Aliquippa loses to Wyomissing in AA title game
Aliquippa's lament after Saturday's state championship loss was that it was still a game in the fourth quarter.
The Quips forced four turnovers and had six drives reach the red zone, but their typically potent offense scored just twice in a 17-14 loss to Wyomissing in the PIAA Class AA championship game at Hersheypark Stadium. They had drives reach the 1-, 7-, 20- and 9-yard lines without scoring.
“It should have been put away in the second quarter,” said Aliquippa junior Dravon Henry, who scored both first-half touchdowns. “But we didn't do it, so they deserve to win.”
Aliquippa (15-1) was seeking its first state title since 2003.
Mason Smith scored two rushing touchdowns for Wyomissing (16-0), including a 36-yarder just 42 seconds into the fourth quarter that gave the Spartans their first lead. It also was the first time all season that Aliquippa trailed in the second half, and the Quips couldn't respond.
Their final two possessions lost 1 yard combined, including a desperation interception thrown with 44 seconds left.
“It is a whole different game when you're behind,” Henry said. “You've got to step it up because they want to win a state championship just like us. They fought harder at the end and we just let it go.”
The Quips led in total yards (346-253) and had two 100-yard rushers. Terry Swanson had 126 yards on 14 carries and Henry had 123 yards on 22 carries. Quarterback Malik Shegog added 72 rushing yards.
Defensively for Aliquippa, Malik Stewart recovered two fumbles and intercepted a pass. Dajon Perry recovered another fumble with 53 seconds left.
“Normally when you turn it over four times, you're not winning,” Wyomissing coach Bob Wolfrum said.
However, unlike Aliquippa, District 3 champion Wyomissing had played close games this season, an experience that certainly helped. The Quips hadn't had a game closer than 27 points until the PIAA semifinals.
“We've been in tough ones with Pleasant Valley (31-27) and Schuylkill Valley (37-33),” Wolfrum said. “These kids got flustered a little bit (against Aliquippa). We were on our heels early, but they regained their equilibrium.”
A 52-yard field goal by Wyomissing's Jonah Bowman was the margin of victory. The long kick — a record in the PIAA playoffs — cut Aliquippa's lead to 14-10 with 9:48 left in the third quarter.
The Quips led, 14-7, at halftime on rushing touchdowns by Henry (1 and 10 yards). But that margin could have been much larger. The Quips had a first-quarter drive end at Wyomissing's 1-yard line and another in the second quarter reached the 7. Both ended with failed fourth-and-goals plays. If they punched both into the end zone, the Quips' lead could have been three touchdowns.
“We should have put them away in the first half,” Shegog said. “There were multiple times we were down in the red zone and just couldn't finish.”
Their first missed opportunity came in the final minute of the first quarter with Aliquippa already ahead, 8-0. Facing first-and-goal at Wyomissing's 10-yard line, the Quips gained 9 yards on four runs — two each by Henry and Swanson.
Wyomissing took possession and moved 99 yards in nine plays. A 13-yard touchdown run by Smith finished the scoring drive, part of his 15 carries and 127 rushing yards. The Spartans relied on a sweep play that troubled the Quips.
But there were other missed chances. Second-half Aliquippa drives reached Wyomissing's 20- and 9-yard lines. On the first, Swanson cramped up after 49 yards on a breakaway third-quarter run that might have gone farther. The second red zone drive was hurt by a holding penalty.
Later, with 2:45 left, the Quips nearly had a winning touchdown when wideout Shaquere McBride ran free downfield, but Shegog's pass fell just out of reach.
“So close,” Shegog said, “but so far away.”
Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.