Typical high expectations fuel healthier Clairton

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Tuesday, August 20, 2019 | 9:51 AM


Clairton’s football players, to a man, know the anticipation of the fanbase.

“It’s kind of like state championship or bust,” said Bears coach Wayne Wade, who enters his sixth season.

And Wade is right. Clairton has been the WPIAL’s most dominant program since the turn of the millennium, winning nine district titles since 2006.

Recently, however, the Bears have fallen short of the ultimate prize, including last year’s 9-2 record and 27-17 WPIAL semifinal loss to eventual champion OLSH. That followed a 9-3 season in 2017 in which Clairton fell to Jeannette, also in the semifinals.

“For us, the last two seasons have been about injuries that have kept us away from reaching some of our goals,” Wade said. “It’s not that we’re not putting forth the effort or doing the right things, we were just injury-riddled there with a few key guys.”

Clairton will benefit from some key returners, particularly at skill positions, which helped them to a lot of success in seven-on-seven events this summer. Chief among them is three-year starting quarterback Brendan Parsons.

“If you took a poll of any coach and you told him that you could return a three-year starter at quarterback, who has played pretty well for you his first two years, they’ll probably take that over anything,” Wade said of Parsons, who passed for 1,357 yards and 17 touchdowns, while rushing 325 yards and seven scores in 2018.

“He’s a leader on the team and really knows what to expect and what to do. He’s done all the right things this summer. We’re definitely happy we have him at the helm this year.”

Junior Dontae Sanders, a bruising, 5-foot-10, 230-pound fullback/tailback, returns in the backfield after rushing for 401 yards on just 45 carries last year. Classmate Isaiah Berry, who missed last season with a knee injury, is expected to make a heavy impact in the run game.

Kenlein Ogletree, who led the Bears with 554 receiving yards and eight touchdowns a year ago, will be joined in the receiving corps by Wade’s son, also named Wayne, who has joined the program after transferring to Clairton from McKeesport.

“I’ve pretty much been coaching him all his life,” Wade said. “It’s an opportunity for us to see him play. If I continued coaching and he stayed at McKeesport, I don’t get a chance to see him play. If not, maybe I’m having to make a decision on if I’m still coaching or if I’m going to see my son play.”

Up front, the line is led by a pair of massive returning tackles in 6-3, 240-pound sophomore Kanye Hawkins and 6-6, 309-pound junior Demetrius Weatherspoon, younger brother of former Clairton and Pitt wide receiver Kevin Weatherspoon.

The interior of the line, however, will need to be replaced.

The secondary is to be bolstered by the younger Wayne Wade, Berry and Ogletree, a track star who Wade said has “freakish athletic ability.”

Sanders, Alan Rice and Tyrunne Harvey will help out the defensive front, but Wade said those positions are still up in the air.

He sees Clairton’s toughest competition coming from the regular strong Class A teams, including Eastern Conference rivals Jeannette and Imani Christian, as well as West Greene.

“Other than that, it’s really hard to say,” Wade said. “You don’t really know who has what returning. Those first couple weeks really tell you who is able to compete, who will be in playoff contention and who may be playing for a championship.”

Clairton will open the year with, perhaps, the WPIAL’s marquee matchup of the season, as it hosts defending WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A champion Aliquippa on Aug. 24.

“I was happy when we were able to put the game back on the schedule,” Wade said. “It’s an exciting game for us, and I know it is for them, as well. You’re talking about two programs with all the history and the players and the championships they have. Everyone is looking forward to that game.”

Following what will surely be an intense game, the Bears will jump into conference play against Greensburg Central Catholic on Sept. 6. They will do so with the hopes and expectations of another long season.

“We’re just going into the season, like we always do, taking it one game at a time,” Wade said. “But, hopefully, we’re still playing in December.”

Schedule

Coach: Wayne Wade

2018 record: 9-2, 5-1

All-time record: 683-347-41

Date, Opponent, Time

8.24, Aliquippa, 6

8.30, at McGuffey, 7

9.6, at Greensburg C.C.*, 7

9.13, Riverview*, 7

9.20, Laurel, 7

9.27, at Leechburg*, 7

10.4, at Imani Christian*+, 7

10.11, West Greene, 7

10.18, at Springdale*, 7

10.25, Jeannette*, 7

*Class A Eastern Conference game

+At Wilkinsburg’s Graham Field

Statistical leaders

Passing: Brendan Parsons

74-140, 1,357 yards, 17 TDs

Receiving: Keinlein Ogletree

17-554 yards, 8 TDs

Rushing: Taevon Thompson*

106-642 yards, 7 TDs

*Graduated

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