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ALIQUPPA, Pa. — Now this looks more like an Aliquippa football team.
Big, bruising offensive line, minimum passing, just running the ball down the opponent’s throat.
Aliquippa was fun to watch last season throwing the ball all over the field, but this is how the program has been built, on the backs of a strong line and multiple dangerous running backs.
This year’s version features junior Vernon Redd and senior Antonio Quinn.
Through four games the duo combined for 490 yards and had career nights against Beaver Falls.
Quinn rushed the ball 14 times for 208 yards and a touchdown while Redd scored two touchdowns on 16 rushes to go along with 94 yards.
“That’s my guy,” said Redd. “Our relationship gets closer and closer every day, we talk a lot.”
Redd said with a smile the two don’t compete for things like touchdowns or yards and whoever has the big night, has the big night.
Friday’s game was 14-0 after the first half then the offensive line started to take over. After a punt on their opening possession, Quinn broke through for a 50-yard run on a third down putting the Quips deep in Tigers’ territory.
Quinn scored on a 25-yard run to cap the drive, accounted for 75 yards on just two rushing attempts.
A WEIGHT LIFTED
Aliquippa linebacker Zuriah Fisher smiled when asked about committing to Penn State.
The 6-foot-3 235-pound linebacker flashed a perfect smile and chuckled when asked if he felt a little bit of relief knowing he made his commitment.
“It’s a lot of weight off my shoulders, now I don’t have to worry about schools coming here, I can just focus on my team and repeating what we did last year,” said Fisher.
The stats reflected that as the senior, unofficially, finished with nine tackles and a sack.
Speaking of defense, it was another shutout win for the Quips, making it two on the year and nine since last season.
The Quips forced three interceptions in the win, one of which was returned 60 yards for a touchdown by Vernon Redd.
Beaver Falls wanted to establish the run early with Josh Hough and despite some success was unable to sustain a drive throughout the night.
The Tigers gained three first downs on their opening drive, but had just one the rest of the half. Beaver Falls had three first downs in the second half.
“Get our landmarks, read our keys, talk to each other, communication is key,” said Redd.
Beaver Falls had the ball first-and-goal at the one but a few penalties and the Quips defense forced a sack on fourth down turning the ball over at the 40-yard line.
“That’s great to see, you want to see how they’ll react,” said Warfield. “Things aren’t going to go our way every single game. So later in the season, it’s going to get tough, but we need to just keep grinding.”
A RARE OCCURANCE
Well, the good news is Aliquippa receiver Chinua Soloman’s 29.5-yard per reception average is intact.
The bad news is it’s because he didn’t catch a pass all night.
Soloman dropped a would-be touchdown pass in the first quarter and was unable to pull in a reception despite the team’s 40-0 win over Beaver Falls.
The senior had maybe six or seven targets but Beaver Falls corner Albert Harper did a good job in coverage.
“They double teamed him, and it was an obvious double team,” said coach Mike Warfield. “We had to adjust. We didn’t anticipate that at all, but we adjusted. He understood it, he didn’t get frustrated, which shows he’s a team player. That goes to show how talented he is.”
Warfield said Solomon has spent a lot of time with Derek Moye – who coached with the Quips last season and is now with Western Beaver – and has become a more crisp route runner.
The parallels to Will Gipson are obvious and after picking up an offer from Bowling Green he hopes to bring in more offers before the season is out.
LEARNING ON THE FLY
It wouldn’t be to expect the Aliquippa offense to be as prolific as it was last season. Eli Kosanovich shattered school records and receivers Will Gipson and MJ Devonshire appeared polished beyond their years.
This season, however, the Quips appear to be a run-first team that looks to pass when the opportunity presents itself.
Against the Tigers, Aliquippa racked up over 300 rushing yards between Antonio Quinn and Vernon Redd and passed for only 52 yards.
Quarterback Vaughn Morris finished the night 4-13 for 52 yards and an interception. A long touchdown pass was dropped in the first quarter, but the passes appeared to be just off the mark all night.
“I think it’s the wideouts more,” said Warfield. “It’s more so they need to catch up to him right now. He’s ahead of them, and we don’t want to slow him down. So even them coming out of the breaks and things like they need to come out (harder). He’s a small kid but he can shoot it out there.”