Sunday, July 17, 2011
Never say never: Bill Bennett has a personality disorder. He refuses to listen to what “they” tell him. He’s been that way as long as I can remember. In gym class more than half a century ago “they” told Bill he was too short to dunk a basketball. He took a running start and like Spiderman, “walked” himself up the pads behind the basket, and dunked the basketball. “They” told him he was too small to play football on the vaunted CHS Bear team, but he consistently zigged and zagged his way up and down the field, including one touchdown run that he completed minus one shoe. (see yearbook photo above) He continued his football pursuits at Rutgers University then moved to Sacramento where he started Clairton Financial, Inc. and later to Phoenix where he continued his investment career. But Bill still refused to listen to what “they” had to say.
Bill recently heard that the Bears had won a 7 on 7 football tourney in the Greater Pittsburgh area but “they” said that since TJ had defeated the Bears in an early round of the double elimination tourney, the Bears would not be invited to the prestigious Red Bull sponsored Gamebreakers tourney on the SMU campus in Dallas. Besides, even if the Bears received an invitation there was too little time to plan the logistics and no money to send them, “they” said.
So Bill contacted the folks at Red Bull and provided them with the rich football history of the “Little Class A School That Could.” He showed them that CHS had not only won the Class A State Championship two years running but had also defeated teams from much larger schools. But “they” were still reluctant. You see, participants in the Red Bull Tournament which was being held on the Southern Methodist University campus were the giants of high school football from Texas, California, Louisiana, Florida, and other football power states. The 5-A teams would surely crush little old Single A Clairton “They” said. But Bill invoked his personality disorder and persisted until the folks at Red Bull took a deep breath and invited the mystery team from the Pittsburgh area.
Bill had gained support from Bob White, Sue and Jim Wessel, and other current and former Clairton residents and Bear Supporters. Community businesses and friends of the CHS program dug into their own pockets to front the money to pay for the plane fare, motel rooms, and other expenses. CHS alum and current Dallas resident Bob Yaksick became the “local” anchor man to help with ground activities, and the Bears arrived at the tourney as the smallest school to march like lambs to the slaughter at the hands of the giant 4A and 5A teams from football power states.
Some of the 23 teams represented large schools from Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, and Colorado that brought a couple dozen kids each as well as cheering sections and supporters galore. CHS brought 14 players which meant the Bears often had to play both offense and defense using the same players during the worst heat wave in the history of Dallas. The CHS lads played well and when the Public Address announcer said that CHS came from a community of only 8,000 residents and had a graduating class of 60, the crowd gave the Bears a standing ovation.
The Bears started their 7 on 7 games as one of more than 160 participating teams and knocked off Goliath after Goliath until they got to the Final Four. They won again, defeating another large school, Houston’s Westside, by a score of 26-14 putting them in the grand finale against nationally ranked powerhouse Arlington Martin. Finally, the Bears went down to defeat, taking second place in the tourney. Powerful Evangel Christian of Shreveport, LA finished fourth. ESPN reported, “Martin then handed Clairton its first loss of the double-elimination semifinals, 24-12.
“Clairton, a Pittsburgh-area school with an enrollment shrunk by the closing of nearby steel mills, earned its way in the finals by defeating third-place Westside, 26-14.”
Congratulations Bears. Hold your heads high. You are the champions of Greater Pittsburgh, of Western PA, of PA, and now you've brought home the Silver against some of the most powerhouse teams in America. Bravo!
On a related note, Clairton’s own Desimon Green, as well as McKeesport linebacker Branden Jackson will head for Lubbock, TX in a few weeks when they report to Texas Tech University as freshman football players.
There weren't only coaches and family watching the games. Reggie Bush (Saints) and DeMarcus Ware (Cowboys) were among the celebrities who cheered and inspired theCHS players.
The student athletes at CHS have demonstrated their academic prowess as well as play on the field. About 1/3 of the team has earned a grade point average of 3.5 (A-) or higher and another 1/3 are at 3.0 (B) or better. This is a special team. They share the legacy of the outstanding student athletes who have gone before them - student athletes like Bill Bennett - whose personality disorder - not listening to what “they” say and exceeding all expectations was pivotal in getting the Bears to Dallas. Here’s hoping that disorder affects this year’s team as well.
A little blogging music Maestro, How about the Clairton fight song? "It's Clairton High School. It's Clairton High School the pride of every....."