WPIAL Class AA championship: Aliquippa bags record-15th title
Aliquippa's Malik Shegog dives into the end zone past Washington's Darius Spinks in the WPIAL Class AA championship Friday at Heinz Field.
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Maybe it was because Aliquippa didn't like the windy and rainy weather. Or maybe the Quips wanted to do some last-minute Black Friday shopping.
Whatever the case, Aliquippa was clearly in a rush to win the WPIAL championship.
Driven by a speedy, elusive group of runners who gained 505 yards and a defense that locked down the WPIAL's leading rusher, Aliquippa dominated Washington on its way to a second Class AA title in a row with a 34-7 victory at Heinz Field.
Aliquippa (13-0) added another chapter to its storied tradition by winning a WPIAL championship for a record 15th time. It was the fifth title for coach Mike Zmijanac, who guided Aliquippa to the title game for the fifth year in a row. Next up for the Quips is a PIAA quarterfinal next weekend against District 9 champion Karns City (10-3).
Aliquippa's two-headed monster of rushers feasted on a Washington defense that had been excellent against the run all season.
Juniors Terry Swanson and Dravon Henry, who came into the game with more than 1,000 yards rushing apiece, showed why they are receiving heavy Division I interest. Swanson ran for 206 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, with Henry adding 123 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Quarterback Malik Shegog gave Aliquippa its third 100-yard rusher, gaining 100 yards and scoring two touchdowns in addition to throwing for another touchdown.
"Obviously, they had a great night," said Washington coach Mike Bosnic, whose team finished 12-1. "I saw they had more than 500 yards [rushing]. They had two great running backs. Physically, they moved us all night long. It was just a great team we ran into."
Meanwhile, Washington's star junior running back, Shai McKenzie, never was a factor. McKenzie entered the game with WPIAL bests of 2,656 yards and 42 touchdowns -- including 754 yards and 11 touchdowns in three playoff games -- but Aliquippa held him to 33 yards on 18 carries. His longest run was 5 yards, this after averaging 12.4 yards per carry previously.
"He had nowhere to run," Zmijanac said. "I said this before the game, it's 11-on-11. It's not him versus us. They couldn't block us, so he had nowhere to go. Last time I looked, O.J. Simpson couldn't run if people weren't blocking."
Outside of Clairton's ultimately successful quest to own the state's all-time longest winning streak, this was supposed to be the marquee game of the WPIAL championships. Since the WPIAL playoffs began for all classes in 1977, it was just the 17th championship game pairing teams with perfect records. This one didn't live up to the hype.
The Quips outgained Washington, 543-114, and held a 26-5 edge in first downs. Aliquippa, which has allowed 42 points this season, only gave up a touchdown when Washington's Josh Wise recovered a fumble and returned it for 50 yards for a score.
Wise, who completed 2 of 13 passes for 23 yards, said the speed of the Aliquippa defense was the difference.
"You can prepare for maybe size, but you can't prepare for speed, and that's something they have a lot of," Wise said. "We did all we could, but, in the end, it really wasn't enough."
Aliquippa scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions in the first half to open a 20-0 lead. The Quips gutted the Washington defense with big run after big run. Shegog faked a handoff and ran for a 12-yard touchdown. Swanson finished a three-play, 94-yard drive with a 60-yard touchdown run. Shegog then ran the same play as his first touchdown, this time scoring on a 22-yard run.
Shegog connected with Dajon Perry for a 28-yard touchdown with 26 seconds left in the half to put the Quips firmly ahead, 26-0. Aliquippa had 340 yards rushing at the half, with Swanson (148), Henry (97) and Shegog (92) combining for all but 3.
Henry scored on an 8-yard run in the second half for Aliquippa, which outscored its four playoff opponents, 178-13.
Bosnic called this Aliquippa team perhaps the best Class AA team in the history of the WPIAL.
Shegog said it's not ... well, at least not yet.
Said Shegog: "We can't be the best until we win states."
First Published November 24, 2012 12:03 am