West Xtra: Quips spell success with a 'D'
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Don't even bother asking Mike Zmijanac about how impressed he's been with his team's offense this season.
Even after his Aliquippa football team racked up 505 yards of total offense and cruised past Washington, 34-7, in the WPIAL Class AA championship Nov. 23 at Heinz Field, the longtime coach immediately praised the Quips' defensive unit.
"You have to play defense to win a game like this," Zmijanac said. "I've been telling you guys [in the media] all year, it's not our offense, it's been our defense.
"You have to play defense to win."
Capturing a record 15th WPIAL title, Aliquippa (13-0) held the Little Prexies to five first downs and just 114 yards of total offense. The Quips also contained the WPIAL's leading rusher this season, Shai McKenzie, and held the junior back to only 33 yards.
"To beat a team like Washington you have to play some pretty good defense," Zmijanac said. "They have a wonderful running back in Shai McKenzie and have a terrific young coach. To beat a team like that sure puts a feather in our cap."
Washington coach Mike Bosnic wasn't surprised by what he saw from the Quips, either.
"That team is amazing," Bosnic said. "They just have great players all over the place. They make it really tough for you to do anything.
"They were hard to prepare for because they really don't have a weakness. They have great individual players. Those are tough, football-smart kids, and on top of that they are well coached."
The Quips followed up their WPIAL championship effort with another impressive performance in the quarterfinals of the PIAA playoffs, dispatching Karns City, 51-15, last Friday at Central Valley's Sarge Alberts Stadium.
Aliquippa (14-0) has made it nearly impossible for any opponent to reach the end zone this season. The Quips have outscored opponents by an average of 50.6-4.6.
"Defense is the reason we win," Zmijanac said. "[Defensive coordinator] Pete Short and our coaches do a great job getting these guys ready. When you don't give up a touchdown, you're not going to lose very often.
"We win because of our defense."
A well-rounded front on the defensive side, the Quips have contained opponents' running efforts and stopped most passing attempts all season.
"Nobody scores," Zmijanac quickly added.
Presenting a near impenetrable defensive front is nothing new at Aliquippa, either. During the 2010 and '11 seasons, the Quips have held opponents to less than nine points and even strung together 11 shutout quarters during the 2010 playoffs.
"Every team is different," Zmijanac said. "Every year is different and every team is different from [the previous one] and each has its own identity. These aren't the same kids every year. They've separated themselves from the other players on the other teams."
Nevertheless, at least 18 players have helped the Quips' defensive unit this season.
Against Washington, Aliquippa presented a five-man front featuring defensive ends Devon Walker and Chris Ingram, defensive tackles Jaleel Fields and Malik Akins and nose guard Damon Sims.
Backing up the front five are linebackers Dajon Perry and Celo Chavis, cornerbacks Malik Shegog and Malik Stewart as well as safeties Terry Swanson and Dravon Henry.
According to Zmijanac, Jeffrey Cassucio, Jyier Turner, Donovan Cobb, Khalil Seaburn, Marquis Jenkins, James Moreland and Malcom Fraser also have added defensive depth this year.
"They are all expected to perform and all are accountable," Zmijanac said. "It's the physicality and discipline these guys have. They're at the right place at the right time and that's mainly because our coaches make sure we put the right people in certain spots."
Zmijanac also credits all his players for their willingness to simply win games and not play for individual glory or acknowledgment.
"I'm impressed by the fact that no [opponent] scores and the overall discipline," Zmijanac said. "No one is into the praise and recognition. They keep doing their job.
"It's something that is very different from what we see in society these days."
First Published December 6, 2012 12:00 am