ALTOONA, Pa. - Roman Clay hadn't felt the sting of defeat since his sophomore season, when Lancaster Catholic was unceremoniously upset in the District 3 AA semifinals by Wyomissing.
Clay and the Crusaders felt it Saturday as Erie (Pa.) McDowell rushed for 465 yards and averaged better than 10 yards per carry as a team in the Crusaders' 49-20 mercy rule setback from Mansion Park Stadium.
"This is defnitely a real wake-up call for us," Clay told reporters postgame. "You never expect a loss like this - but it was a good learning lesson (for us)."
Clay, who rushed for 691 yards and eclipsed the career 4,000-yard rushing plateau last week against Shillington (Pa.) Governor Mifflin, found success hard to come by against the District 10 rep Trojans. He rushed for 63 yards on 19 carries, caught one pass for minus-four yards and returned a kickoff 10 yards in the game. His streak of four straight games with 150+ rushing yards ground to a halt, as did Catholic's 18-game winning streak.
The Crusader senior still leads the state in rushing yardage, having totaled 754 yards and 10 touchdowns on 63 carries through three games.
He also had a few visitors taking in the game at Altoona.
"I was told a couple of Pitt's coaches were here to see me play," Clay said. "I wasn't told who specifically would be here, but I know there were a couple."
Pitt and Penn State have both risen onto Clay's recruiting radar - he holds some scholarship offers from smaller FBS and some FCS programs, and the Crusader feature back won't decide immediately on where he'll continue his collegiate career (originally, Clay was reported to decide in early August).
"I've heard from Pitt weekly," Clay said. "They check in pretty regularly."
Clay was impressed to know that the Panthers defeated Virginia Tech after opening the season with consecutive defeats.
"That's definitely a statement," Clay said of the Panthers' 35-17 victory over the Hokies. "Their first two games were kind of questionable."