Aliquippa takes advantage of turnovers, rips Jeannette in Class AA semifinals
Spirited rivals Aliquippa and Jeannette were locked in a scoreless tie after the first quarter Friday night.
By halftime at Peters Township High School, the top-ranked Quips had ensured nothing more was left to play for.
Dravon Henry rushed for 171 yards, and Aliquippa capitalized on six Jeannette turnovers, resulting in five touchdowns to bury the Jayhawks, 56-0, and advance to its fifth consecutive WPIAL Class AA championship game.
“Truly, I'm in awe that we've been able to do this,” Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac said. “Us and Jeannette, for that matter. Two Class A schools with Double A teams.
Aliquippa (12-0), which led, 36-0, at halftime, will meet third-seeded Washington (12-0) in the Class AA title game at 5 p.m. at Heinz Field.
It marked the sixth shutout this season by the Aliquippa defense and second in the WPIAL playoffs.
“We just got beat by maybe the future state champions,” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said. “Are they 56 points better than us? I don't know, but we had a lot of turnovers, and we didn't get a first down the whole first half.”
Hall paused and smiled before adding; “I know what they feel like beating us like this. I think we've done it, ourselves, to a few teams before.”
Jeannette closes another great season with a 10-2 record, losing only to Aliquippa and Washington, 18-15, during the regular season.
Aliquippa showed on its first possession why it is a tough opponent. The Quips marched downfield against Jeannette and was poised to score, when quarterback Malik Shegog fumbled a snap and Logan Hoak recovered.
But Jeannette found it much tougher to move the ball this time than last week, when the Jayhawks rolled to a 40-point halftime lead and beat Beaver Area, 47-15, in the quarterfinals.
“Defense is what has won games for us all year,” Zmijanac said. “Jeannette didn't get any first downs in the first half. Our offense just falls into place after the defense does its job.”
Aliquippa manhandled Jeannette in total offense, 454-25. The Jayhawks managed just one first down with 5:57 left in the third quarter.
After that scoreless first quarter, Aliquippa scored following three consecutive Jeannette fumbles.
Devon Walker broke the ice for the Quips, scoring on a 10-yard touchdown run. Shegog followed on the next drive with a 13-yard scoring run. Henry, who carried 17 times, was next, racing 35 yards for a score, putting Aliquippa ahead, 22-0.
“They didn't throw the ball much, and they didn't have to,” Hall said.
The Quips added three more scores on the ground before halftime, Shegog from 30 yards out, Terry Swanson from 11 yards and Khalil Seaburn from 5 yards.
A 35-point mercy rule kicked in for the second half, permitting the clock to continuously run. Aliquippa scored twice more on freshman Kaezon Pugh's 3-yard run and Robert Gilbert's 1-yard burst.
Pugh, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound freshman, added 76 yards rushing in the second half. Swanson ran for 60, and Shegog, who attempted just six passes, gained 59.
On the field in the aftermath, Shegog relished another chance to play in the WPIAL championships after the Quips edged Jeannette, 14-7, in the 2011 finals.
Holding a Heinz ketchup bottle for cameras, Shegog grinned and said: “Four years running. Thank you.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org