Clairton contains Ben Jackson, rolls past West Greene

Friday, October 11, 2019 | 10:39 PM

West Greene brought the WPIAL’s leading rusher to Clairton, but the Bears ended up being the ones running wild.

No. 2 Clairton put up big play after big play, scoring 35 points in the game’s first 18 minutes and cruising to a 49-7 win over No. 4 West Greene in a nonconference battle of ranked Class A teams Friday at Neil C. Brown Stadium.

The spotlight matchup — the defense of Clairton (6-2) against the running of West Greene’s Ben Jackson — went mostly the Bears’ way. Jackson still finished with 158 yards on 19 carries, the majority on an 80-yard touchdown run, but the offense for the Pioneers (7-1) finished with just 174 total yards and three turnovers.

“That was the story tonight. We loaded the box and dared them to put the ball in the air,” Clairton coach Wayne Wade said. “I was a little bit more amped before the game started, but I was a little antsy. I couldn’t sit down. I wanted this game, as a defensive coach, to get a kid who’s the leading rusher in the WPIAL and have an opportunity on your field to stop him.”

Clairton stayed mostly in their base five-man front against the heavy wishbone and power-I sets of West Greene, loading the box with eight and nine defenders. Apart from that challenge, the Pioneers had to play from behind from the start, as Dontae Sanders ran in a 6-yard touchdown on the Bears’ first drive, and Kenlein Ogletree increased the lead to 14-0 with a 65-yard punt return just 6:26 into the game.

“Ben’s a great running back, but when you see 10 guys up there in the box, it doesn’t take a lot of knowledge to know what they’re doing,” West Greene coach Brian Hanson said. “We’ve got to play smashmouth. That’s our identity. But when you play a team that can get instant scores, to beat this kind of team, you’ve got to make them drive the football. You can’t give them quick stuff.

“They’re a big-play team, and when they smell blood in the water, the average guys play good, the good guys play great, and the great guys, you can barely contain them.”

Ogletree was at the center of much of the Bears’ scoring, as the junior defensive back/reciever had the early punt return, a 15-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, five extra points after an early miss and a 2-point conversion.

Junior running back Isaiah Berry also starred, finishing with 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns on nine carries and snagging two interceptions on defense, the second culminating with a highlight-reel return that ended with Berry tackled at the West Greene 4-yard line.

“(Ogletree) is our guy. He’s probably the best athlete on our team, and it shows on the field,” Wade said. “He’s hard to guard at receiver. He makes all kinds of plays at free safety. He’s our punt returner, our kick returner. … (On the missed extra point), he stopped because it was a bad snap, and I told him just follow through, and that’s that.”

Bears quarterback Brendan Parsons finished 10-for-13 passing for 172 yards and two touchdowns, ending with a 49-yard, senior-to-senior connection to Brooklyn Cannon. Those all-senior plays are rare for the Bears, whose only 12th graders are Parsons, Cannon and senior receiver Wayne Wade III, who pulled in four passes for 46 yards.

With such a young roster, the Bears — whose only losses were to larger-classification schools Aliquippa and McGuffey — seem to be peaking at the right time.

“Most of these kids, they’ll be back next year. They’re hungry this year, but they’ll be back this year,” Wade said. “But our quarterback (Parsons) is definitely our guy. He’s a three-year starter, he’s been our leader, and he knows what we expect, even with a new offense this year. … We played on all cylinders tonight, and it’s because of him.”

Matt Grubba is a contributing writer.

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