Clairton rights ship in 2nd half of win vs. Union

Friday, November 10, 2023 | 11:29 PM

Clairton went to the locker room down a touchdown at halftime, but Wayne Wade thought his team was controlling the game.

He just needed his team to limit its mistakes and penalties after being flagged eight times.

Once it came back to the field, the miscues subsided and the Wright brothers took flight.

Donte Wright had two rushing touchdowns, and Michael Wright threw a crucial touchdown pass for the go-ahead score as No. 4 Clairton came back to win 18-6 over No. 5 Union in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals Friday night at Armstrong.

“We went into halftime feeling down, but coach told us not to worry,” Donte Wright said. “We were all sitting down, and he told us to get up and that we were good. We came out and played Clairton football and came out on top.”

The Bears (10-2) advanced to play top-seeded South Side in the semifinals. Union, the defending Class A champs, finished 9-3.

Union led 6-0 at halftime, but Clairton used a 15-play drive to start the second half and knot the score.

Donte Wright scored on an 8-yard run. The 2-point try failed, keeping the score 6-6.

Then, in the fourth quarter it was Michael’s turn to make a big play. He threw a pass to Zae-Mear Correll, who broke a tackle and went 67 yards for a touchdown to put Clairton up 12-6.

He finished with 134 yards passing.

“Michael has done an excellent job for us this year,” Wade said. “He was our backup last year. To perform the way he has all year has been huge for us.”

Donte Wright put the game on ice late in the fourth with a 6-yard touchdown. He rushed for 31 yards on the previous play.

Clairton’s defense was strong all night. It intercepted Union quarterback Braylon Thomas three times and sacked him four.

“You’re talking about a team that averages almost 40 points a game, and we held them to six,” Wade said. “Kudos to my defense and my defensive coordinator. He had a great game plan, and I thought we were able to contain Braylon for most of the game.”

Thomas did put himself into the record books, becoming the fifth quarterback in WPIAL history to have a season of 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing. He did so on a 22-yard completion to Mike Gunn in the fourth.

Thomas also had a highlight-reel play for Union’s lone touchdown in the second quarter.

On fourth-and-goal at the 4, Thomas rolled out to his left and, with a group of Bears chasing, backpedaled to the 31 before throwing flat-footed. The pass was caught by Dayne Johnke amongst a group of people in the end zone.

“Braylon became the fifth quarterback in WPIAL history to do something special, and every one of our guys is a part of that,” Union coach Kim Niedbala said. “Without that whole team in there that couldn’t have happened.

“Braylon is a dynamic player that’s become better and better. We’re going to miss him. I’ve been around a lot of places, and guys like him don’t come around often. It’s a great accomplishment for him.”

Union graduates 10 seniors from a team that won last year’s WPIAL Class A title and made an appearance in the state championship.

“I just told them that I am proud of them,” Niedbala said. “These seniors in two years have won 21 games, and that’s a heck of a lot of games. They worked really hard for it.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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