PIAA 1A Championship: Bishop Guilfoyle 17, Clairton 0

(Photo by Tom Elling)

From 2009 through 2012, the Clairton Bears had an undefeated run for the ages, winning over 60 games in a row and snagging four consecutive state titles.  The Clairton program is a pinnacle of success, and one that the rest of the state’s teams look to emulate.

Recently, Bishop Guilfoyle’s been doing a pretty good job of that.

On a blustery Friday afternoon, the Marauders won their third PIAA 1A Championship in a row, shutting out the Clairton Bears 17-0 and notching their 47th win in a row.  In a defensive battle, the Marauders’ offense was a little sharper and a little crisper, and Bishop Guilfoyle ended up making most of the big plays on both sides of the ball to cruise to turn a tense 6-0 halftime advantage to a three score edge by the midway point of the third quarter.

The real story of the game was the Marauders’ penchant for forcing turnovers on defense; senior free safety Josh Trybus and senior cornerback Evan Chadbourn each intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble, and Bishop Guilfoyle won the turnover battle 4-1, giving them better field position and better chances all afternoon.

Bishop Guilfoyle’s offense relied heavily on senior running back Andrew Irwin, and after a scoreless first quarter it was Irwin who started off the scoring with 7:56 left in the second frame with a 4-yard burst up the middle. A missed PAT kept the score at 6-0.  Irwin was the game’s leading rusher, netting 116 yards on 23 carries against a stingy Clairton defensive line. On a difficult day for passing, Trybus only attempted eight throws, but completed five of them for 64 yards, hitting his receivers for big first downs when they were needed.

Although Clairton put together a nice drive before the half, with most of the yards gained by senior running back Lamont Wade, they were stalled and forced to punt with under 2 minutes left, and the half ended with the score 6-0.

Bishop Guilfoyle kicked off to start the second half, but soon found themselves in a very good position. Clairton’s Wade received the ball inside the 10 and retreated in an attempt to find yards, but the Marauders flew down the field and forced Wade back, nearly tackling him for a safety but forcing the drive to start at the 1 yard line.  After a three-and-out, Clairton’s punt into the wind was downed at the Bears’ 29 yard line.  The Marauders went three and out themselves, but sophomore kicker Kolton McGhee, one of the top placekickers in the state, easily put a 43-yard field goal attempt through the uprights by a good 10 or 15 yards, making the score 9-0 with 7:48 left in the third quarter.

The final score of the game came just a couple minutes later, as Bishop Guilfoyle recovered a fumbled snap on 3rd and 1, starting once again near the Clairton 30.  Three plays later, Chadbourn made one of his four carries count, going off tackle on the right side and turning on the jets for a 20-yard score.  Trybus’s jump pass was complete to senior tight end Luke Frederick, who was also an absolute monster on defense, and the margin increased to 17-0, where it would stay for the rest of the day.

A number of Clairton players put up high-level performances, but the Bears had trouble getting their skill players in space to allow them to create. Senior quarterback Noah Hamlin was an effective dual threat all day, passing for 80 yards and running for 52 on 11 carries.  Forced by the multiple-score deficit to throw all second half, however, Hamlin found himself staring into a Marauders defense that could commit to the pass, which hampered his ability to find his receivers in space.

Clairton did have a good chance to get on the board in the third quarter, as Hamlin fired a strike down the middle to junior wide receiver Tre’sean Howard, setting the Bears up with a first-and-goal from the 2 yard line. A high snap sent them all the way back to the 16, though, and Hamlin’s 4th down scramble was stopped short at the 4.  Clairton’s next two possessions ended in interceptions, and on their final play of the game Luke Frederick burst into the backfield from the defensive end position and slammed Hamlin’s pass into the ground.  Bishop Guilfoyle ran out the remaining five minutes, completing their three-peat.

Notes: Clairton has the longest undefeated streak in PIAA history; Bishop Guilfoyle has the longest active undefeated streak at 47….  This was a rematch of the 2014 final, which Bishop Guilfoyle won 19-18.  That match was marred by a post-game brawl; although there was some pre-game trash talking in this one, cooler heads prevailed and the game ended with good sportsmanship by all…. Tre’Sean Howard led the way for both teams with six receptions, though the game’s longest was by Clairton’s Devlin Clifford, whose 30-yard catch on Clairton’s final drive kept hope alive for a few extra seconds….  I absolutely loved the uniforms in this game; Clairton’s road whites with bright orange helmets and trim really popped, and Bishop Guilfoyle’s royal purple jerseys with silver trim were quite sharp themselves!

Stick with PFN on Twitter (@pafootballnews) and at all day Saturday for live news and updates from the 2A, 3A, and 6A Championship Games!

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