For the sixth year in a row, Aliquippa will be heading back to Heinz Field, this time to defend back-to-back Class AA WPIAL championships.
The Quips earned a spot in the title game by defeating Midwestern Conference rival Beaver, 57-14, in the semifinals Friday night at Moe Rubenstein Field at Ambridge High School.
"This has been the expectation forever," coach Mike Zmijanac said. "We have good players, and our coaches know what to do with them."
North Catholic 27, Neshannock 14
North Catholic takes on Neshannock in Friday night football action. (Video by Andrew Rush; 11/16/2013)
This game had a familiar tone to the one where they met in the final game of the regular season. No. 1 seed Aliquippa defeated Beaver, the No. 12 seed, 50-13, in that game after jumping to a 29-0 lead in the first quarter.
It was more of the same last night for Aliquippa's electric offense, which jumped to a 20-0 lead after 12 minutes.
The Quips used a balanced attack on offense, getting two touchdowns from running backs Terry Swanson and Dravon Henry, and two from quarterback Darrien Fields and wide receiver Patrick Anderson.
Swanson rushed for a game-high 141 yards on eight carries. Henry added 94 yards on 13 carries.
"We have a lot of threats," Henry said. "If I go down, we got Terry. If Terry goes down, we have Patrick. If Patrick goes down, we have Jyrel (Turner). I mean the list goes on and on. We compete everyday in practice and that's what makes us better."
After getting over some jitters in the first quarter that saw penalty flags hit the field more than the players themselves, Aliquippa's offense started to roll.
Swanson cracked the scoreboard first, capping off a two-play, 14-second drive with a 38-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the Quips with a 6-0 lead.
Aliquippa got help on defense from Henry, intercepted a Alex Rowse pass and returned it to the 49. Swanson found the end zone soon after, this time from 31 yards. The Quips took a 14-0 lead after they converted on the two-point conversion.
Aliquippa's defense continued to force Rowse out of the pocket, creating havoc for the second-leading passer in the WPIAL. On the Bobcats' next possession, Rowse looked to dump it off to his back, but the ball was tipped and intercepted by Kaezon Pugh, who returned it to the Beaver 11.
"The reason why we win games is our defense," Zmijanac said.
Henry took advantage of the short field position, scoring on a 9-yard run to lift the Quips to a 20-0 lead.
It wasn't just the run game that was giving the Bobcats problems. Junior quarterback Darrien Fields completed 7 of 11 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns to Anderson.
Aliquippa quickly put the mercy rule into effect early in the second half.
Rowse could never get in a rhythm, completing only 9 of 26 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. Jordan Yates led the Bobcats with two touchdowns.
And now, Henry can see the Quips' hard work finally paying off.
"We are keeping the tradition going and all the hard work in practice is paying off," he said.
"Coach is real hard with us in practice which makes it easy when we get to the game."