Clairton’s Dontae Sanders racks up 428 rushing yards in Class A win over OLSH

Friday, October 30, 2020 | 11:36 PM

“Prime Time” was the nickname of NFL great Deion Sanders, but Clairton senior Dontae Sanders might need to repurpose the nickname, looking more like Barry Sanders in prime time in Clairton’s playoff win Friday night.

Sanders rushed for 428 yards and six touchdowns, leading Clairton to a 54-20 victory over Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals at Norwin Knights Stadium.

Sanders torched OLSH for 248 yards and four touchdowns in the first half, helping the Bears to a 34-13 lead at the midway point. The Clairton senior put another 180 on the board in a rare second-half appearance, adding two more scores to push coach Wayne Wade’s squad into the semifinals.

“He’s only really played a half or three quarters for us most games, so to get enough carries and do what he did against a playoff team tonight just shows the type of running back he is,” Wade said. “I know he could have put 400 yards on a lot of teams in our conference, but there was no reason to leave him in those games when we’re up big at the half.”

Clairton opened the game forcing a three-and-out for the Chargers. The Bears put their offense on the field and wasted no time finding the end zone on a four-play, one-minute drive culminating in a 34-yard Sanders touchdown run. A 2-point conversion gave the Bears an 8-0 lead.

After the Bears stopped another Chargers drive, a muffed punt by Clairton ended up in the hands of OLSH. Chargers quarterback Jay Pearson rushed 14 yards for the touchdown and pulled OLSH back within one.

Clairton opened the second quarter with another Sanders touchdown, this one from 14 yards out to give the Bears a 15-7 lead. OLSH answered again with another Pearson rushing touchdown, but the 2-point conversion failed and Clairton hung on to the lead, 15-13.

The Bears offense kicked into high gear and their defense began to hold strong.

Clairton running back Isaiah Berry took his touchdown turn on a 10-yard run for six with 6:54 left in the half. Sanders added another with 1:42 remaining to put the Bears up 28-13.

The Chargers were driving in the final minute, looking to get back on the scoreboard. Sanders came up big once again, this time on defense, recovering a Pearson fumble and giving the Bears a chance to score one more time before the half.

Who else but Sanders, breaking up the field and breaking ankles in the process, ran 48 yards for the touchdown to give Clairton the 34-13 lead at the half?

“He’s just a heck of an athlete, both sides of the ball,” Wade said. “That was huge. I don’t know if our players understand that part of the game, to get that stop, be able to go in and score, and know we’re going to have the ball again to start the second half, that was big for us.”

And that’s exactly what the Bears did.

A drive that started with a 17-yard run by Dontae Sanders finished with a 20-yard touchdown scramble by quarterback Jonte Sanders, putting Clairton up 41-13.

Clairton was finally stopped on offense for the first time in the game with 5:12 to play in the third quarter. A drive that saw Sanders bobble the ball but recover and run 44 yards, tossing defenders left and right, ended in the Bears’ first turnover of the night, an interception caught by Pearson.

The Bears defense forced a turnover on downs and got the ball back, but the offense stalled and was forced to punt for the first time with time winding down in the third.

The Chargers finally got back on the board after going two full quarters without a point. Pearson rushed in from a yard out to make it 41-20, but OLSH got no closer.

On the next play from scrimmage, Sanders lept over, shook off and stiff-armed defenders all the way downfield, 74 yards for his fifth touchdown to give his Bears a 47-20 lead.

After another turnover on downs by OLSH, Clairton took over at the 37 and handed Sanders the ball one more time, pushing the senior to 428 yards rushing and six touchdowns, capping off the 54-20 win.

No matter the skill level of any running back, the offensive line still has to create room to run, and that’s precisely what the Bears did.

“Last week I told the offensive line I was going to treat them and I still am. Now I double owe them,” Wade laughed. “They’re doing a heck of a job up front. This team was big and strong up front, and we moved their guys around. We probably won’t see anybody bigger than them. Our line showed up this year.”

If there’s one area Wade hopes to see improvement from his 7-0 Bears squad, it’s tackling.

“When you play a Clairton football team, you’re always going to see a tough defensive team, but we just didn’t tackle well tonight,” Wade said. “We have a ton of drills we’re going to do that they’re going to get tired of because going into next week, we’re playing against a tough runner from Shenango.”

Shenango will come off Friday night’s 28-21 quarterfinal win over California with their star running back, Reis Watkins, already rushing for more than 1,200 yards this season.

A battle of the running backs might await Clairton in the semifinals next Friday night, at a site yet to be determined.

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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