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November 23, 2012

Aliquippa crushes Washington for WPIAL Class AA title

Aliquippa's reign of terror over the WPIAL is over for 2012.

Now the undefeated Quips are turning their attention to the rest of the state.

Aliquippa dismantled previously unbeaten Washington 34-7 Friday in the WPIAL Class AA final at Heinz Field. The Quips, now 13-0, won the 15th WPIAL title in school history, the most of any school in the region.

"For me it's the Quips tradition. We all grew up here. Ninety percent of the guys who coach with me played for me, and the rest are friends of mine," head coach Mike Zmijanac said. "It truly is a community spirit."

It was a community that was stunned last year by Tyrone in the Class AA semifinal. Tyrone went onto states, while Aliquippa began preparing for the 2012 season.

"Day one started the day after that game. On the bus ride home, I could think back and just remember how everyone was looking and feeling," quarterback Malik Shegog said. "From that day on, we knew that to get back to that spot and further, we had to work hard."

First up was claiming back-to-back WPIAL titles. Washington was never in the game, as Shegog scored on a 12-yard run to open the scoring in the first quarter. Junior tailback Terry Swanson tacked on a 60-yard run to make it 14-0, and the rout was on.

"We blocked them, they couldn't block us. It was really very simple," Zmijanac said. "We played such great defense that I don't know if they might have ever scored today."

Aliquippa rolled up 543 yards of total offense on Washington, including an astonishing 505 yards on the ground. Three different players went over 100 yards, led by Swanson's 206 yards on 15 carries. Fellow junior Dravon Henry carried 23 times for 123 yards, while Shegog tacked on 100 yards on nine carries.

Just as effective was Aliquippa's defense. Washington had only 114 yards of total offense, and star running back Shai McKenzie went nowhere. McKenzie came in averaging 221 yards rushing per game; the junior finished his day with just 33 yards on 18 carries.

"Because we played such great defense today, we didn't have to do a whole lot on offense except pound the ball," Zmijanac said. "After we found we could do that, Malik did a great job on the option a couple times, then the offense is under wraps."

Washington quarterback Josh Wise was just 2-of-13 for 23 yards and said that Aliquippa brings an element to their game that you just can't prepare for.

"You can maybe prepare for size, but you can't prepare for speed," Wise said. "That's something they have a lot of. We did all we could but in the end it really wasn't enough."

There has been a buzz around Aliquippa regarding their overall dominance. Once a Class AAA school, it's now a mid-size Class A team playing up in Class AA. Many in the region believe that Aliquippa could win any of the WPIAL finals, regardless of classification or opponent. The Quips have won just one game without using the mercy rule, a Week 9 win over rival Beaver.

"They wouldn't surprise me," Washington coach Mike Bosnic said. "They're physical. They fly to the football, they're tough, and they're football smart. On top of all of that, they're a well-coached football team."

Aliquippa's heard talk like this before. And maybe in the past, they believed it themselves. Shegog won't let them believe it until they prove it on the field.

"We can't be the best until we win states," he said.

PaPreps publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at achiappazzi@yahoo.com

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