By now, the rest of Pennsylvania knows that Clairton High School is on the verge of establishing a new state record for consecutive football wins. Should the Bears defeat Sto-Rox on Friday in the District 7 (WPIAL) Class A football championship, it will be Clairton's 60th consecutive victory.

If Clairton wins that game, it will break the state record 59 it currently shares with Central Bucks West (Doylestown).

That number - 60 - while it pales compared to the national record of 151 by De La Salle of Concord, Calif., is extraordinary here in Pennsylvania for two reasons: (1) it has come during the state playoff era when the very best teams are meeting in the postseason, at least in theory, and (2) it has occurred during the rise of private schools in the PIAA football playoffs.

First, the numbers, which are staggering: Clairton has outscored its opponents 2,642 to 263, an average 45-4 victory during the streak. The Bears have posted 31 shutouts in those 59 games. They have scored 40 or more points in 41 of those 59 games.

Only four of those 59 victories have been decided by a touchdown or less: A 14-13 victory over Rochester in the 2009 WPIAL Class A title game, a 13-7 win over Farrell in the 2009 PIAA Class A semifinals, a 36-30 victory over Taylor Riverside in the 2010 PIAA Class A championship game and a 22-20 triumph over Chartiers-Houston in this year's season opener.

Riverside provided one of the biggest scares, taking a 24-0 lead on its first three possessions against the heavily-favored Bears, who turned the game around with an interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter.


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Chartiers-Houston, which finished this season 4-5 and did not qualify for the WPIAL playoffs, nearly shocked the Bears, who had 12 players either academically or otherwise ineligible and forced Clairton to play with virtually no backups on a very warm and humid night.

Clairton coach Tom Nola, a man of few public words and always understated at that, said following the Chartiers-Houston game, "We didn't play our best game.''

That hasn't been the case since: The closest game Clairton has played since this year's season opener was last weekend's 37-7 WPIAL Class A semifinal victory over Neshannock. That win gives Clairton an opportunity not only to set the state record, but to win a fifth straight District 7 championship.

Those are all amazing statistics in the playoff era. While the addition of state and district playoffs since 1988 has nearly doubled the potential number of games a team can play in one season - thus accelerating a long streak - it is still astounding that a team can navigate that many games without a loss.

In addition, private schools have won an increasing share of PIAA football championships in the last few years. From 1988 through 2008, private schools accounted for just 13 percent of the state football titles.

But since 2009, the year that Clairton started its streak, private schools have won exactly 50 percent of the state football championships.

Fortunately for Clairton, the class in which private schools have made the least impact is Class A. Only one private school, Marian Catholic, has won a PIAA Class A football title. Scotland School, since closed, won the 1992 Class A title, and although it drew its students strictly from the ranks of military families, it was funded by the state and was considered a public school.

Incidentally, it is believed the state's longest football winning streak for a private school is St. Joseph's Prep's 35 straight wins from 2001 to 2003. The Hawks won their last 10 games of 2011, won 13 games in 2002 and 12 in 2003 before losing their first two games of 2004.

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Out the gate: Gateway head football coach Terry Smith, a Gateway alumnus and former Penn State player who has produced a 101-30 record in 11 seasons at the Monroeville school, might soon be former Gateway head football coach Terry Smith.

Smith, who is also Gateway's athletic director, will soon have to choose between the positions if a policy enacted by the school district this summer does not change.

Over the summer, Gateway made the AD position part-time, cut Smith's salary in half and also enacted a policy that prohibits administrators from holding supplemental contracts, such as coaching contracts.

Smith has until Dec. 31 to decide which position he wants to keep, if he keeps any position at all.

"I think I'm disappointed that my home district would treat me this way,'' Smith recently told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "When you dedicate your life to a place, it's just disappointing. But just like sports, you see reality in this and you learn real life lessons. And you learn to trust no one.''

Smith filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that race played a role in the district's policy decision. Smith is African-American.

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PIAA Championships: Lower Dauphin finished fourth in its district, but first in the state when it claimed its fifth PIAA Class AAA field hockey championship with a 2-0 victory over Penn Manor, the school that eliminated it from the District 3 championships.

The title was also the fifth for long-time Lower Dauphin field hockey coach Linda Kreiser, who now has 669 career victories Crestwood won the Class AA championship with a 1-0 victory over Villa Maria Academy of Malvern despite yielding a season-high 16 penalty corners. Crestwood also has five PIAA field hockey championships.

The PIAA conducted six soccer championships last weekend, and five of the championship games finished in 1-0 decisions All of the boys championship games were 1-0 matches: Upper St. Clair over Wilson in AAA, Pequea Valley over Lancaster Mennonite in the 112th minute in AA, and Mountain View over Sewickley Academy in A.

Two of the girls' game also were 1-0 decisions: Peters Twp.'s win over Cumberland Valley in AAA and Moon's win over Archbishop Wood in AA. Only the Class A game broke the trend, and in a big way: Greensburg Central Catholic set a Class A championship game scoring record in a 5-1 win over Conwell-Egan.

Peters Twp.'s championship was its third straight Class AAA title and came at the expense of Cumberland Valley, which won the last two PIAA spring championships before the fall and spring girls seasons were unified this year. It also avenged Peters Twp.'s only loss of the 2012 season; CV beat the Indians 3-2 during the regular season.

Hempfield, Fort LeBoeuf and Clarion Area won PIAA girls volleyball championships, the latter two schools for the first time. Fort LeBoeuf defeated Delone Catholic 3-1 while Clarion defeated Williamson in straight sets, 3-0. Hempfield, which like Lower Dauphin did not win its district title, produced a 3-1 victory over defending champion Parkland to win its third PIAA title.

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Rod Frisco, a free-lance writer, is the PIAA District 3 webmaster, director of corporate sponsorships and director of communications. He may be reached at tripletdad1@comcast.net.