PIAA Class AA semifinals: Aliquippa vs. Richland
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Jaleel Fields said he and his fellow offensive linemen don't set a specific number of yards for which they hope to spring Dravon Henry, Terry Swanson and a deep group of talented Aliquippa ball carriers each game.
"I think Dravon and Terry have bets sometimes," said Fields, laughing. "But us, not really. We just go out and play football."
It's a safe bet the high-scoring Quips offense -- averaging more than 50 points per game -- will run for a lot of yards tonight. A tremendous offensive line is a big reason why.
That line will once again be the driving force for a prolific rushing attack when Aliquippa (14-0) plays District 6 champion Richland (14-0) in a PIAA Class AA semifinal at North Allegheny.
It's one thing to post outstanding yardage numbers in the regular season, but to do it this deep into the playoffs sets the Quips apart from other teams. The past three weeks, Aliquippa has run for 428 (PIAA quarterfinals), 505 (WPIAL championship) and 435 (WPIAL semifinals) yards.
"We've been doing that all year," Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac said.
The bulk of the line has been starting for two years -- Fields, a 6-foot-2, 275-pound junior tackle receiving heavy Division I interest, senior guard Damon Sims (5-9, 287), senior guard Malik Akins (6-1, 255) and junior center Nayo Seaburn (5-7, 240). Joining the group this season has been senior tackle Malcolm Fraser (5-10, 220) and junior tight end Dajon Perry (5-9, 230).
When asked about their explosiveness, the rushers regularly deflect any praise to the big bodies creating space in front of them.
"It's the line," Henry said. "They open up holes for everyone."
That includes Henry (1,558 yards and 26 touchdowns) and Swanson (1,304 yards and 21 touchdowns). But it doesn't end there. Quarterback Malik Shegog and freshman running back Kaezon Pugh have both rushed for more than 500 yards. In a 51-15 quarterfinal win against Karns City, the Quips scored four touchdowns on runs of 60 yards or more -- Henry (63), Jyier Turner (69), Shegog (60) and Pugh (64).
Richland boasts an offense that has produced impressive numbers rushing and passing. Running back Tanner Solarczyk has rushed for 1,797 yards and 24 touchdowns. Quarterback Matt Shaffer has 1,850 yards and 19 touchdowns passing to go along with 608 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. Shaffer ran for two touchdowns and passed for another in Richland's 38-12 victory against Hickory in the quarterfinals.
Two teams averaging more than 300 yards on the ground that feature Division I-bound rushers meet Saturday at Germantown High School, as District 12 champion Imhotep Charter (14-0) faces District 3 champion Wyomissing (14-0).
Imhotep Charter has a tremendous defense (73 points allowed) and two running backs who have rushed for more than 1,000 yards in senior David Williams (1,764 yards) and Eerin Young.
Wyomissing is led by senior fullback Alex Anzalone, a Notre Dame linebacker recruit who is considered to be the top player in the state. Anzalone is the star rusher in Wyomissing's offense. He scored three touchdowns to help the Spartans pound Danville, 52-0, in the quarterfinals.
First Published December 7, 2012 12:00 am