Entering the 2009 season, Wilkinsburg needed just one win to become only the 14th WPIAL school to reach 500 wins. The Tigers are 0-7 this season and with only two victories over the last five seasons some Wilkinsburg fans fear that the team might reach 500 losses before they can celebrate another victory.
The Tigers haven’t won a WPIAL championship since 1957 and haven’t won a playoff game since 1998, but you didn’t have to be Nostradamus to predict that the Tigers would struggle again in 2009.
|FIGHTING BACK—Wilkinsburg quarterback Jordan Wade gets off a pass as two Carlynton defenders close in.
The Tigers were once a proud football program that won the first three WPIAL titles from 1914-1916. However, over the years the “Big Red” of Wilkinsburg started to lift the Iron Curtain ever so slightly that now they resemble a club football team and haven’t produced a Division I-A football player since Rico Tyler played fullback at West Virginia from 1987-90.
Carlynton (2-5) overcame a steadily deteriorating Graham Field in Wilkinsburg that was muddled by heavy morning rains Oct 17, to defeat the Tigers 30-16.
Steve Bevan’s second quarter touchdown helped turn a scoreless first quarter into a lopsided second as the stars of Carlynton’s offense—Bevan and Jake Howard—each reached the end zone on consecutive second quarter drives to take a two touchdown lead. Bevan rushed for 144-yards and scored three touchdowns.
|STEADY HAND—Carlynton quarterback Tyrone Murray hands off to his running back. Murray guided the Cougars to a 30-16 win over Wilkinsburg to deny the Tigers their 500th win.
Cougars coach Ryan Gevaudan said he was happy with the execution of his triple option attack in the first half.
“We knew that we would have to get off to a fast start,” said Gevaudan. “With all the rain I knew the field would be sloppy in the second half and we knew that Wilkinsburg would play a hard physical game.”
After Carlynton took a 12-0 lead in the first half, Wilkinsburg fought back in the third quarter when Baratta Bey scored a touchdown and a Jordan Wade to Davon Washington pass for the 2-point conversion cut the lead to 12-6.
The Tigers’ Rob Taylor, who rushed for 106-yards, ran up and down the field but was unable to score a touchdown.
The Cougars Bevan closed out the third quarter by extending the lead to 18-12 on his 10-yard touchdown jolt and Jake Hatcher opened the final quarter by rushing for a 2-yard touchdown to up Carlynton’s lead to 24-12.
Bevan sprinted 31 yards to give the Cougars a 30-12 advantage.
Some of the Wilkinsburg student chants were very creative as boos rained down, and more than a few fans walked out, but the Tigers fought hard until the very end.
Senior Deshawn Hinton, who is the team’s best player and was first team all-conference in 2008, caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Rasheen Howard. Howard hit Washington for the 2-point conversion to cut the lead to 30-16.
Most of the folks have given up on the idea of having a good team and Rush Limbaugh certainly wasn’t trying to buy the Wilkinsburg football team. But a few die-hard fans still believe.
“My son (Vernon Glover) played here and my daughter (NaTisha Washington) is a cheerleader,” said Wilkinsburg school board director LaTonya Washington. “This is about the kids. We will continue to inspire our kids to believe in themselves and I know we will turn this thing around.”
Extra security personnel and a beefed-up police presence is now the norm, but standing on Graham Field caused many fans to hearken back to names like Donald Jay, Blaine Carter, John Bell, Tyler and the great Walt Bowyer.
Bowyer is remembered from his playing days as one of the toughest, meanest, hardest hitters in the long lineage of Wilkinsburg football. Bowyer is a folk hero of sorts when it comes to Wilkinsburg football, having gritted out a long NFL career.
Wilkinsburg coach Cliff Simon and the players have done everything but sit around a campfire and sing Kumbaya, it seems.
Now the once great stadium is falling apart like its football team.