Figuring out how to beat Aliquippa's football team seems to be a yearly head scratcher for most high school football coaches, especially those in the Midwestern Athletic Conference.
As traditionally good as the Quips have been over the years, however, they have been defeated ... OK, rarely, but it has happened.
It's been five years since Beaver Area last topped its conference rival, squeezing past Aliquippa, 21-14. Since 2008, the Bobcats have lost six consecutive games against the Quips, including a 34-0 quarterfinal loss in the WPIAL playoffs in 2010.
"That team is very disciplined and acts like they've been there before," Beaver coach Jeff Beltz said. "They have a demeanor about them and a good respect for the game.
"From our end, we know we've been competitive with them over the years. This is a different year and a different team, but we know we have to have the right attitude, go in and not be rattled, respect our opponent and play as fast as we can."
No. 12-seed Beaver Area (8-3) will meet No. 1 Aliquippa (11-0) for the second time this season in a Class AA semifinal meeting at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Ambridge Area High School's Moe Rubenstein Stadium.
"All teams are beatable," Beltz said. "On any given night and at any given moment, good teams can be beaten."
The Quips, though, cruised past Beaver during the final Friday of the regular season, 50-13, on Oct. 25.
"I expect an extremely hard, physical game from them," Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac said. "The first time we played them, we probably embarrassed them, so they have that as motivation.
"They're going to be emotional and we expect them to be revved up."
The Bobcats, who are making their first semifinal appearance since 2003, are coming off a 21-7 quarterfinal win last week against previously undefeated Mount Pleasant (10-1). Quarterback Alex Rowse completed 13 of 21 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns. His main target was Dylan Goff, who had five receptions for 182 yards and two touchdowns.
"It really took a collective team effort," Beltz said. "It was nice to see everything come together at the same time; our offense took advantage of opportunities and our defense made plays when it needed to."
Undefeated Aliquippa rolled over Quaker Valley last week, 43-26. The two-time defending WPIAL champion Quips are outscoring opponents by an average of 46.4-9.9.
"Aliquippa is just a tremendous football team," Beltz said. "They've been that way for quite some time. The one thing about them is that you know what to expect because they do it every week.
"They execute well. They have a game plan and it really doesn't need to change."
Terry Swanson led Aliquippa last week by rushing for 269 yards and two touchdowns. Fellow star running back Dravon Henry also rushed for two scores against the Quakers.
Swanson's productive evening pushed him past the 4,000-yard mark in career rushing. He now has 4,025, while Henry was already well past the 5,000-yard post.
Beltz, however, is well aware of the many other stars the Quips have on both sides of the ball.
"That's what makes them so diversified and dynamic," Beltz said. "Those playmakers aren't just on offense. I'm sure Mike [Zmijanac] will tell you that their defense has been so smothering at times that it gets the ball back to the offense.
"They have kids who take so much pride in playing defense and most of those guys play both ways. When you love to play defense, that's when your team becomes truly dangerous."
Although the Bobcats are just three weeks removed from losing their regular-season finale against the Quips, Beltz is well aware that Aliquippa may play a little differently this time around.
"I don't think they get much credit for making the sudden adjustments each week," Beltz said. "We're familiar with them and their overall concepts, but it certainly changes week to week for them.
"They remain true to their system but still make those little adjustments.
"That makes them so unique and gives their kids confidence."
Aliquippa scored all 50 of its points, including 29 in the first quarter, against Beaver in the first half on Oct. 25. Neither team scored in the second half, either.
"We have to be a lot better," Beltz said. "We competed but got behind so early, which takes you out of your game plan. We had two turnovers early and were down 21-0 pretty fast. That deflates you.
"We have to learn from that and not turn over the ball. We know we have to be extremely competitive and go 100 miles an hour to have a chance."