Leechburg aims for 1st victory against Eastern Conference rival Clairton

Wednesday, September 20, 2023 | 6:23 PM

Leechburg returns home Friday hoping to add a second Eastern Conference victory.

The Blue Devils, 3-1 overall after last week’s 48-25 victory at Springdale, also hope to add a first-ever win over a team that has been a dominant force in the conference.

Clairton has won 28 of the 29 all-time meetings with Leechburg. The one time the Blue Devils didn’t fall to the Bears was in 1991, when the teams tied 6-6.

“The kids know what they’re facing, traditionally the best team in the conference,” Leechburg coach Randy Walters said.

“They play tough football. We’ve never beaten them, but the kids are excited for the challenge. We’re working on building up to it and being ready to go Friday at 7.”

Leechburg came close to a win over Clairton last year, falling 20-13 on the road at Neil Brown Stadium.

Graduate Braylan Lovelace scored with 50 seconds left to draw the Blue Devils to within seven, but Clairton recovered the onside kick to seal the win.

The Leechburg defense helped keep the game close by stopping the Bears three times inside the 15.

“We’re definitely so amped up for this week and this game,” Leechburg junior tight end/linebacker Jake Cummings said.

“It is one of those games we look forward to each year. Coach always says to concentrate on the game right in front of us, but with Clairton, the anticipation grows quickly. We know what we need to do this week and how we have to come out and execute.”

Clairton comes in at 2-2 overall, but the two losses came in a Week Zero setback to 2022 PIAA Class 2A runner-up Westinghouse and a Week 1 defeat against Trib HSSN Class 2A No. 1 Washington.

“We have gone through this the past couple of years,” Clairton coach Wayne Wade said about challenging starts to the season.

“It was that way last year, too. It’s nothing new to our juniors and seniors. We picked two really good football programs, which are doing really well right now. We moved the ball and did some good things in both games. The Westinghouse game was 8-0 at halftime. We learned a lot and grew from those games, and I think we are a better team now from it. We just preached continuing to get better.”

After not scoring a point in those first two games, the Bears broke out in a big way two weeks ago with a 38-7 victory over OLSH.

Last Friday in its Eastern Conference opener against Riverview, Clairton racked up 487 yards of total offense in a 35-3 rout of Riverview.

The Raiders’ Drew Hunter kicked a 36-yard field goal in the second half to prevent an eighth straight shutout by the Bears in the series.

Clairton’s weapons were on display as quarterback Michael Wright threw for 242 yards and three touchdowns on 9-of-13 passing. Zae-Mear Correll collected 130 receiving yards and a TD, and Drahcir Jones complemented the passing game with 154 yards on 11 carries.

Michael Ruffin hauled in a 17-yard toss from Wright, and he added a 56-yard scoring run.

“We knew they would recover, especially when they got into the conference,” Walters said.

“They’ve hit their stride and are playing well. Wright and Ruffin are so athletic and are hard to tackle when they get into space. They are so quick. If you don’t have proper angles, they’ll cut back on you and make 6-yard plays into 60-yard plays. We have to play disciplined football on defense and trust each other to play their assignments.

“Defensively, they’re not real big, but they are really quick and they are very good tacklers. They’re very confident in their athleticism.”

Leechburg won its third in a row Friday, pulling away from the Dynamos with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Included in that was an athletic play in the end zone from Cummings to bring in a high pass from fellow junior Jayden Floyd.

Cummings caught two TDs from Floyd and added a 2-yard scoring run, and Floyd tallied two short TD runs and returned a punt 51 yards for another score.

Floyd finished with 102 passing yards and 131 rushing yards on 22 carries. He also had a big scoring run called back on a penalty.

“Leechburg has been a tough opponent for us the past couple of years,” Wade said.

“They’ve had players with really good skill. When you have a Division I recruit (Lovelace/Pitt) on a single-A team, that can make a difference. They again have some skill at quarterback (Floyd) and with their one big kid (Cummings). We’re focused on what they bring and making sure we are ready to go up there Friday and play well.”

Head to head

Here’s a look at the past 10 meetings between Clairton and Leechburg:

2022: Clairton 20, Leechburg 13

2021: Clairton 48, Leechburg 27

2020: Clairton 59, Leechburg 14

2019: Clairton 48, Leechburg 14

2018: Clairton 36, Leechburg 0

2017: Clairton 40, Leechburg 7

2016: Clairton 44, Leechburg 0

2015: Clairton 58, Leechburg 0

2014: Clairton 54, Leechburg 6

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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