West Xtra: Another victory will put these Quips on a level with school's finest ever
Aliquippa's Terry Swanson was off to the races during the Quips' PIAA quarterfinal victory against Karns City.
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In the long, storied tradition of Aliquippa High School football, the years 1991 and 2003 stand out in a big way.
A win Saturday would add the year 2012 to that prestigious fraternity.
Aliquippa will aim to win its third PIAA title when the Quips (15-0) face Wyomissing (15-0) in the Class AA championship game at Hersheypark Stadium at noon.
In 1991, Ty Law and Chico Williams were the stars. In 2003, Darrelle Revis led the way, scoring five touchdowns (three rushing, one on a blocked field goal return and one on a kickoff return).
Are current stars Dravon Henry, Terry Swanson and Jaleel Fields the next in line to make their mark in Aliquippa lore?
To get this opportunity, the Quips avoided what would have been a major upset by defeating District 6 champion Richland, 37-21, in the semifinals. Many assumed the Quips would easily roll over Richland just as they did to every one of their other opponents, but the Rams had other ideas.
Richland showed early on that this was going to be a fight. Richland limited an Aliquippa offense that was averaging more than 50 points per game to just 15 first-quarter yards. The Rams had a chance to score the first points of the game, but misfired on a 42-yard field goal attempt midway through the opening quarter.
Aliquippa gained momentum late in the quarter when Malik Stewart intercepted a pass by Richland quarterback Matt Shaffer.
On the ensuing drive, Henry broke loose for a 50-yard run, and Swanson scored on an 18-yard burst up the middle.
The Quips got a two-point conversion after that touchdown, and did so again after Henry put the finishing touches on a 13-play, 70-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown run to put Aliquippa in front, 16-0.
But just when it looked like Richland might be letting the game slip away, the Rams turned to some trick plays to get back into it.
On several occasions, Richland ran the "swinging gate" play, in which only the center and quarterback were in the center of the field, five linemen were split to one side, and the remaining players to the opposite side.
"We've never seen anything like that," Henry said.
With Aliquippa struggling to stop those plays from picking up big yardage, Richland made the Quips pay on a swinging gate play, as Shaffer found Kyle Flick for a touchdown to make it 16-6.
When Aliquippa got the ball back with just under two minutes left in the half, however, the Quips deflated Richland by surging down the field and increasing their lead to 23-6 on Malik Shegog's 2-yard touchdown run.
"That touchdown before the half was real big," said Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac. "It changed the game."
Richland made it 23-13 late in the third quarter, but the Quips put the game away with a pair of touchdown runs from Henry in the fourth quarter.
"We're very proud of the effort," Richland coach Brandon Bailey said. "The guys played hard for 48 minutes."
Henry rushed for 222 yards and three touchdowns, upping his season total to 1,780 yards and 29 touchdowns. Swanson finished with 118 yards and a touchdown, increasing his numbers to 1,422 yards and 22 touchdowns. Swanson left the game with a right ankle injury, but is expected to play against Wyomissing.
As for Wyomissing, the District 3 champions will be making their first PIAA championship appearance. The Spartans beat Imhotep Charter, 35-13, in the semifinals.
Aliquippa, which has given up 85 points this season, will be faced with the tall task of stopping Wyomissing's vaunted wing-T offense. The Spartans rushed for 275 yards in the semifinals, including 156 by fullback/linebacker Alex Anzalone, a Notre Dame recruit.
Wyomissing coach Bob Wolfrum is the winningest coach in Berks County history.
Speaking of history, Henry had some of it on his mind moments after his team's semifinal victory.
"This win is great," he said, "but we've got one more to win for us to be happy."
And join some elite company.
First Published December 13, 2012 12:00 am