PIAA Class AA Playoffs: Aliquippa vs. Karns City
Aliquippa's Malik Shegog dives into the end zone for a touchdown as he's defended by Washington's Darius Spinks Friday in the WPIAL class AA championships at Heinz Field. Shegog is third on the team in rushing with 481 yards.
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Earlier this season, Aliquippa quarterback Malik Shegog described himself as being the team's "wild card," saying he liked being an X-factor and enjoyed the fact that few people talked about him.
Well, Shegog's excellent play has spoken for itself, and given the Quips a "full house" in their offensive backfield.
Shegog, a senior, has been an ace in his first season as a starter, not only giving the Quips a passing threat, but also another key weapon in a prolific running game headed by junior running backs Dravon Henry and Terry Swanson.
"He did exactly as I expected him to," Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac said. "He's a different kind of quarterback than we had the past few years, but he's had three years to learn. He had been the backup for three years. He has his opportunity. He's obviously taken hold of it."
Shegog has followed in the footsteps of Mikal Hall, who finished his career as Aliquippa's all-time leading passer. Hall threw for more than 4,000 yards and started three WPIAL Class AA championship games.
Starting in his first WPIAL final, Shegog rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns, threw a touchdown pass, and did not commit a turnover Friday in helping Aliquippa (13-0) win its 15th WPIAL championship with a 34-7 victory against Washington at Heinz Field.
Serving as the understudy to Hall, Shegog said he learned a lot about what it takes to be the starting quarterback for one of the state's premier Class AA programs.
"The biggest thing [I learned] was probably how to be a leader," Shegog said. "Thinking back to my freshman year, it was Mikal's sophomore year, and that was his first year starting. From Day One, when he knew he was going to start, he took control of everything.
"He led the offense and the whole team with such pride and consistency. There was no down moment. He made sure he did what he needed to do to get the team to win. Right now, I'm doing what I need to do to help the team win."
Shegog has completed 30 of 58 passes for 564 yards and eight touchdowns to go along with 481 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns on an 8.9 yards-per-carry average. He's third on the team in rushing behind Henry (1,439 yards, 24 touchdowns) and Swanson (1,244 yards, 19 touchdowns).
The Quips will need Shegog to continue his strong play when they begin their quest for their third PIAA title with a quarterfinal Friday against District 9 champion Karns City (10-3) at Central Valley.
Karns City, located in northeastern Butler County, beat Chestnut Ridge, 35-29, in a first-round game last Friday. Trailing by six points in the third quarter, the Gremlins rallied to win by getting touchdowns from their special teams (80-yard kickoff return) and defense (six-yard fumble return). Karns City ran for 244 yards. The Gremlins have averaged 33 points during their five-game winning streak.
Aliquippa defeated Karns City, 42-14, in the 2008 quarterfinals.
The Quips have had their eyes on this moment since losing a heartbreaker to Tyrone, 20-19, in the state semifinals a year ago.
After falling behind, 20-13, in the fourth quarter, Henry scored on a 60-yard run with five minutes left to bring the Quips within one. Zmijanac chose to go for a two-point conversion, but Swanson's run was ruled short of the goal line in what was deemed a controversial call.
"We always use that as motivation," fullback/defensive end Devon Walker said.
"On the bus ride home, I can think back and just remember how everybody was looking, how everybody was feeling.
"From that day on, we knew that to get back to that spot and further we had to work hard. So, since then, everybody has been doing all they can to win states this year."
First Published November 30, 2012 12:00 am