WPIAL Class AA semifinal matchup: Aliquippa vs. Jeannette
Class AA semifinal: (1) Aliquippa (11-0) vs. (4) Jeannette (10-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Peters Township Stadium
No matter how you slice it, this is a rivalry game.
Top-seeded Aliquippa will face fourth-seeded Jeannette in the WPIAL Class AA semifinals on Friday night at Peters Township in a rematch of the 2011 championship game at Heinz Field, won by Aliquippa, 14-7, on its way to an appearance in a PIAA semifinal.
“You don't have rivals if both of you aren't good,” Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac said. “I have great admiration and respect for the Jeannette program. They just remind me of us.”
Don't be mistaken by Zmijanac's supposed coach-speak. He begs to differ.
“I hope no one thinks I'm blowing smoke,” he said. “They're tough kids at Jeannette, who play really hard. And they're well-coached. Both teams will play hard, and no matter the outcome, they will hug each other afterwards.”
At Jeannette, the feeling is mutual. Coach Roy Hall has nothing but praise for Zmijanac and his No. 1-ranked team. Aliquippa's defense has registered five shutouts, including one in a first-round playoff victory over Steel Valley. It yielded only a fourth-quarter touchdown to Mt. Pleasant in the quarterfinals.
“They are definitely the best team we have played so far,” Hall said. “They have great athletes and are very fast, and they've got some big linemen who are very quick.”
While Aliquippa relies on its running game, led by juniors Dravon Henry and Terry Swanson, Jeannette is more versatile. Quarterback Seth Miller's length (6-foot-5) could give the Jayhawks an advantage with their passing game. And versatility is senior running back Jordan Edmunds' middle name.
Edmunds is a threat to run and catch passes out of the backfield. His 85-yard kickoff return sparked Jeannette to a 40-0 halftime lead in its rout of Beaver Area in the quarterfinals.
Still, Hall said: “We must definitely be on our game.”