West Xtra: Perfect Quips post record 15th WPIAL title

WPIAL CLASS AA CHAMPIONSHIP


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The year was 1952, and Aliquippa picked up its first WPIAL football championship by defeating Washington at Pitt Stadium.

That stadium is long gone, but Aliquippa's winning ways aren't.

Sixty years after winning their first title, the Quips beat Washington again last Saturday, this time at Heinz Field.

Aliquippa's WPIAL championship count now stands at an unrivaled 15.

The Quips already owned the WPIAL record prior to this season, but they emphatically added another milestone victory by winning their second consecutive Class AA championship as they hammered Washington, 34-7.

When you think of Aliquippa football, legendary names such as Ditka, Gilbert, Law and Revis come to mind. Now it's guys named Shegog, Henry and Swanson who are carrying on the winning ways of a program that has instilled pride, not only in those directly involved with the success, but thousands and thousands of people who at one time or another have called Aliquippa home.

"It's the Quips tradition," said Mike Zmijanac, who won his fifth WPIAL title as Aliquippa's head coach. "We all grew up there. Ninety percent of the guys who coach with me played for me. And the rest are friends of mine. We talked about that the other day. We all grew up there. It's all part of us. It's all about us. It's not about me. It's not about any individuals. It truly is a community spirit."

Aliquippa knew it needed a lot of spirit to beat a talented Washington team that, just like the Quips, walked onto the Heinz Field grass with an undefeated 12-0 record.

The Quips got just that, putting forth a dominating effort that saw them rush for 505 yards, allow just 114 total yards, all while putting the wraps on Washington's Shai McKenzie, the WPIAL's most decorated running back this season.

"You've got to give respect where respect is due and you've got to give credit where credit is due," Washington quarterback Josh Wise said. "They're a great football team. They play together, they play hard and they expect to win.

"So did we, but they had a chip on their shoulders all night and all season and they have for a few seasons."

The Quips were making their fifth championship-game appearance in a row, and the experience showed against Washington, which was playing in the final for the first time since winning the title in 2001.

Aliquippa's offensive and defensive lines were absolutely dominant. The skill players are the ones who typically receive most of the attention, but it's the guys in the trenches who have fueled the team throughout the season, helping the Quips outscore their opponents, 658-49.

Defensively, ends Devon Walker and Chris Ingram, tackles Jaleel Fields and Malik Akins and nose guard Damon Sims were the key figures in Aliquippa's ability to stymie McKenzie, who rushed for just 33 yards on 18 carries. McKenzie had come into the game with WPIAL highs of 2,656 yards and 42 touchdowns.

"We played such great defense that I don't know if they might have ever scored," Zmijanac said.

The offense was a machine, producing three 100-yard rushers (Terry Swanson 206, Dravon Henry 123 and Malik Shegog 100) and averaging more than 8 yards per carry.

Plowing the way for those runners were center Nayo Seaburn, guards Sims and Akins, and tackles Fields and Malcolm Frazer.

"Toward the end of the game, I looked up at the JumboTron and I saw we had 500 yards rushing with like five minutes to go," Shegog said. "That says a lot about our offensive line, how dominant they are and how hard they work at practice."

Aliquippa (13-0) is putting in another hard week of practice in lieu of Friday's PIAA quarterfinal game against District 9 champion Karns City (10-3) at Central Valley's Sarge Alberts Stadium in Center.

Aliquippa has won two PIAA titles -- 1991 and 2003 -- so adding one more of those to what the 2012 team has already accomplished is the next challenge at hand in continuing the Quips tradition.

hsfootball


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