Aliquippa seniors hope to cement their legacy
Aliquippa seniors Donovan Cobb, Jaleel Fields, Dravon Henry and Terry Swanson are two-time WPIAL champions who have reached Heinz Field three times.
Yet, their coach asks, what have you done lately?
“I've told them: That team that went to the state championship, that wasn't you,” coach Mike Zmijanac said.
“It only matters what you did as a senior, when you're sitting in a bar someday and someone asks.”
With a senior class that's already more accomplished than almost any outside Clairton, complacency could undermine expectations. But Zmijanac diligently reminds his players that each class will be remembered most for what it does senior year.
“Coach Z says that all the time,” Henry said. “He told us one time about a senior class that didn't even make the playoffs. I got to thinking, you can't take nothing for granted.
“Every time I'm at practice or in the weight room, I go so hard until I can't walk anymore just because I don't want to be remembered as ‘They could have did this' or ‘They could have did that.' ”
The four-year starters should provide stability for an offense that must replace its quarterback, receivers and several starting linemen from a lineup that lost by three points in the state championship.
Henry and Swanson were 1,000-yard rushers last year when the Quips were state runners-up.
Henry had 1,857 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns. Swanson had 1,421 yards and 21 touchdowns.
The tailbacks mostly split time last year but could be used together more this season. Both also are talented defensive backs.
A solid two-way tackle, Fields has anchored Aliquippa's lines. Cobb has played tight end and linebacker.
“The experience of the kids we do have back will be a strength,” Zmijanac said. “... When you have four seniors who have started in three WPIAL championship games, that's pretty special.”
At quarterback, junior Darrien Fields will replace graduated Malik Shegog, who's at Duquesne.
Even with significant roster turnover, the Quips are early-season favorites to return to WPIAL championship for the sixth consecutive season.
“That would be special,” Swanson said, “but I think our fans they're pretty tired of just Heinz Field. They want more. States is the ultimate goal.”