Prexies fall in WPIAL Class AA final
PITTSBURGH – The last time the Washington High School football team played at Heinz Field, the Prexies left as WPIAL Class AA champions after knocking off Beaver Falls in 2001.
Such a coronation wasn’t the case this time.
Nor did anyone even get a chance to think about celebrating.
Aliquippa appeared as advertised – physical, fast and dominant – as the Quips rolled to a 34-7 win over Wash High in the WPIAL Class AA championship game Friday night at Heinz Field to claim their second consecutive title and 15th overall.
“You have to give respect where respect is due,” Wash High quarterback Josh Wise said. “You have to give credit where credit’s due. They’re a great football team. They play together. They play hard. They expect to win. As did we, but they had a chip on their shoulder all night, all season. And they have for a few seasons.”
At least five, as it’s been since 2007 that Aliquippa has not played at Heinz Field for a WPIAL championship. The Quips should pretty much have their own locker room here, having made the trip seven of the past 10 years.
And when somebody new comes along … well, let’s just say it’s tough for them not to notice.
“It seemed like, to me, they didn’t want to win,” Aliquippa senior Devon Walker said of Wash High. “They just felt good playing on Heinz Field.”
Wash High enjoyed its best year since 2001, completing a perfect regular season and claiming the Class AA Interstate Conference title.
The Prexies (12-1) throttled Shady Side Academy in the first round of the Class AA playoffs before beating Seton-La Salle and South Fayette by two scores apiece.
But all of those games featured big-time performances from Shai McKenzie, who entered this game with 754 yards and 11 touchdowns in the postseason.
Aliquippa dominated the line of scrimmage and limited McKenzie, who needed 85 yards to break Rushel Shell’s WPIAL single-season rushing record, to 33 yards on 18 carries.
“He had nowhere to run,” said Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac. “He didn’t have a chance to run.”
Which was the exact opposite of the situation Aliquippa found itself in. The Quips gained 505 yards on the ground, as Terry Swanson (15 carries, 206 yards), Dravon Henry (23-123) and Malik Shegog (9-100) all went over the century mark.
Prexies fullback Jaylin Kelly had three carries for 30 yards, DaRon Whitaker added five for 20, and Wise returned a fumble 50 yards late in the third quarter for Wash High’s only touchdown.
“I had to score,” Wise said. “I wouldn’t have been able to live it down if I got caught.”
Aliquippa had a 26-0 lead at halftime behind two touchdown runs and a scoring pass from Shegog, whose touchdown runs of 12 and 22 yards sandwiched a 60-yard score from Swanson.
Shegog threw a 28-yard touchdown to Dajon Perry with 26 seconds left before halftime, and Aliquippa nearly tacked on a fifth score before the half, recovering a kickoff despite it traveling more than 25 yards. But Shegog threw two incompletions before time expired.
Aliquippa had 378 rushing yards in the first half while gaining 10 or more yards on 15 of its 39 first-half plays.
“They have two great running backs, and physically they moved us all night long,” Wash High coach Mike Bosnic said. “It was just a great team we ran in to.”
A 22-yard run from Kelly gave Wash High some life on its opening drive of the second half, but the Prexies would amass only two more first downs the rest of the way.
Aliquippa, meanwhile, marched 78 yards on seven plays to make it 34-0 after a 6-yard touchdown run from Henry.
“They’re physical. They fly to the football,” Bosnic said. “The kids are tough, football-smart. On top of all that, they’re a well-coached football team. Those guys do a great job.”