PITTSBURGH — Anyone familiar with Western Pennsylvania football knew that it would only take a matter of time until Aliquippa (11-1) was back on top as the WPIAL champions, even after once again moving up classes. The school that has an enrollment to play Class-A football has moved all the way up to Class-4A, and after losing in the WPIAL championship in their first season jumping classes, they won the championship in their second year, beating No. 1 Belle Vernon (10-1), 28-13 at Heinz Field on Saturday.
Aliquippa won the coin toss and elected to receive the kick. They wanted to set the tone of the game and did just that with a long drive that featured nothing but runs. They seemingly rotated carries between Jon Tracy and Tiqwai Hayes down the field, and Hayes finished it off with a run from just 1-yard out.
Up 7-0, the Quips recovered a fumble on a strong hit by Donovan Walker. Aliquippa went straight back to their heavy dose of the ground game, and Hayes punched in another score, this one from 13 yards out.
Belle Vernon tried to answer fast, and Quinton Martin set them up with a chance after a long kickoff return put them at the five-yard line. However, Aliquippa showed their trench dominance on both sides of the ball, stuffing BV, and seeing a field goal miss wide right.
Aliquippa had complete control of the game and entered halftime feeling as though they had the game in their hands. A hail mary as the clock expired was caught by Walker, who jumped over his man and made the grab.
At the half, the Quips had 32 rushes to three passes, but one resulted in a game-changing play.
Belle Vernon got the ball at the half and tried to get a spark going. However, a failed fourth-down play left quarterback Devin Whitlock scrambling for his life and eventually setting Aliquippa up with great field position.
The Quips did not score off of the turnover, but it did allow them to dominate the time of possession and field position through the entirety of the third quarter. They held the ball for over eight minutes in the quarter, and Belle Vernon could not cross midfield.
Belle Vernon was able to put together a drive to start the fourth quarter, and Devin Whitlock kept a read-option himself to cut the lead to 21-7. However, the comeback was not on as the very next play saw Cyair Clark run 85 yards to make the score 28-7 early in the fourth.
The Belle Vernon offense has been dynamic all season, but after being held to seven today, they did not have enough to make up that deficit. Whitlock hit Quinton Martin for a big pass, then ran in another score to cut the deficit to 28-13.
Belle Vernon got the ball late, but Whitlock threw up a prayer that was intercepted by Donovan Walker, giving the Quips the ball and a chance to milk the clock and finish off the win.
Aliquippa will take on Jersey Shore next week in the PIAA Semifinals, with the date, time, and location to be determined.