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December 15, 2012HERSHEY, Pa. (AP) - It took just a couple minutes for the Wyomissing Spartans to pull on their new championship T-shirts on Saturday afternoon.
No reason to wait after winning the school's first PIAA title.
Mason Smith ran for 127 yards and two touchdowns, Wyomissing's defense pitched a second-half shutout and Jonah Bowman hit a state playoff-record 52-yard field goal in a thrilling 17-14 win victory over Aliquippa to take the Class AA crown.
"We were on our heels early," Wyomissing coach Bob Wolfrum said. "We had the poise to come back and then regain the momentum and get back in the game."
The Spartans (16-0) came up with a bevy of big defensive plays, including linebacker Will Kroppe's interception with 44 seconds left and a goal-line stand in the first half that Wyomissing then converted into a 99-yard scoring drive.
Aliquippa (15-1) turned two turnovers in the first half into a pair of touchdown runs by Dravon Henry. His 10-yard score gave the Quips a 14-7 lead at the half.
Henry finished with 123 yards on 22 carries, while Terry Swanson had 126 yards on 14 carries to form a potent one-two backfield punch for the Quips.
But the second half belonged to Wyomissing.
Linebacker Alex Anzalone forced a fumble on Aliquippa's opening drive of the half and later made a key fourth-down stop, atoning for a first half in which he coughed up two turnovers. Defensive lineman Jeriko Reyes led the charge up front with five tackles and a sack.
Smith's 36-yard touchdown run down the right sideline with 11:18 left finally gave Wyomissing the 17-14 lead.
"We couldn't stop them. We didn't play well enough in the second half on defense to really get into our offense," Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac said. "They held the ball for a long time."
With the ball, the Spartans extended series as long as possible and converted several key third-down plays in the fourth quarter, including a 16-yard reception by Anzalone on third-and-6. They also benefited from a couple of Aliquippa penalties that lengthened drives.
Aliquippa had one last chance after Smith fumbled at the 16 with 53 seconds left with Wyomissing trying to kill the clock. But linebacker Kroppe intercepted Darren Fields' wobbly pass as the quarterback appeared to get hit to finally seal the win.
"I don't know about the mistakes. They made enough mistakes on their own," Zmijanac said when asked about his team's missteps. "We just missed opportunities."
The championship game between two unbeaten teams had as many twists and turns as the idle roller-coaster tracks that tower beyond Hersheypark Stadium in the adjacent amusement park.
Anzalone, who fumbled on one of his 16 carries (41 yards) and also muffed a punt return, wanted to make a difference otherwise in the second half. He finished with 8.5 tackles.
"By halftime, I told the guys I had to pick my game up," the senior said. "I knew I wasn't getting anything done on offense and I had to make up for it on defense somehow."
The Quips weren't slouches on defense, either. Defensive back Malik Stewart accounted for two fumble recoveries and an interception in the first half alone.
Aliquippa did waste a key chance to force field position in the first half after allowing Wyomissing to drive 99 yards on nine plays in less than 4 minutes. The drive ended with Smith's first TD run from 13 yards out with 9:16 in the second quarter to get Wyomissing within 8-7.
Then Bowman's long field goal with 9:48 left gave Wyomissing another boost, delighting the thousands of fans in the stands. Bowman's boot broke the old PIAA playoff record for longest field goal by five yards, previously set by Matt Domonkos of Bishop McCort in 2001.
"I just heard about that!" Bowman said with a wide grin on the field after the game. "I'm not worried about that. All that matters is we won the state championship."
Aliquippa 8 6 0 0-14