Controversy clouds Aliquippa's win over Beaver Falls
TribLIVE Sports Videos
This already-storied rivalry now has a little added controversy.
Aliquippa's Terry Swanson ran 58 yards for a winning touchdown in Friday night's 34-28 victory over host Beaver Falls, though almost no one in orange chased him the final 30 yards.
Many thought the play was over.
That included Swanson, who slipped a tackle and heard his coaches shouting for him to keep running. He did, and referees awarded the Quips a touchdown.
“I thought it was dead,” Swanson admitted but insisted he never was down.
The winning touchdown with 5:32 left and a Dravon Henry touchdown run four minutes earlier were the first meaningful fourth-quarter points scored this season by No. 1 Aliquippa (8-0, 6-0), the top-ranked Class AA team in the state. No. 4 Beaver Falls (7-1, 6-1), which also entered unbeaten, was leading 28-20 and 28-26 in the fourth quarter at Geneva College's Reeves Field.
It was another memorable matchup in this nearly century-old rivalry.
“This was a wonderful game,” Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac said. “A wonderful atmosphere. Both teams played really hard. I said before the game this was going to be fun.”
Yet all were left wondering whether Swanson was down? And did someone blow a whistle?
Beaver Falls coach Ryan Matsook's answer to both was yes.
“It's a shame that the 8,000 fans who came here tonight have to remember this as the one that was won on an inadvertent whistle,” Matsook said. “It's just a shame. I feel bad for the kids.”
Swanson was sprinting along Aliquippa's sideline when Beaver Falls' Marcus Cleckley grabbed him by the shoulder pads. A flag was thrown for a horse-collar tackle, but Swanson slipped free. Aliquippa coaches shouted for Swanson to keep running, so he jogged toward the end zone.
Swanson said his hip always was on Cleckley's stomach. The flag was waived off and the touchdown was awarded.
“Truthfully, I wasn't sure if he was down or not,” Zmijanac said. “I couldn't tell.”
Unlike in Aliquippa's first seven victories, this fourth quarter wasn't meaningless. Beaver Falls had led 28-26 before Swanson's touchdown. Beaver Falls tried to drive for another score in the final minute, but a fourth-down sack near midfield ended its last chance.
Beaver Falls rushers Damian Rawl and Kahlil Caracter each reached 100 yards. Rawl had 111 on 24 carries. Caracter had 100 on 18. Quarterback Dan Stratton completed 6 of 14 passes for 120 yards and three touchdowns, one each to Rawl, Pete Lyons and Sage Curry.
“I'm glad that we get this test early,” said Swanson, who rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns. “Last year we didn't get (tested) until the state playoffs. This test will prepare us for the future.”
For the first time this season, Aliquippa didn't have at least a two-touchdown halftime lead. Most weeks it's been much more. The Quips' previous four halftime scores were 39-0 over Ellwood City; 42-7 over Freedom; 50-8 over Mohawk and 37-0 over New Brighton.
This time, Aliquippa reached halftime tied 14-14.
Aliquippa's first lead came seven seconds into the second half. A 39-yard touchdown pass from halfback Dravon Henry to wideout Patrick Anderson put the Quips ahead, 20-16. Henry also had 116 yard rushing and a touchdown on 12 carries.
But that 20-14 lead lasted less than four minutes.
Beaver Falls answered with a 22-yard touchdown run by Caracter. A two-point run by Rawl failed, leaving the teams tied 20-20 at 5:27 in the third.
To break the tie, Beaver Falls' Curry caught a 29-yard touchdown and a two-point conversion one play into the fourth quarter. When Aliquippa's Henry scored two minutes later with a 22-yard run, Curry's tackle stopped the tying two-point conversion in the backfield.
Beaver Falls led 28-26 with 9:34 left.
Holding a two-point lead, Beaver Falls stayed aggressive. The Tigers went for it on fourth-and-2 at Aliquippa's 43-yard line, but Rawl was stopped 1 yard short. On the next snap, Swanson's long touchdown run put Aliquippa ahead to stay.
It was fitting that a flag was thrown on the game-winning play. The teams combined for 22, including 18 in the first half.
“They were ruining the continuity of the game,” Zmijanac said. “If those bunch of Beaver Falls kids and Aliquippa kids were playing here without officials, it would have been just as good a game.”
When Aliquippa beat Beaver Falls last season 66-7, the Quips scored on four of their first five possessions and returned a first-quarter interception for another touchdown. This time Beaver Falls owned the first quarter. The Tigers held the ball for 10 of the 12 minutes. One play into the second quarter, they led 14-0 after two long drives.
“We were embarrassed last year,” Matsook said. “I think we opened some eyes tonight that we're a pretty good football team, too. If they're No. 1, we're a touchdown off of that.”
Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- WPIAL coaches, QBs have concerns about using newly-approved footballs
- Previewing Week 1 high school football matchups
- Quad North neighbors North Allegheny, Seneca Valley set for opener
- Birdie again up to the challenge
- Ringgold jumping right into the fire
- Moonlighting athletes summoned for assistance at Western Beaver
- High school football notebook: Summer heat possible for season’s first week
- Big 9 rival Ringgold to challenge Thomas Jefferson in season opener
- Story lines abound for start of new grid season
- High school football teams ready to start 2014 season
- Allegheny Conference newcomers Apollo-Ridge, West Shamokin are familiar foes