A first glance at some of the performances over the weekend would suggest that the PIAA state championships were filled with offenses shining brightly. There were Aliquippa star runners Dravon Henry and Terry Swanson leading a 300-plus yard rushing performance in a 17-14 loss to Wyomissing, all while Mason Smith crossed the 100-yard plataeu for the Spartans; Mack Leftwich accounting for a Class AAAA record 199 yards passing and 90 yards rushing for North Allegheny; Archbishop Wood received 100-yard performances from Andrew Guckin and Josh Messina; and Cathedral Prep QB Damion Terry surpassed the 300-yard mark passing against Archbishop Wood.
But all four of the state champs owed their defenses for their titles.
Clairton pitched the weekend's only shutout, as the 20-0 win over Dunmore marked Clairton's 63rd consecutive win. While Tyler Boyd and Armani Ford did the damage on offense, the Bears allowed Dunmore to pick up just 115 yards of total offense. The shutout was also the first in a Class A game since 2004.
In the Class AA game, Wyomissing allowed Aliquippa's rushing attack its yards but several defensive stands kept the Quips out of the end zone and ultimately gave the Spartans the win. Wyomissing held Aliquippa out of the end zone on four drives inside the Spartans 20-yard line, including a first quarter drive that end with Henry just inches away from giving Aliquippa a two touchdown lead.
No play might have been bigger than the fumble forced by Alex Anzalone. Aliquippa had the ball to start the second half and was driving, looking like they might extend their 14-7 lead. Instead, Anzalone forced Swanson to fumble with a solid hit, Wyomissing recovered, and a few plays later the Spartans cut the deficit to 14-10. The field goal after that defensive stop ultimately was the difference in the game.
Cathedral Prep had a similar philosophy against Archbishop Wood. Though the defending Class AAA champs picked up their rushing yards behind a powerful offensive line, Wood scored just 14 points. Considering Prep put up 17 in the second quarter alone, it was a game-long defensive stand that allowed the Ramblers to hold on for their first title in 12 years.
Two fourth quarter plays saved the day for the Ramblers. The first came midway through, as Messina was stuffed on fourth down inches shy of the first down marker. Then, after Wood got the ball back, Felix Manus-Schell came up with an interception in the end zone to snuff out the Vikings' best and last chance at a comeback.
The final game of the day featured a whole lot of offense, but North Allegheny's 63-28 win over Coatesville also featured some of the weekend's most explosive defensive plays. Brendan Coniker returned a fumble 80 yards for a score and Kevin Edwards quickly followed with a 52-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown to give North Allegheny an early 21-0 lead and spark the Tigers.
Those two touchdowns were part of four turnovers forced by North Allegheny that helped keep the Tigers' offense flying.
- His season complete with a state title, Clairton's Terrish Webb has a decision to make. Recently offered by Pitt, the wide receiver/defensive back decommitted from Kent State on Sunday.
- Clairton's win was its fourth straight title. Only Southern Columbia and Berwick have won that many in a row.
- Clairton coach Tom Nola told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he's undecided whether he'll return to coach or retire.
- Wyomissing kicker Jonah Bowman's 52-yard field goal was a state playoff record.
- The Spartans were also the first team from Berks County to win a state title, the only fresh-faced champ of the weekend. Cathedral Prep's title was their first in Class AAA after winning in Class AAAA in 2000.
- The 28 points Coatesville scored were the most North Allegheny gave up all year. But North Allegheny scored a championship game record 63 points to counteract the Red Raiders.
- The 91 points between Coatesville and North Allegheny were also a state championship record.
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