Nevermind the calendar, conference title on the line when Jeannette, Clairton clash

Thursday, September 10, 2020 | 9:40 PM

When Jeannette dropped to Class A in 2014 and was placed in the Eastern Conference, the final game of the regular season against Clairton was for the conference title.

Thanks to the coronavirus, that won’t happen again this season.

Because of adjustments to the WPIAL schedule brought on by the pandemic, Jeannette is hosting Clairton to kick off the season at 7 p.m. Friday at McKee Stadium.

While the date has changed, the game hasn’t lost its meaning.

“It’s still for the conference title,” Clairton coach Wayne Wade said. “We just have to be ready for them a little earlier. If the season was normal, we’d have a scrimmage and a couple games (Washington and Steel Valley) under our belt. We’d know a little bit more about the team.”

Instead, Clairton had a scrimmage against Steel Valley, and Jeannette had a scrimmage against Sto-Rox, which defeated the Jayhawks in the opening round of the 2019 playoffs.

“We were a little sharper than I thought we would be,” Wade said about the scrimmage. “I think we’re ahead of the game but also a little behind the eight ball because we haven’t played three or four games.

“Now we’re in the fire because of the schedule adjustment. Jeannette has another nice team, and it’s No. 1 vs. No. 4.”

Clairton graduated only four seniors from last year’s WPIAL championship team: quarterback Brendan Parsons, wide receiver Kenlein Ogletree, wide receiver Wayne Wade and linebacker Tyunne Harvey.

But it returns senior running backs Isaiah Berry, who rushed for 1,042 yards and 15 touchdowns, and Dontae Sanders, who rushed for 553 yards and 12 scores. Jonte Sanders will replace Parsons at quarterback.

While Clairton will be the favorite, Jeannette is a hungry bunch. It dominated Sto-Rox in the scrimmage, and coach Roy Hall liked what he saw from several players.

“We did a lot of good things,” Hall said. “Our freshman quarterback (Brett Birch) played well, and Roberto Smith had a good scrimmage. James Sanders did a nice job and showed he can stretch the field.”

One big area Clairton has an advantage is up front. The Bears return five starters, and the Jayhawks return only three. The Bears are also bigger, led by senior Dametrius Weatherspoon, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound tackle.

“I thought our offensive line did a very good job,” Hall said. “I thought Ryan (Reitz) did a great job on Zoom meetings with the players. I was worried because of the lack of camp work.”

Wade said he was impressed with Jeannette.

“They are Jeannette,” Wade said. “They have nice size and an aggressive defense that likes to put pressure on you. The young quarterback looked pretty good, too.”

And Wade is not too concerned about Jonte Sanders at quarterback.

“He saw some time last year,” Wade said. “He’ll be fine. I feel we’ll be OK because of the way things ended last year (a loss to Farrell). These guys will be focused for every game.”

Listen to the game on Trib HSSN.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at or via Twitter .

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