PITTSBURGH – For the scoreboard watchers, seeing the Clairton Bears be kept below 20 points for the first time all season might seem a shock. But then again, consider the opponent – Rochester – a team that has always given Clairton fits.
Clairton head coach Tom Nola didn’t think the final score was atypical.
“It was a (rather) typical Clairton/Rochester game,” Nola said. “It was tough to get points (on the board) and there was a lot of good defense.”
Clairton (13-0) forced two Ram turnovers and allowed only 43 rushing yards, posting its ninth shutout of the season in a 12-0 shutout of Rochester (12-1) in the WPIAL Class A championship game from Heinz Field.
With the win, Clairton will take on District 5 champion North Star (9-3) next weekend in a PIAA Class A quarterfinal Friday, December 3rd at Somerset Area High School.
Rochester head coach Gene Matsook took a slightly defensive stance in postgame comments when asked how good Clairton’s defense is.
“Just as good as ours,” Matsook said. “Our defense played a fantastic game against a team that has more skill than the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
Clairton does have a lot of skill, from QB Desimon Green to RBs Tyler Boyd and Karvonn”Mud Puppy” Coles to WRs Trenton Coles and Josh Page. But defensively, Clairton may be most similar to the Steelers. They are like a Steel Curtain.
Rochester found that out early and often. Through three quarters, the Rams were held to 39 yards of total offense and completed only one pass (a 9-yard screen to Nick Tapia). For the game, Rochester ran 34 times for only 43 yards and completed just 2-of-10 passes for 21 yards.
And on a few of Rochester’s first pass plays of the game, quarterback Jasson Adamson was rolling out toward Green’s side of the field.
That move surprised Green very much.
“I was shocked,” Green said. “But I hadn’t been playing my best on defense, so I thought they’d try (to come to my side). But I wasn’t going to let that happen.”
Green didn’t let much of anything happen, defensively speaking. He finished the game with 10 tackles (2 for loss) and a sack. He also got things done offensively, too, having a hand in both Bear touchdowns while throwing for 82 yards and running for 48 more.
But aside from Green and “Mud Puppy” Coles’ 64 yards on six totes, Clairton had some offensive sputters. The Bears committed 10 penalties for 84 yards and had three turnovers – two interceptions and a lost fumble. Clairton also missed an opportunity with less than two minutes left in the first half to extend its lead to 12-0 on a failed 4th-down pass into the end zone, intended for Josh Page.
“We made a few more plays than they did, especially on defense,” Nola said.
The first of those plays was Green’s 26-yard touchdown run with 8:28 left in the first half. The second, a 21-yard Green touchdown pass with :37 left in the game to Trenton Coles to put the game on ice. The third – Clairton’s defense stopped Rams’ feature back Deandre Moon for a 12-yard loss on a 2nd down and 3 situation from the Clairton 18 yard line in the fourth quarter.
Rochester also missed a golden touchdown opportunity on a dropped screen pass in the third quarter. Had the Rams’ Devon Glass hauled in the Adamson pass, he had nothing but wide open spaces in front of him.
“We caught them on it,” Matsook said. “But it didn’t work out. We capitalize on a play there, it’s six.”
Rochester was paced by Glass’ 20 yards rushing on nine carries. Tapia added 20 yards on five carries and Moon finished with 9 yards on 8 carries. Rochester had 64 yards of offense and six first downs.
Clairton finished with 253 yards of offense (171 on the ground). Production spread between Boyd (31 rushing yards; 41 receiving yards), Brandon Small (20 rush yards), Page (20 receiving yards) in addition to the contributions of the Coles, Trenton and Karvonn, and Green.
Green, Small and Bishop Neal (1 INT on defense) all said they got up early in the morning for the game, which kicked off at 9:30 a.m.
“5:30 a.m.,” Neal said of his waking hour.
This day, however, the Rams were the ones sent to an early hibernation.