ALIQUIPPA, Pa. – Four games into the season, the Aliquippa defense is redefining the meaning of stingy. In 16 quarters, the state’s top-ranked 3A team has yet to allow an offensive touchdown.
In last week’s dominating 50-0 win over Freeport, the Quips surrendered just 11 yards of total offense. The Yellowjackets are no pushovers, either. They scored 74 points in their two season-opening wins against Yough and Deer Lakes but were completely bottled up by the Quips.
“What stood out the most was their team speed,” Freeport head coach John Gaillot said. “They’re a very physical and driven team.”
Beaver ran into the same buzzsaw the week before. The Bobcats scored 12 touchdowns in wins over New Brighton and Freedom to start the season, yet mustered just 75 total yards against the Quips. Their only points came on an interception return for a touchdown and a fourth quarter 20-yard field goal.
Those defensive performances came on the heels of back-to-back shutouts of New Castle (24-0) and Beaver Falls (36-0) in the first two weeks of the season. There was no question the Quips would be able to score, but it’s the defense that is breaking opponent’s wills.
The unit is littered with high-end talent, most notably, in the secondary with senior four-star safety Kwantel Raines and rising junior cornerback Marlin Devonshire Jr. Up front, senior defensive tackle Dajour Fisher and junior Solvaughn Moreland are stuffing opposing run games.
“Hard work everyday,” Devonshire said. “We practice and play with an attitude that nobody is scoring on us.”
Moreland echoed his teammate’s thoughts and credits the Quips’ work in the offseason for the dominating start.
“I think it all starts from the offseason workouts and mental preparation even before we start practicing,” Moreland added. “We want to dominate every single play.”
The defense is forcing turnovers at a high rate and founding new ways each week to score. The Quips recorded a safety in the opener against New Castle, and Devonshire returned a punt for a touchdown against Freeport last week. It’s a stark contrast from last year.
Aliquippa’s 35-22 loss to Beaver Falls in the WPIAL championship game highlighted the team’s struggles on defense. The Quips surrendered more than 38 points a game in their three defeats a year ago, a shocking number for a team that has established itself among the best in Western Pennsylvania under head coach Mike Zmijanac.
“Motivation from losing last year,” Fisher said. “The games we lost, the other teams scored a lot of points, so we don’t want anybody to score on us.”
If the first four games are any indication, the Quips are primed to return to Heinz Field for the 10th straight season.
Senior linebacker Tariq Jones says the dominating start has the Quips, “motivated to keep it going,” and there’s no reason to believe it won’t. Aliquippa travels to Ellwood City Friday and plays at South Park next week. Should the defense continue to pitch a shutout, it sets up a highly anticipated matchup with 1A power Clairton on Oct. 6.
For a program that has produced NFL players Sean Gilbert, Ty Law, and Darrelle Revis among others, this year’s group is already making a claim for one of the Quips’ best defenses yet. While the players understand it’s early, they’re motivated to etch their names in Aliquippa lore.
“That’s the goal at the end of the season,” Fisher said. “I want people to say this was one of the best defenses in Quip history and WPIAL history.”