Winning football team gives hope to struggling Pa. town
(CBS News) CLAIRTON, Pa. - On any given Friday night or Saturday in the fall, you can find towns rallying around their local high school football teams. But just outside Pittsburgh, there's a football team that's rallying around its town. And in one way or another, they're both winning.
Clairton, Pennsylvania is a proud steel mill town. But more than 10,000 jobs have been lost over decades. Poverty is double the national average, and most of downtown is boarded up. The one public school is so small, the state might have closed it by now -- except for one extraordinary thing.
The Clairton Bears high school football team. This weekend the Bears are in the playoffs to win a fourth straight state championship, and their winning streak of 61 games is the best in America.
"Sixty-one games? Yes sir, its real good," said 17-year-old Terrish Webb, one of the team stars.
He said the secret is the team's seniors. They've played together since they were six years old in midget football, and grew up determined to win for themselves and for the town.
"Because if we lose, that's letting them down, so we owe it to the town to win," said Terrish.
Somebody might be inclined to say it's just football. But Terrish said: "I think it's more than football, because this football is taking us to college, helping us in the right path, so we think football is life."
"People may be arguing in the streets," he added, "but on Friday night, everybody is cheering for the Bears."
Part of the team's motivation is escaping the violence on the streets of Clairton. One of their coaches was killed four years ago. And Terrish was 11 when his father was murdered.
Now Terrish and several seniors have scholarship offers, and all 16 seniors have the grades and ambition and ambition to move on. And that had made them role models for future generations of Bears.
Tom McCloskey, a Clairton graduate who is now the principal, nodded in agreement that the one word about the senior class heard often is "respectful." "To themselves, to the community, to adults, and to their younger classmen," he said. He added, " I think it's unusual to see it in this many kids for this long of a time."
It's a lot to ask teenagers to improve a town, rescue a school and never lose, but that's who the Clairton Bears are. And a place long known for turning coal into hardened steel has done it again in the form of young men.
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