The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 14, 2009

CORY ISENBERG | State title on McCort's wish list

BY CORY ISENBERG

While the rest of us are rushing around preparing for the upcoming holidays, the Bishop McCort football team is focused on making its Christmas a holly, jolly one with a state championship title in hand.

The Crimson Crushers (14-0) used a strong second-half surge to defeat District 11 champion Tri-Valley 42-27 on Friday and now face a tough Clairton squad. The District 7 team got by Farrell 13-7 to earn the other berth in the Class A title game, set for 1 p.m. Friday at Hersheypark Stadium.

It is Bishop McCort’s first appearance in the championship while the Bears are making their second-straight trip. Clairton lost to Steelton-Highspire 35-16 last year.

“This is what we've wanted the whole time from the beginning,” Clairton coach Tom Nola said in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review after the win over Farrell. “This was one of our goals, to get back to Hershey to try to redeem ourselves from last year. Hopefully, we can do that and be on the other end this year.”

Just as Bishop McCort has played strong defense throughout the season, the Bears (14-1) also rely on their defensive prowess.

The stingy Clairton defense has shut out eight opponents and allowed 58 points in its

15 games, an average of

3.9 points per game.

Bishop McCort has just one shutout and has held opponents to 14.6 points per game.

Clairton’s lone loss came in the season opener, a 15-8 setback to Laurel.

In the state polls, Bishop McCort is top-ranked by the Pennsylvania Football News and was third in last week’s Harrisburg Patriot-News rankings while Clairton is on top in the latter and second in the former.

Another District 6 champ, State College, will be joining the Crimson Crushers in Hershey, trying to win the state championship in Class AAAA on Saturday at 7 p.m. against District 12 LaSalle College. The Little Lions bested Cumberland Valley 35-13 while LaSalle crushed Ridley 35-7.

The Crushers and Little Lions will be attempting to join Tyrone, which is the only District 6 squad to capture a state crown. The Golden Eagles won 13-6 over Mount Carmel in the Class AA championship in 1999.

The other two matchups in this weekend’s state championships feature the all-private school battle in Class AA between Greensburg Central Catholic and Lancaster Catholic in Saturday’s 1 p.m. contest while the Class AAA title game pits Selinsgrove against Manheim Central, both eastern squads, at 7 p.m. Friday.

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Out in the cold: Local radio station ROCKY 99.1 carried the Crushers win over Tri-Valley on Friday and the announcers were lamenting the cramped conditions at the State College High School facility where there were three radio stations crammed into the small press box.

At least they were inside.

Co-worker Mike Mastovich and I were on the outside looking in, earning spots in the Little Lions' outside press deck.

We shared a pair of propane heaters with other reporters until one of the heaters overheated at halftime and began shooting flames, threatening the wooden structure.

If you’ve ever tried to write with a pen in frigid conditions, you could appreciate our circumstances.

The people that we dealt with at State College were all very pleasant, but the location for the PIAA semifinal game was not exactly appreciated by many.

The battle for parking at the downtown facility was challenging (Mastovich and I at least had a press pass) and fans were told they could use the bathrooms in the administrative office or the church across the streets.

McCort fans sitting near us were not impressed.