“Mr. High School Sports” – As Clairton Turns 60, Top Prospects Turn Heads
PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — Four wins this month was enough for the Clairton Bears to make history, and four catches on Saturday were apparently enough for Bobby Engram to make up his mind.
The Pitt wide receivers coach had his eye on Clairton flanker Terrish Webb, although the senior had already verbally committed to the burgeoning program at Kent State several weeks earlier.
Webb led the field with 99 yards receiving, and registered two terrific touchdowns Friday in a 58-21 win over feisty Class A rival Sto-Rox at Heinz Field, the highest-scoring WPIAL Championship game of all-time. He was offered by the Panthers the next day.
He has been a big-play threat all year in head coach Tom Nola’s offense, racking up 659 yards, and averaging over 22 yards per grab, and even as the Vikings contained senior athlete Tyler Boyd, one of the top D-1 prospects in the state, they couldn’t contain Webb.
“If we started throwing to these guys, we knew they’d start spreading out,” Boyd explained. “But I knew I had to make more plays as soon as I got back out there. So they did what they had to do, and they called more plays to get me the ball.”
First, though, as Boyd explained, Webb have to put the game in Clairton’s control. Down 7-6 in the second quarter, he adjusted to a deep throw by Armani Ford and made a beautiful 42-yard catch around Ben Shackleford to put the Bears in business. Moments later, Ford once more found Webb, who hung on and tiptoed just inside the pylon to give his team the lead for good.
Webb wasn’t done yet. At the Sto-Rox 24-yard line early in the third, Ford hit Webb right at the first-down marker as the latter was forced out of bounds…
Except he wasn’t.
Improbably, he shook off the defender, and darted up the far sideline for what became an easy score, his 13th of the season, and a 28-13 edge.
One constant throughout Clairton’s historic run to a fifth consecutive WPIAL Class A title has been the college-level talent it has produced that has produced in big spots.
With Pitt’s top receiver, Mike Shanahan, set to graduate, and talented Devin Street approaching his senior season, the Panthers, in the long run, would certainly appreciate another playmaker. If Paul Chryst courts Boyd unsuccessfully, Webb suddenly looks like a viable Plan B from one of the state’s most accomplished teams.
Having said that, Chryst, by no means, has given up on Plan A; he holds a key bargaining chip. Boyd has been, reportedly, high on West Virginia, but, according to sources, the Mountaineers want him to play in their secondary, while Pitt envisions him on offense, where Boyd’s heart lies.
“He’s like water…he’s smooth, he’s quick. Good is good, but he’s great,” said Sto-Rox head coach Dan Bradley.
He was great when he had to be. In the first half, he was stymied and finished with -13 yards rushing on five carries. In the second half, the leading rusher in Class A carried the Bears to more gold, finishing with 144 yards on 16 attempts.
Boyd took advantage of a Lenny Williams offensive interception with a 14-yard touchdown right up the middle on the very next play, and, on the first play from scrimmage after a nifty Williams TD run, burst through left tackle for a 77-yarder, his 48th touchdown of the year.
“We were able to contain him, and slow him down. That gave us an opportunity to possess the ball, and move the ball a little bit. In the second half, they coached like we coach,” Bradley said. “They spread us out a little bit, and they were able to get Tyler in space.”
“We didn’t really change anything on the field. I just ran opposite from their extra guy. When I continued to do that, it led to yards,” said Boyd.
Even though he was frustrated through two quarters, he still did damage on perhaps the most memorable play of the game. The Bears perfectly executed a double-reverse that led Boyd to hit a wide-open Santeaun Sims for a 74-yard TD.
“We practice it all the time. A lot of these guys, if not all of them, say, ‘Coach, why do we do this all the time? We never run ’em!'” Nola said with a smile, as he now prepares his team for a PIAA Quarterfinal showdown with Berlin Brothersvalley. “But, for a situation just like this one, we practice it every week.”
Reach for whatever piece of logic you can find, and analyze it from whatever angle you desire. All we can do is tip our collective cap to Nola and his players, who enter this Friday’s matchup with their state-record 60-game winning streak in tow, and appreciate what we’re watching.
It’s greatness emanating from truly great players…players who would look great in blue and gold.
(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)