20 times tough: Aliquippa handles McKeesport to add to record total of WPIAL championships

Friday, November 24, 2023 | 10:53 PM

Cameron Lindsey could sum up Aliquippa’s night in just a few words: “Three for three.”

Three touchdowns for him. Three straight titles for the Quips.

“A game like this, in a big moment right here, it’s just amazing,” said the senior, who scored three times on his future college field Friday night, a trio of touchdowns that let the Quips celebrate their third consecutive WPIAL championship.

The Pitt linebacker recruit returned a fumble to the end zone and added two rushing touchdowns as top-seeded Aliquippa defeated No. 2 McKeesport, 35-21, in the Class 4A final at Acrisure Stadium. The WPIAL title was Aliquippa’s 20th overall, adding to the team’s record total.

“Three in a row is definitely awesome,” said senior quarterback Quentin Goode, after making his third WPIAL championship start.

“This is legendary,” he added as teammates celebrated in the locker room. “Just look around.”

The WPIAL title was the fourth in six seasons for Aliquippa coach Mike Warfield. Adding to the Quips’ remarkable run was that they’re competing three classifications higher than their Class A enrollment.

“I’m really proud of the kids, and I’m really proud of the coaching staff, too,” Warfield said. “I always say that no matter who the coach was or is now or will be, the foundation of this program is the assistant coaches. I’m proud of them.”

This was the second time Aliquippa (12-0) has won three WPIAL titles in a row, joining teams from 1987-89. McKeesport (11-2) didn’t make it easy.

Goode passed for 157 yards and two touchdowns, including a 9-yarder to junior Michael Gaskins with 4:14 left to finally dash the Tigers’ hopes.

Two quarters earlier, Goode threw a 23-yard touchdown to senior Demarkus Walker just before halftime. The touchdown came soon after a McKeesport turnover and sent the Quips to half with a 21-14 lead.

That opportunistic nature is what sets Aliquippa apart from other teams, said McKeesport coach Matt Miller. Make a small mistake against the Quips and they’ll turn it into a huge one.

“I’ve never seen a team that capitalizes on so many mistakes,” Miller said. “Opportunistic is the word I’d use to describe them. They could’ve lost several games this year, but they found a way. A pick-six. A scoop and score.

“Big play after big play.”

Goode said that’s the team’s mindset: Take full advantage of every opportunity you’re given.

“You’re not going to get those chances twice,” he said. “Whenever you do get them, you can’t let them go. … We’re just good at capitalizing.”

The Quips showed that knack in the first quarter when Arison Walker forced a fumble and Lindsey returned it 39 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

Lindsey reached the end zone twice more, on a 2-yard run in the second quarter and a 12-yarder midway through the third, to lead 27-14.

“That was pretty sweet, too, knowing this is my college field,” Lindsey said, “and I’ve already got a head start on touchdowns.”

This was Aliquippa’s 16th consecutive appearance in the WPIAL finals, which also stands as a league record.

Aliquippa junior Tikey Hayes didn’t find the end zone but fueled several drives by rushing 17 times for 113 yards. John Tracy added 43 yards on 12 carries, and Lindsey had seven carries for 36 yards.

Both teams have run-heavy offenses but the Quips out-rushed McKeesport 199-119.

McKeesport’s first touchdown was a 73-yard kickoff return by Richard Beermann to force a 7-7 tie. Tigers quarterback Garrett Tarker later rushed for a touchdown and passed for another.

McKeesport held a 14-7 lead in the second quarter after a 3-yard touchdown run by Tarker. But Aliquippa scored twice in a two-minute span just before half to lead 21-14.

A 2-yard touchdown run by Lindsey with 2:28 remaining was quickly followed by the 23-yard TD catch by Walker with 45 seconds left, sending the Quips to halftime ahead by seven. In between was an interception by QaLil Goode that gave the ball back to Aliquippa and set up Walker’s touchdown catch.

“Little mistakes turn into huge mistakes against them,” Miller said. “I don’t know how they do it. But they do it week in and week out.”

McKeesport was in the finals for the first time since 2016 and was trying to win its first WPIAL title since 2005. The Tigers were already familiar with Aliquippa, having lost to the Quips in the 2021 and ’22 semifinals.

Keith Spell led McKeesport with 55 rushing yards, and his brother Kemon Spell had a touchdown. The younger Spell caught a 28-yarder from Tarker early in the fourth quarter that cut Aliquippa’s lead to 27-21.

But the Tigers got no closer.

McKeesport passed a little more often than usual. Tarker completed 5 of 12 passes for 106 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions.

“It was a great year, great kids,” Miller said. “I didn’t want it to end. It’s one of those groups you love going to work with every day.”

Leading by six, the Quips answered Spell’s touchdown with an 11-play, 55-yard drive. Goode capped it with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Gaskins to lead 35-21 with 4:14 left.

“It’s easier with a guy who’s been through it, been in some tough games, been in some big games,” Warfield said of Goode. “So it’s nothing new to him.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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