WPIAL Class A playoff preview: Clairton, Shenango lean on star running backs

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Thursday, November 5, 2020 | 6:19 PM


No. 5 Shenango (7-1) vs. No. 1 Clairton (7-0)

7 p.m. Friday, Norwin Knights Stadium at Norwin HS

On the air: Video at TribHSSN.TribLive.com

Coaches: Jimmy Graham, Shenango; Wayne Wade, Clairton

Players to watch: Tino Campoli, Shenango (Jr., 5-11, 190, QB); Dontae Sanders, Clairton (Sr., 6-2, 235, RB)

Last week: Shenango 28, California 21; Clairton 54, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart 20

Four downs

1. Shenango went down to the wire in its first playoff game in four years before prevailing for its first playoff win since 2015. In a tied game with less than one minute remaining in regulation, sophomore C.J. Miller scored his second touchdown on a 2-yard run as the Wildcats held off a big California comeback for the win.

2. The Wildcats waited anxiously leading up to their playoff opener at California to determine if star running back Reis Watkins would be able to play. He suited up but played sparingly, leaving the offense in the hands of quarterback Tino Campoli. He answered the call with 10-of-16 passing for 148 yards and a touchdown. In five games since returning from injury, the junior QB has thrown for 624 yards and six touchdowns.

3. For the second straight year, Clairton rolled past Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the Class A quarterfinals. Last year, the Bears won, 41-0. Last week, the game was tight after one quarter with OLSH trailing 8-7. However, a 26-point second-quarter explosion for the black and orange put another victory on easy street for the defending champs.

4. The great ones seem to get better every week until they peak deep into the postseason. That is the trend for Bears senior running back Dontae Sanders. Last week, Sanders ran wild to the tune of 428 yards and six touchdowns, giving him 1,624 yards on 100 carries for a juicy 16.2 yards per carry average.

Extra point: This matchup features the WPIAL’s leading rusher in Sanders against No. 5 on the list in Watkins (1,249 yards). They are also in the top five in scoring with 26 touchdowns for Sanders and 21 for Watkins. This is only the third football meeting between the ‘Cats and Bears with the two previous encounters also coming in the playoffs. Forty years ago, Clairton beat Shenango, 29-8, in the 1980 postseason. Six years ago, the Bears rolled the Wildcats, 68-7, in the 2014 quarterfinals.

Preview the other WPIAL Class A semifinal:

Old school meets new school when No. 2 Rochester, No. 3 Jeannette collide

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