Dominating first half leads Aliquippa past Karns City in PIAA quarterfinals
In the record book, Friday's PIAA Class AA quarterfinal-round win over Karns City will represent the first time Aliquippa allowed more than 12 points in a game this season.
But in reality, the specifics of the final score were an afterthought for Quips (14-0), who dominated the District 9 champion Gremlins (10-4) enough in the first half of the 51-15 victory at Central Valley to use second- and third-stringers for the rest of the game.
“It's totally irrelevant,” Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac said of the season-high for points allowed. “The deal is that (putting back-ups in) keeps them working hard, keeps them coming to practice, keeps them paying attention. That's how you build a program. If you beat somebody 80-0 and keep your starters in, your young kids get disturbed and disgusted.”
Aliquippa scored touchdowns with its first six possessions and held Karns City's run-heavy offense to almost zero yards rushing in the first half.
“That is the best Aliquippa team I've ever seen,” Karns City coach Ed Conto said. “We had a good (opening) kick return, and then it went downhill, bang, bang, bang.”
Almost regardless of who carried the ball for the Quips, a big run ensued.
Dravon Henry scored on runs of 6 and 63 yards and went into halftime with five carries for 119 yards.
Terry Swanson also reached the goal line twice and had seven carries for 73 yards through two quarters.
Malik Shegog took a QB keeper 60 yards for a score.
And Jyier Turner's only rush of the half went 69 yards for a touchdown.
Karns City's first two possessions went backward, with the latter ending in a safety when Khalil Seaburn sacked Tyler Kepple.
“Coach (Dan) Short always says if you really want to win, you've got to throw the first punch,” said Seaburn, who also had a fumble recovery. “I sent that message early in the game.”
The Gremlins finally faced a fourth-and-manageable during their third drive. And they picked up their initial first down with a 20-yard pass from Kepple to Adam Whited in the first play of the second quarter.
During the same drive, Kepple used a 1-yard sneak on fourth-and-1 to reach Aliquippa's side of the field. The Gremlins advanced as far as the 41-yard line before they turned it over on downs with 7:15 left in the quarter.
The shutout ended late in the third quarter, as Karns City drove 50 yards and scored on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Kepple to Whited.
Aliquippa will play Saturday's winner of Hickory (11-1) and Richland (13-0) in the PIAA semifinals at a date, site and time to be determined.
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-543-1303.