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“Mr. High School Sports” – Attrition Allows Aliquippa To Stay On Top

By Matt Popchock
Terry Swanson

Aliquippa tailback Terry Swanson runs against Washington in last year’s WPIAL Class AA Final. (File Photo: Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — How did the Quips steamroll another opponent on their self-paved path to Hershey?

“We blocked them. They couldn’t block us,” said head coach Mike Zmijanac. “It was really very simple.”

This game was billed as a showdown of Dravon Henry and Shai McKenzie, two junior tailbacks just discovering their prime, and just getting discovered by major college programs.

Instead, it was a mere matter of old-fashioned Aliquippa attrition–the same hard-nosed play up front that made the Quips (13-0) the highest-scoring and second-least scored-upon squad in their classification during the regular season.

The champs retained their crown with a 34-7 win over Washington (12-1) in the WPIAL Class AA Final at Heinz Field Friday night, pulverizing the Little Prexies where it mattered most: the line of scrimmage.

“Toward the end of the game, I looked up at the JumboTron, and saw that we had something like 516 rushing yards, with still five minutes to go,” said senior quarterback Malik Shegog, who finished with 100 of his own on just nine carries, while running and throwing for touchdowns. “I think that says a lot about our offensive line…how dominant they are, how hard they work at practice, and everything.”

Well, pardon me, but Malik is off the mark.

It was only 505.

As we remove tongue from cheek, let us not understate the work done by regulars Nayo Seaburn, Damon Sims, Malik Akins, Jaleel Fields (who will reportedly join Henry on one or two college visits), Malcolm Fraser, and Emanuel Williams.

Aliquippa boasted three 100-yard rushers Friday: Shegog; Henry, with 123 yards on 23 attempts, including an eight-yard score that provided his team’s final margin; and fellow junior Terry Swanson, with 206 yards on 15 tries, including a 60-yard scoring burst up the middle with two minutes left in the first quarter to make it 12-0.

The 15th all-time title in 23 appearances is the most in WPIAL history, but show me that one somewhere in a book as well.

Three of their five scoring drives required less than five plays, yet Aliquippa still held a nine-minute advantage in time of possession.

The Quips were a combined 7-of-10 on third and fourth down.

They out-gained Washington 543 to 114, as McKenzie, coming off a near-300-yard effort against South Fayette (the top defense in Class AA entering the playoffs), was limited to 33 yards on 18 carries.

Neither he nor his teammates ever crossed midfield, a 50-yard fumble return touchdown late in the third by Josh Wise not withstanding.

“It’s a team game, and they were able to overwhelm us, and fly to the football,” said Washington head coach Mike Bosnic. “We just couldn’t get Shai going tonight. But he’s a great player, and we just ran up against one of the best teams, maybe, ever.”

One of the best ever?

Like Zmijanac said, it’s really very simple:

“We’re not the best until we win states,” said Shegog flatly.

But until PIAA Quarterfinal opponent Karns City, or someone else along that path, leaves the Quips in a quagmire, they are, very simply, the best.

(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)