No. 1 Aliquippa routs Beaver to return to WPIAL finals
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For the sixth straight year Aliquippa will challenge for the WPIAL Class AA crown next week at Heinz Field.
The two-time defending champ ended Beaver's Cinderella run with a 57-14 dismantling in Friday night's semifinal at Ambridge.
“It's fantastic,” Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac said. “That's not easy to do. You know we're just a little school playing up in Class AA.”
The top-seeded Quips (12-0) struck early and often, sticking to the run game and forcing Beaver's no-huddle out of its comfort zone.
“We had to play,” Zmijanac said. “My kids played well.”
Beaver (8-4), the No. 12 seed, had upset No. 5 Shady Side and No. 4 Mt. Pleasant to reach the semifinals. But the run ended quickly.
Terry Swanson scored Aliquippa's first points of the night on a 38-yard run up the middle. He added a 31-yard touchdown run less than a minute later after Dravon Henry tipped an Alex Rowse pass to himself for an interception.
“I was seeing cutback lanes, and I'm a hard runner,” Swanson said. “I put trust in my line, and I trust my eyes.”
Rowse, who entered the game as the WPIAL's top passer with 2,665 yards and 40 touchdowns, threw two interceptions that led to 14 points.
“He's a great quarterback,” Aliquippa lineman Jaleel Fields said. “Our defensive line pursued the ball great. Our linebackers filled (the running lanes), and we did a good job today.''
Rowse finished 9 of 29 for 89 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. The Quips' defense continued to dominate, holding Beaver to 152 total yards and its lowest point total since Aliquippa defeated the Bobcats, 50-13, in the regular-season finale.
Aliquippa's Darrien Fields found Patrick Anderson for two more first-half scores — 9 and 19 yards — the second set up by a fake spike right before the half, and the Quips led 36-7 at the break.
Aliquippa's starters were taken out midway through the third quarter after the mercy rule was in effect. Rowse didn't finish the game for the Bobcats.
Swanson finished 149 yards on eight carries and two scores. Fields went 7 of 11 for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Henry added 93 yards on 12 carries and touchdown runs of 9 and 36 yards.
The Quips will play No. 2 South Fayette (12-0), a 35-7 winner over Beaver Falls on Nov. 23 at Heinz Field.
“I think it's about two heavyweights right here,” Swanson said. “I think it's going to be very interesting.”
Zmijanac added: “We're both undefeated. It was pretty obvious we could play each other all year.”
Justin Criado is a freelance writer.
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