No. 1 Jeannette slips past No. 2 Clairton in wet, muddy showdown
Since Jeannette had dropped to Class A and been placed in the Eastern Conference in 2014, the Jayhawks never beat Clairton during the regular season.
That ended on a rainy and messy Friday night at McKee Stadium.
Playing in a steady rain that made the turf a quagmire, No. 1 Jeannette used two Seth Howard touchdown runs and a Melik Gordon 10-yard fumble return for a score to defeat No. 2 Clairton, 21-6, in a showdown between the two top-ranked teams in Class A.
Both teams now wait until Monday to find out who they will be playing in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs, which are scheduled to begin next Friday.
One thing is for sure: Jeannette, the returning WPIAL and PIAA champion, will have a home game. But where that game will be played is up in the air considering the poor condition of the McKee Stadium turf.
The victory was No. 746 for Jeannette, and it was the first time the Jayhawks had won the conference title since 2011 when they were in the Class 2A Interstate Conference.
The sloppy conditions hampered both offenses and led to a combined five turnovers.
“Both of us had to play in the same conditions,” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said as his team celebrated in the locker room. “The defense played fantastic, and I liked how we played defensively. I’m proud of the players, they rose to the occasion.”
The steady rain started falling right after the opening kickoff and became heavy at times.
Jeannette struck late in the first quarter when Howard scored on a 13-yard keeper. His 34-yard pass to Marcus Barnes set up the score, and Emilio Huerta added the extra point to make it 7-0.
Clairton quarterback Brendan Parsons misfired on his first five passes, but his sixth pass, to Leonard Robinson, went for a 46-yard touchdown and trimmed the lead to 7-6. Jeannette blocked the extra point.
“We hadn’t won a conference title here since 2011, so it was nice to break that streak and do it against Clairton,” Howard said. “My big touchdown run was set up by a couple plays prior. We were having success with the 34 Redskin, so I kept it and ran down the sidelines.”
Howard’s 57-yard touchdown run clinched the victory, but Gordon’s 10-yard return gave the Jayhawks some breathing room.
Jeannette fumbled away a scoring opportunity at the Clairton 1 midway through the third quarter after a long punt return by Imani Sanders.
“It was a ballgame into the fourth quarter,” Clairton coach Wayne Wade said. “It was going back and forth. Both teams were making mistakes and dropping passes.
“It was two good playoff football teams. We’ll see how it plays out in the playoffs. The fumble recovery was huge for us.”
Jeannette’s defense held Clairton to 27 yards rushing and sacked Parsons four times. Parsons also lost the fumble Gordon returned.
“This is what we worked for all summer,” said Jeannette tackle Drake Petrillo, who, along with Zach Crutchman, had two sacks. “Our first goal is to win a conference title and it’s always fun to play in big games. We had a lot of fun: It was muddy, gritty and a perfect night.”
Parsons completed 8 of 22 passes for 122 yards. Howard rushed for 93 yards but completed only 3 of 12 passes for 45 yards. He was picked off twice by Kenlein Ogletree.
“Seth was solid,” Hall said. “A couple times he took a step backwards, but when we really needed him to step up, he did.”