Clairton pulls it together, routs Jeannette after close 1st quarter

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Friday, October 27, 2023 | 11:22 PM


Drahcir Jones said Clairton had no intentions of sharing the Eastern Conference title with anyone.

Well, he and his teammates might pass the championship plaque around when they receive it — if that counts.

A WPIAL trophy is of greater concern now to the Bears, who showed they are back in the Class A title hunt with an impressive victory.

Jones ran for 190 yards and two touchdowns behind a strong front line, and Michael Wright threw three touchdowns as the fourth-ranked Bears handled Jeannette, 60-14, to claim the conference outright on Friday night at McKee Stadium.

Donte Wright scored three touchdowns for the Bears (8-2, 6-0), who will take an eight-game winning streak into the playoffs. It was their third straight win over the improved Jayhawks (7-3, 4-2), who scored first and pulled within 14-14 before Clairton found its footing and pulled away for good.

“We didn’t get worried (when it was close early),” Jones said. “If me and (quarterback) Mike (Wright) aren’t calm, then nobody is. We don’t like losing. We try to dominate every game.”

Clairton is a Class A power, but the Bears haven’t won a WPIAL title since 2019. Jeannette beat them for the 2020 title.

“There was a scenario where we could share the title even if we lost,” Bears coach Wayne Wade said. “We didn’t want to worry about that. We wanted to take care of business. It doesn’t matter where we get seeded.”

A high-scoring first quarter had fans envisioning a shootout. The teams combined for 36 points in the opening 12 minutes.

But the close opening frame became a distant memory for the Bears.

Clairton lost a fumble on its first play, and Gavin Holemeyer recovered for Jeannette. On the next play, Payton Molter ran 26 yards for a touchdown.

The Bears answered with a 10-yard touchdown by Donte Wright but missed the 2-point pass.

The Jayhawks fumbled it back to the Bears, and Donte Wright scored on an 11-yard run before Michael Ruffin’s 2-point run made it 14-7.

Molter found Kymone Brown on a deep route for a 44-yard strike, and it was 14-14.

But Jones raced 33 yards for a score, and Michael Wright added the conversion run, and the Bears were on their way to a rout.

“It certainly wasn’t the plan (to get into a shootout),” Jeannette coach Tom Paulone said. “Our offense has been trending really great but in spurts. We have to be able to sustain that for complete games. We didn’t get it done. We’re not ready to take the next step, and I am responsible for that. I will own it.”

Wade said his team quickly dusted itself off after the shaky start.

“It caught us off guard a little bit, but we made some big plays when they made it close,” Wade said. “We played well on both sides of the ball.”

Wade’s team scored 20 points in the second quarter, with Michael Wright connecting with Ruffin for a 50-yard score, Zae-Mear Corell taking a fake punt to the end zone on a 59-yard run and Teek Woodring hauling in a 19-yard TD from Michael Wright.

Throw in a safety, and the Bears took a 42-14 lead into the half.

“I saw how big their line was on film,” Paulone said. “When I (coached) at Chartiers Valley, we’d see this with Aliquippa. Clairton is big and fast. They have skill and speed.”

Michael Wright was 11 of 18 for 174 yards.

Molter injured his throwing arm late in the first half and did not return. Brown took over under center.

“Our offensive game plan changed completely at that point,” Paulone said.

Jones added a 58-yard touchdown and also intercepted a pass in the second half.

Donte Wright and Dion Pompey each scored in the fourth.

Clairton piled up 475 yards to Jeannette’s 170.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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