Mike Zmijanac and the Aliquippa coaching staff are spending plenty of time this week doing their due diligence watching tape of Wyomissing.
But what happens if the Spartans of the vast majority of their first 15 games aren't the same team — offensively, at least — as the one the Quips will face in the PIAA Class AA championship game Saturday?
Wyomissing (15-0) swept through to their sixth District 3 title and first appearance in a PIAA title game mostly on the strength of a strong running game within a Wing-T offense that set a school record for points.
But the Spartans broken open a tie game in the PIAA semifinals largely due to the arm of Corey Unger.
Unger was a record-setting passer who compiled more than 4,000 passing yards during his freshman through junior seasons at Fleetwood High School. He transferred to Wyomissing last school year but was ruled ineligible after Fleetwood alleged he transferred with athletic intent.
The one-year clock on Unger's ineligibility expired Dec. 1 — just in time for the PIAA playoffs.
“He's been with us all year, and he's going to play in college. He's a good quarterback,” longtime Wyomissing coach Bob Wolfrum said. “It's tough to change after 13 weeks when you keep winning ... but we've been getting him ready to go, and he definitely adds another dimension to what we can show and do.”
Adding an experienced quarterback like Unger to a team that already features Notre Dame recruit Alex Anzalone figures to make Wyomissing that much more dangerous when Aliquippa faces the Spartans at noon Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.
“They were 13-0 without him,” Quips coach Mike Zmijanac said. “That tells you something.”
Also undefeated and outscoring opponents, 746-85, Aliquippa is after its third PIAA title. The 15-time WPIAL champion Quips (15-0) are in the PIAA championship game for the fifth time but first since 2003.
That arguably the premier Class AA program in the state had gone nine years between trips to Hershey serves only to underscore how difficult it is to advance to a PIAA title game.
“When you do this long enough, you recognize just how special this is,” Zmijanac said.
No need to tell that to Wolfrum, who has been involved in coaching for 41 years — the past 26 as the head coach at Wyomissing — and has never coached in a PIAA championship game.
Wolfrum's teams have averaged nine victories per season, and he is a 10-time Berks Football League coach of the year.
With Unger eligible, Wyomissing is able to move all-conference receiver Joe Cacchione back to his given position. It also could open up more room for Anzalone, who has 1,404 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns in addition to being one of the top linebacker recruits in the country.
Anzalone is a captain for a team that projects to field an all-senior starting lineup.
Aliquippa's strongest class is its juniors, among whom are running backs Dravon Henry and Terry Swanson. Seniors such as quarterback Malik Shegog and lineman Devon Walker also have provided leadership.
“I'm so pleased with their character and with the way they represent themselves and the way they approach playing the game,” Zmijanac said. “They have fun and they laugh — but they work hard. ... They know how to wear the uniform.
“(Getting to the PIAA championship) is the goal when you started in May. Most of the time, you don't reach that goal — but every once in a while, you do.”
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