Steel Resolve

A once booming steel community has been run down, but the small town of Clairton is on the rise thanks to a football team - led by junior Tyler Boyd - that ranks as the best in the country.

CLAIRTON, PA - Built along the west bank of the Monongahela River 30 minutes south of Pittsburgh, Clairton has the look and the feel of a city wishing it could turn back time.

Nicknamed ‘the city of prayer,' the city is far from the booming steel town it once was in the 1950s. The population has gone from a robust 20,000 to approximately 6,796. The per capita income in Clairton is under $15,000 and some of the hollowed out buildings in the three square mile city show the scars the city has endured.

With the decline of the steel industry in the late 1980s, causing the population to wane, the Clairton School District consolidated its entire system into a single building. The high school has only 254 students and the number seems to get lower each year. The school ranked 491 out of 498 schools in Pennsylvania for academic achievement last year and the state's legal classifications consider Clairton a ‘third-class city.'

It doesn't seem like the kind of environment that holds one of the best high school programs in the country, but the Clairton Bears are on a streak that makes the town known for something other than steel and coke production.

After dispatching Southern Columbia Area, 35-19, to capture its third consecutive PIAA Class A state title, the Bears have won 47 straight games – the nation's longest current winning streak on any level of football (high school, college and pro).

One of the team leaders and stars of that third straight championship is Tyler Boyd, who finished with a game-high 218 yards rushing on 14 carries, including a pair of touchdown runs of 78 and 68 yards. Walk into the weight room and it's an accurate representation of the city – no thrills, no elegance and nothing but blue-collared people getting to work.

And in the middle you'll find the 6-1, 175-pound Boyd pushing his teammates to start preparing for title number four.

"We just have to weights hard and work for the linemen, because we lost a whole bunch of linemen," Boyd said. "We have to make a whole new line and the line is going to be a huge part for our season. We have to get those guys together and we'll win another state championship if we do."

Boyd knows the value of a talented offensive line. Last season on the team's run, Boyd rushed 157 times for 2,400 yards and 48 touchdowns, making big plays in big games to develop reputation as a clutch playmaker.

Boyd – rated a four-star recruit and the No.14 safety in the country by Scout.com – always has the look of a player. At receiver, he leaps off the video tape with his ability to jump over defenders and come down with the catch and cover plenty of ground in the secondary to make opposing receivers miserable.

This spring, he has the look of a leader after admitting to be content with letting others do the speaking in years past. The reason for his emergence is simple: he doesn't want to be known as the team that let the losing streak end.

"Every senior doesn't like to lose their senior year, so they try to keep the streak going," said Boyd. "I don't think we're going to worry about it. We're just going to go out and play hard and try not to lose."

Boyd's talent and athleticism has school's looking at him at him in a variety of ways, as schools have approached him with the idea of playing defensive back, running back or receiver. According to Boyd, most schools have offered him as a receiver, which was his original position at Clairton until the starting tailback was injured.

"I really love playing almost anywhere," Boyd said.

That shows with his repertoire. Not only did he fill in at running back for the Bears, he is one of the team's standout defensive backs. This season, the coaching staff approached him with the idea of him playing some quarterback. He also has been spotted on the basketball court and even the baseball diamond when workouts and 7-on-7 competitions don't get in the way.

Boyd currently claims offers from Akron, Arizona, Boston College, Buffalo, Illinois, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Wisconsin, who started talking to him through Facebook and offered him in late March.

"I think the best part about (Wisconsin) is they have one of the best education programs around the country," said Boyd. "Football wise they are really good, going to bowl games every year. It's great to get offered by a school like that."

Although Boyd currently has tunnel vision when it comes to his recruitment, he's enlisted the help of his coach and his mom to try and narrow down his scholarship offers to a more manageable list.

"It's probably going to be the hardest decision of my life," said Boyd. "That's why I am going to probably wait until signing day until I pick a school."

Waiting until February will not only allow Boyd to visit and see more schools, it will allow him to completely focus on a season he wishes would start tomorrow.

And so is there blue-collared town of supporters, who come in droves every Friday night to cheer the one thing that is making their town relevant for the first time in a half century.

"We've been getting together on Sundays to get on the field and play some games," said Boyd. "We're ready."


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