The Clairton Bears became just the second team in WPIAL Class A history to win three straight titles, earning the trifecta with a 12-0 victory over the Rochester Rams in a Saturday morning matchup at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
It was Clairton's 8th WPIAL title overall, with their current 4 championships in a 5-year span under head coach Tom Nola.
The Bears overcame 3 turnovers and 10 penalties in a hard-fought victory that was a defensive struggle from the get-go.
"It was a typical Rochester – Clairton game," said Nola. "Both teams played great defense. Our defense shut them down, we just happened to make a few more plays than they did."
Rochester [12-1] hung in the contest with help from two first quarter interceptions of Clairton QB Desimon Green, with Kaylan Kenney and Jason Adamson swiping away balls in Rams territory. Green had thrown just one interception all season coming into the game. The Rams D also held tough in the red-zone late in the first half, breaking up an endzone pass on a Clairton 4th-down from the 10-yard line.
Clairton's D, though, matched the takeaways with Tyler Boyd and Bishop Neal picks as Rochester was forced to attempt to throw more than usual to move the football.
Green, a Pitt recruit, was disruptive from his defensive end spot as well throughout the contest utilizing his quickness and his 6'5 inch frame. Green said, "I was shocked [Rochester ran] my way." He finished with a game-high 10 tackles, with 2 tackles for loss and a sack.
On offense Green finally helped the Bears break a few big plays. On Clairton's third series of the game Green connected with Boyd on a 32-yard pass on a 3rd-down-and-6 to set up a Green 26-yard TD run out the shotgun formation. The extra point was wide right, and Clairton lead 6-0 with 8:38 remaining in the second quarter.
The Rams offense was held to just 42 1st-half yards, and only 64 for the game. Their "three-headed monster" of running backs in Devon Glass, De'andre Moon, and Nick Tapia produced just 49 yards rushing on 23 carries.
In the second half, the Rochester defense again came up with a key takeaway as Tapia tipped and recovered a backward pass attempt at the Rams 15-yard line. However, the Rochester offense could not take advantage of the opportunities their defense provided.
The Rams' best progress came early in the 4th-quarter as Adamson drove his offense from midfield to the Clairton 19-yard line. But Moon lost 11-yards on a running play as he tried to gain extra-effort progress upon being stopped at the line of scrimmage. Bears DE Devante Gardlock followed with a sack of Adamson on 3rd-and-15, and Rochester was forced to punt.
DT Erik Walker would bring down QB Adamson on the Rams next drive on a 3rd-and-7 to stall another Rochester drive with 4 minutes remaining, and Clairton then took over for the game-clinching sequence. The Bears offense gained chunks of yards on the ground, and then went for it on 4th-and-19 from the Rochester 21-yard line, trying to kill clock with 44-seconds left. Green's endzone heave fell into the arms of Trenton Coles for a 12-0 advantage.
It was the 9th shutout of the year in a 13-0 season for Clairton of statistical domination. The Bears defense has allowed just 4 TDs all year. 253-yards of total offense in the game gives them over 5,000 for the season, the most across District-7 in any classification.
For Rochester, it was their 4th-straight loss at Heinz Field in WPIAL title games, with three of those coming at the hands of the Bears. Rams head coach Gene Matsook defended his players' effort, saying "Not taking anything away from Clairton but our defense is as good as theirs." Glass and Tapia were the Rochester stars on defense, combining for 19-tackles and holding Green to 5 of 12 passing for 82-yards.
However, at the end Green and his Bears' teammates were doing the celebrating again. "It means everything to win three straight. This victory means a lot for the town, it's a football town. [And] there was more pressure to win this championship than the last two."
Clairton advances to the PIAA quarterfinals to play North Star at Somerset High School December 3rd at 7pm.