Top-seeded Clairton rolls past Shenango to return to WPIAL Class A championship game

Friday, November 6, 2020 | 10:33 PM

While the road to Heinz Field usually goes through Clairton, this year the Bears have built a highway to North Hills.

The Bears will have a chance to defend its WPIAL Class A championship as they dispatched Shenango, 55-16, in a semifinal game at Norwin, invoking the mercy rule with about five minutes to play.

“We also seem to fight through these games,” Clairton coach Wayne Wade said. “I have a guy that could have hit 2,000 tonight, we took him out. We took the quarterback out. We had a ton of penalties tonight, too. We just fought our way through that second half.”

After Shenango went 18 plays, ate up nearly 10 minutes of the first quarter and got a 25-yard field goal from Aiden Johnston to open the scoring, it was all Bears.

Clairton scored 33 straight points, starting on the second offensive play when quarterback Jonte Sanders rolled 82 yards for the game’s first touchdown.

“Last week when we played here, I think Jonte only threw the ball seven times. I don’t even think he had a rush,” Wade said. “He didn’t have to because Dontae (Sanders) was doing Dontae things.”

Dontae Sanders didn’t have quite the performance he had last week when he gained more than 400 yards, but he still did Dontae things Friday.

The Bears’ running back finished with 13 carries for 160 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a 27-yard touchdown on a screen.

Leading 6-3, the Wildcats (7-2) turned it over and suffered immediate consequences as Davion Rochelle returned interception 55 yards for a touchdown to make it 12-3 on the first play of the second quarter.

The next Bears drive ended with Dontae Sanders’ touchdown reception on third and goal, making it 18-3 with 8:42 left in the half.

“Jonte was great back there today, and he’s more than capable of throwing back there,” Wade said.

Dontae Sanders added a 6-yard touchdown run and a 74-yard scamper to increase the lead to 33-3 with a little over three minutes to go in the first half.

While the offense did its thing, the Bears defense shut down Shenango running back Reis Watkins. Watkins, who came into the game nursing an ankle injury, finished with only 17 yards on 13 carries, most of it coming on the game’s opening drive.

He didn’t play in the second half.

“You hate to see a kid like that not be able to play,” Wade said. “I know Spoon (Dametrius Weatherspoon) got him pretty good with a block in the second quarter.

“As a coach, you want to see your guys play the best. I feel for him and our team.”

The Wildcats got on the board with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Santino Campoli to CJ Miller to make it 33-9 at the half.

“We were really able to plug things up with the defensive line in that first half. That’s the style of football we play,” Wade said. “They had a chance early on, but once we get you inside the 10, it’s tough to score on us.”

Jonte Sanders, who finished with 133 yards rushing on only five carries, ripped off a 58-yard run down to the Shenango 15 on the fourth play of the opening drive of the second half, but he was stripped and the Wildcats recovered.

But on the next play, Campoli watched a bad snap sail over his head and into the end zone where it was recovered by the Bears’ Allen Rice for another touchdown.

Campoli, who finished 15 of 34 passing for 164 yards, found Dalton Peters for a 15-yard fade for what would be the final Wildcats’ touchdown to make it 41-16 heading into the fourth quarter.

“We know what they want to do and we took away the run,” Wade said. “They don’t want to come out and throw that much.”

Two plays into the fourth quarter, Jonte Sanders hit Brooklyn Cannon on a 34-yard touchdown pass across the middle. The senior quarterback finished 7 of 13 for 170 yards.

Bears backup quarterback Capone Jones finished things off with a 22-yard touchdown run.

One thing Wade wasn’t happy with was his team’s 16 penalties that gave Shenango 149 yards and allowed three drives to continue.

“That’s good, though, because now we have something to show them on film,” he said. “That’s what good teams do. They make mistakes one week and the next week they come out and don’t make those mistakes.”

Next week will be a rematch of Week 1 when the Bears meet the Jeannette Jayhawks at 11 a.m. Saturday at North Hills’ Martorelli Stadium. Clairton won the season opener, 34-28.

“We have an extra day to prepare with the Saturday game,” Wade said. “We need to get some guys back, and we’ll be ready to go for that one.”

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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