns.
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• In the Class AA championship game, Aliquippa, trailing 17-14, recovered a Wyomissing fumble at the Aliquippa 16 with 53 seconds left. Aliquippa's coaches put Darrien Fields at quarterback for the first time in the game and put quarterback Malik Shegog at receiver. But Fields was hit hard while trying to throw and his pass went high into the air and was intercepted.
Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac explained the move after the game.
"We were just throwing a 'Hail Mary' pass," Zmijanac said. "Shegog played receiver before, so we put three of our best guys out wide. We only had 10 guys on the field, though. [Fields] can throw it, unless he gets hit."
• Pitt had five assistant coaches at the games over the weekend and Penn State coach Bill O'Brien was on the sideline Saturday.
• All four champions (North Allegheny, Erie Cathedral Prep, Wyomissing and Clairton) finished with undefeated records. The only other time all four champs were undefeated was 1999.
Clairton among nation's longest H.S. win streaks
Rk Wins School Years
1. 151 De La Salle (Calif.) 1992-2003
2. 109 Independence (N.C.) 2003-09
3. 89 South Panola (Miss.) 1989-95
4. 79 Smith Center, (Kan.) 2004-09
5. 74 Maryville (Tenn.) 2004-08
6. 72 Hudson (Mich.) 1968-75
7. 71 Jefferson City (Mo.) 1958-66
8. 69 Animas (N.M.) 1984-90
Rk Wins School Years
9. 68 Celina (Texas) 1998-2002
10. 66 St. Mary's-Colgan (Kan.) 1999-2004
11. 64 Carver (Miss.) 1958-1965
12. 64 Pittsfield (ll.) 1966-73
13. 63 Clairton 2009-?
63 Barton (Ark.) 1985-90
63 Paulsboro (N.J.) 1992-97
63 Blue Ridge (Ariz.) 1994-98
Note -- 11-player football only
First Published December 17, 2012 12:00 am