During Friday’s weather delay between Aliquippa and Beaver Falls, a couple media members were chatting with Aliquippa statistician Will Sebastian.
Sebastian – who has records back to 2002 – was quick to remark about the balance of the Quips’ offense through five games.
In so many words, Aliquippa has just one running back. That may not seem like a big deal, but a look at stats from the past few seasons show how heavily Aliquippa relied on the running game.
Dating back to 2015, the Quips have run four running plays to one passing play, and have not attempted more than 155 passes in a season. At least four plays have recorded 30 or more rushing attempts the past three season.
Aliquippa has 612, 632 and 494 rushing attempts over the past three seasons, compared to 154, 133 and 112 passing attempts.
Through five games, Aliquippa has run 91 running plays and 75 passing plays, and only Avante McKenzie is on pace to have at least 30 rushing attempts.
VIDEO: We are in our second rain delay here at Geneva College with 2:27 remaining in the 2nd quarter. Aliquippa is dominating Beaver Falls 26-0. Here is the last TD before the delay, a 80-yd TD pass from @Eliquip2 to @dcrute23 #timesfb #GameOn pic.twitter.com/v68sDbHsnG
— The Times Sports (@timesscores) September 22, 2018
A new coach and coaching staff along with an Aliquippa team comprised of a ton of senior talent has made Aliquippa – statistically – the best offense in the WPIAL.
“We’re a very balanced offense. If you look at the guys in the skill positions, we have a good running back, and we have four very good high school receivers. And you throw in Zuriah Fisher at tight end. I don’t see a lot of high schools having that much talent on the field at one time,” said Derek Moye.
Moye – a 2007 graduate from Rochester – was tasked with turning a group of athletes into receivers able to run a spread offense.
The former four-sport standout ranks in the top ten in career receptions (144), yards (2,395) and touchdowns (18) at Penn State and spent the 2013 season with the Steelers recording two receptions for 20 yards and a touchdown.
Moye currently lives in Cranberry Township and was quick to accept a job with first-year coach Mike Warfield.
“I didn’t really have a plan to be or not be involved with football afterwards (when his playing days were over). But from coaching now, I really do wish I had started earlier, because I enjoy it so much now, I wish I would have started earlier and be a little further progressed as a coach now, but I’m really enjoying it,” said Moye.
Moye, like most coaches that have been through Aliquippa, said the potential to have a positive influence on a young man’s life is what he enjoys most. But he also said turning athletes into receivers is what he enjoys most on the field.
“The best athlete isn’t always necessarily the best receiver,” said Moye. “But if you can teach the best athletes some of the nuances of playing receiver, it can be a scary thing. And you can see that with some of the guys we have.”
The specialization of quarterbacks and receivers and the endorsement of 7v7 tournaments shows the college game is leaking into high schools, and even schools with small enrollments are finding athletes to play the receiver position.
And as the offense opens up, it’s the responsibility of the receivers to learn more routes and understand the nuances of the position.
“I came in knowing we wanted to spread things out, but I didn’t expect to be as good as we are (at this point in the season),” said Moye. “But they have been exposed to a lot more in the passing game than say, 10 years ago.
“But they didn’t run any passing routes last season, some of the kids ran just go’s and stop’s. From my perspective, it was about teaching them how to run the routes properly. That’s big in college and the NFL and it’s making its way even more into high school. If you’re running a route that’s 12 yards, you need to make sure you’re running 12 yards, and coming out of your break hard.”
Aliquippa has played five games this season, with five remaining and a playoff run, let’s say the season is a third of the way over (it makes the math easier). And while you can never take into account scores and playing time, Will Gipson is on pace to do something that hasn’t been done in the 16 seasons Sebastian has been keeping stats for the team.
Through five games, Gipson has 15 catches for 436 yards. If this pace continues, Gipson could be the first Aliquippa receiver (since the current records are available, from 2002) to have 1,000 receiving yards in a season.
Check out this highlight!https://t.co/fMMgxlHXzY
— Will Gipson (@TrxllWill3) September 8, 2018
Gipson committed to Ball State as an athlete as he spent time last season at both quarterback and receiver.
“Will is a very talented athlete, he is getting better with his route running, he has big strong hands he doesn’t drop a lot of balls. Very impressed with him so far and to see his progression continue,” said Moye.
Moye said they have had conversations about specializing as a receiver, but said ultimately his position is for he and Ball State to decide. Deoveon Crute and MJ Devonshire are also on pace for over 600 yards receiving which would also be huge milestones for the program.
While some talented receivers have come from Aliquippa (Mike Washington and Jon Baldwin immediately come to mind), the predominantly running style has produced more college athletes on the defensive side of the ball.
But with the possibility of continuing the spread offense, more athletes can be steered toward receiver positions.
“A lot of these really good athletes on the team who are playing receiver, they didn’t touch the ball a lot previously. Now, they’re able to really show what they can do from an offensive perspective,” said Moye. “Not running just streaks or stops, they’re running posts, running ins, and they’re really enjoying it, they’re having fun and I’m having run coaching them.”