Wayne Wade Jr. feels strange saying it, but no one who follows PIAA football would think the Clairton football team’s goal for being a state champion each season is outlandish.
The Bears have made all seven of their appearances in the PIAA Class A finals - capturing four state crowns - since 2008 and have been regular participants in the WPIAL title game during that period.
“Our expectations for each group is a state championship,” Wade said. “I know it may seem odd to hear that. We’ve put it out there that we are successful enough to win championships and be in those championship games every year. That’s what we are looking for this year.”
Navigating back to the district title game is something that may be as difficult as getting to states.
Last year, Clairton watched as the two teams it shared the Eastern Conference championship with - Imani Christian and eventual state champion Jeannette - battled for the WPIAL crown.
Senior linebacker Leonard Robinson feels the Bears are conditioned to have sustained excellence.
“The pressure is handled at practice every day,” Robinson said. “We come and work hard.”
Realignment left Jeannette, Clairton and Imani Christian in the same conference, meaning there will be some major battles before the playoffs start. The Jayhawks ended Clairton’s 2017 campaign with an 18-7 decision in the WPIAL semifinals.
Getting back on the big stage is something Wade plans to accomplish the Bears’ way. Clairton enjoys forcing turnovers and playing a physical brand of defense.
“We are fast and aggressive,” Robinson said. “I think we are the fastest team in the WPIAL.”
Aaron Thompson, Robinson, Deonte Reddick, Demetrius Weatherspoon and Dominic Solomon all figure to play key roles on a defense that limited opponents to 11.3 points per game last season.
“For our kids, it’s always our defense,” Wade said. “It always is. Even our two losses last year to Imani and Jeannette, they were low-scoring games. As long as we come prepared and ready to play defensively, we always give ourselves a chance.”
On offensive, the Bears will benefit from having quarterback Brendan Parsons return.
How everyone mixes together in the trenches will be a key for Clairton.
Once the Bears get that in place, their machine should kick into gear.
Wade should be able to find out quickly how reasonable Clairton’s prospects are of another trip to Hersheypark Stadium.
“If we win the battle up front, we should win the game,” Wade said. “We have some young kids that will be starting for us that were on the team that are young and experienced. We are looking for big things out of those kids that were young last year.”
Coach: Wayne Wade
2017 record: 9-3, 6-1
All-time record: 674-345-41
Date, Opponent, Time
8.31, at Mapletown, 7 p.m.
9.7, Greensburg C.C.*, 7 p.m.
9.15, at Riverview*, noon
9.21, at Laurel, 7 p.m.
9.28, Leechburg*, 7 p.m.
10.5, Imani Christian*, 7 p.m.
10.12, at West Greene, 7 p.m.
10.19, Springdale*, 7 p.m.
10.26, at Jeannette*, 7 p.m.
*Class A Eastern Conference game
Passing: Brendan Parsons
71-129, 1,044 yards, 12 TDs
Rushing: Tre’sean Howard*
101-966 yards, 23 TDs
31-448 yards, 23 TDs