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WPIAL favorite Aliquippa has state championship expectations

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 6:22 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Aliquippa's Terry Swanson. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Aliquippa's Malik Shegog. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

The Aliquippa Quips know that their hometown expects a WPIAL championship from them every year whether they're the favorites or not.

But this year, it's state title or bust.

The Quips are preseason favorites in the WPIAL and likely have the most talented Class AA roster in the state. They return almost every starter from a team that reached the PIAA semifinals, so reaching Hershey remains their goal.

“I expect a state championship this year,” said junior Dravon Henry, a talented halfback and cornerback. “We're working hard for it.”

Staying focused amid such high expectations could be their biggest challenge.

“We can't let the papers and the rankings get to our heads,” junior Donovan Cobb said. “We can't get big-headed. We've got to stay humble.”

A 14-7 victory over Jeannette last November at Heinz Field earned Aliquippa its 14th WPIAL football title, most in league history. It was the Quips' fourth straight appearance in the championship game. Their PIAA playoff run ended with a 20-19 loss to Tyrone.

The season was far from a disappointment, but losing with Hershey in reach certainly was, players said.

“It still sticks with me,” said Henry, one of seven sophomore starters in 2011. “That's just our motivator. That's going to make us go harder this year. We came up short, but we're not going to come up short this year.”

Their most significant roster loss was quarterback Mikal Hall, a four-year starter who led a 96-yard game-winning drive at Heinz Field. Senior Malik Shegog replaces the 1,600-yard passer.

Shegog has a talented backfield to help the transition. Henry and Terry Swanson combined for more than 2,400 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Aliquippa will replace leading receivers Davion Hall and Kaylan Kenney at wideout with a speedy trio of senior Shaquere McBride, junior Jyier Turner and senior Hassahn Thompson. McBride, Thompson and Henry helped Aliquippa set a WPIAL track record in the 400-meter relay last spring.

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