Clairton reloads behind imposing offensive line

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Wednesday, August 25, 2021 | 6:01 AM


It’s a hot July afternoon and Clairton just finished its final 7-on-7 competition of the summer.

Next stop: McDonald’s.

The players order their value meals, and the coach gets ready to pay.

“That’ll be $76.81,” the cashier says.

Coach Wayne Wade steps up and handles the transaction.

“It would be a lot more if our linemen were here — like $180-200,” Wade said.

Wade can rest easy once the season begins because his linemen will be there. Four returning linemen, in fact.

The coach will be loving it.

“That is going to be one of our strengths, our guys up front,” Wade said. “We return our center, guards and a tackle.”

Clairton, the WPIAL runner-up last season after it was surprisingly knocked dizzy in the title game by Jeannette, 45-14, is back to chase another WPIAL and PIAA championship.

The Bears were 8-1. They have won 10 of the last 14 WPIAL titles and are chasing their first state championship since 2012.

Despite losing their leading passer and top two rushers — one considered the Derrick Henry of Class A football in 6-foot-2, 235-pound Dontae Sanders (1.879 yards, 27 TDs) — they again appear stocked with potential playmakers.

“We’ll be a different team, but we won’t change a thing,” Wade said. “We’ll still run the spread. We have some skill with our backups who saw some time last year. When you have guys like Dontae and (quarterback) Jonte Sanders, you wait your turn.”

The returning linemen are seniors Kanye Hawkins, Keith Meade and Taafe Koontz and junior Tyrese Washington-Law.

Elsewhere, look for backups to become regulars.

Wade will turn to a running back by committee, at least early on, with seniors Christian Wade and Greg Lee running behind junior quarterback Capone Jones.

Skill might shine brightest on the outside with senior Brooklyn Cannon back at wideout.

Seniors Jaylin Askew and Ta’Vaughn Moody and junior Lawrence Short could be other targets for Jones.

Wade thinks offseason workouts helped with timing and chemistry.

“We got better this summer,” Wade said. “We did six 7-on-7s. I know there are a lot pros and cons to doing those, but it really helped our skill guys to understand the game and see what we want to do.”

The schedule will open like an alligator’s mouth: A scrimmage with Thomas Jefferson will be followed by a visit from Steel Valley and a trip to Washington before Eastern Conference play opens Sept. 17 against an improved Leechburg team.

Wade said Jeannette is still the team to beat in the Eastern because the Jayhawks are the defending champions, although that program has been stifled by eight transfers of standout players. He thinks Greensburg Central Catholic, Springdale and Leechburg could be in the mix.

“The kids are excited to compete,” Wade said. “They know it’s next man up.”

Clairton

Coach: Wayne Wade

2020 record: 8-1, 6-0 in Class A Eastern Conference

All-time record: 702-351-41

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

9.3 Steel Valley, 7

9.10 at Washington, 7

9.17 Leechburg*, 7

9.25 at Riverview*, noon

10.1 Bishop Canevin*, 7

10.8 at Imani Christian*, 7

10.15 Greensburg Central Catholic*, 7

10.22 Springdale*, 7

10.29 Jeannette*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Jonte Sanders*

42 of 87, 1,100 yards, 16 TD, 4 INT

Rushing: Dontae Sanders*

121 carries, 1,879 yards, 27 TD

Receiving: Brooklyn Cannon

20 receptions, 674 yards, 12 TD

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• Dontae Sanders, Jonte Sanders and Isaiah Berry, all who have since graduated, carried the offensive load last season, combining for 2,662 yards rushing and 37 touchdowns.

• The Bears averaged 49.8 points a game, topping 50 six times — twice in the playoffs — and 60 twice.

• Last season, the team joined a short list of WPIAL programs to reach 700 wins.

• The Bears have won 10 of their 14 WPIAL titles since 2005, and they also have four PIAA championships (2009, ‘10, ‘11, ‘12).

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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