Clairton holds on for victory over Bishop Canevin in sloppy game

Friday, October 1, 2021 | 11:50 PM

After a two-game losing streak and a two-game winning streak, Clairton faced a first-place battle against an undefeated Bishop Canevin football team Friday night.

The Bears led by 22 points after a sloppy first half and eventually added a touchdown to answer a ferocious comeback attempt by Bishop Canevin and win 28-18. Clairton moved to 3-2 overall and 3-0 in Class A Eastern Conference action.

“We didn’t play well tonight,” Clairton coach Wayne Wade said. “We played well on defense in spurts, but we didn’t, offensively, play well tonight.”

The first-half mistakes began with a high snap over the head of Bishop Canevin senior punter Geno DeFrank, who couldn’t recover the ball in the end zone. The pigskin was picked up by Keire Dixon for a touchdown. Christian Wade tacked on the extra point before the Bears fumbled on their first offensive drive.

It didn’t matter. Clairton quickly forced the visitors’ punt team back to the field, and once again the snap sailed over DeFrank’s reach. He kicked it out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

“It was just sloppy. There’s no other way to put it,” Bishop Canevin coach Richard Johnson said. “Maybe the situation was a little too big for what we were ready for before we woke up.”

Later in the half, Clairton went on an 11-play, 58-yard scoring drive that took up 5 minutes, 16 seconds. It ended with a handoff to Wade on third-and-goal from the 6-yard line. The senior took it in but couldn’t add the point after once the hold was dropped.

On the ensuing first play from scrimmage, the Crusaders fumbled. Kanye Hawkins scooped up the ball and took it 30 yards to paydirt. After the extra point, Clairton led 22-0 and took that lead to the break.

“You can’t play a first half like that against a program like that,” Johnson said. “Tonight we got a chance to see what type of football we need to play in these types of circumstances.”

The Crusaders got on the board with 6:36 to play in the third quarter when Jaiden Torres recovered a fumble in the end zone. The point after was missed to keep it at 22-6 before a quarterback change to freshman Kole Olszewski gave the Crusaders a spark.

After working the Crusaders down the field for their best offensive drive of the game, Olszewski brought starting quarterback Jason Cross in motion on a jet sweep and handed him the ball. Cross heaved a pass 21 yards to Xavier Nelson for Bishop Canevin’s first offensive touchdown.

With 5:02 left in the fourth, Olszewski scored from a yard to cap another lengthy scoring drive for the visitors that brought the score to 22-18.

The Bears failed to score or move the sticks, giving it back to the Crusaders with a shot to march down the field and win. Instead, Clairton got a big stop before Capone Jones scored on a third-and-11 at the Crusaders’ 22 to seal it.

“Huge stop for the defense there. We let them move it a bit but then got the stop,” Wayne Wade said. “That Capone play is just a play he willed. That was his will against theirs, and he broke three or four tackles and scored.”

Wayne Wade said despite the win his team has a lot on which to work.

“We’ve got to correct some of the mistakes and fix some things if we want to make a run at this thing,” Wade said. “Hopefully we can do some of those things by next week and keep progressing.”

For Bishop Canevin, it’s the first loss in its best season since 2011. That team started 11-0 before losing to Sto-Rox in the WPIAL semifinals. This team is 5-1 and 2-1 in the Eastern Conference with a game against Leechburg on the horizon next week.

“If we can take anything from tonight it’s that we didn’t lay down,” Johnson said. “We just proved we can compete with anybody. Hopefully we take this, get focused and have a good week of preparation for another good football team.”

Clairton is at Imani Christian next week, and Bishop Canevin travels to the Blue Devils.

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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