Aliquippa forces Derry to throw more in WPIAL Class 3A final

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Saturday, November 17, 2018 | 8:27 PM


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Aliquippa saw a thin spot in the Derry offense, exploited it, and parlayed it into a WPIAL football championship.

The Quips used their athletic, ball-hawking secondary to intercept five Derry passes — three by Quips standout MJ Devonshire — in Saturday’s 42-19 victory in the Class 3A title game at Heinz Field.

Derry (11-2) had become one of the top rushing teams in the WPIAL with its stable of running backs and strong offensive line. The Trojans knew as the season went on, however, that they would have to pass the ball, perhaps to advance in the playoffs, even to win a championship.

Aliquippa presented that challenge as it limited the ground attack, forced turnovers and jumped routes the way Trojans standout Justin Flack did on the game-winning pick-6 in the semifinal win over North Catholic.

The Quips made Derry uncomfortable by forcing it to throw. The Trojans threw 10 times; five were completed to the other team.

“I think that they were out of their element when they had to pass,” Aliquippa first-year coach Mike Warfield said. “I have to give credit to our coaches; we had an understanding that, at some point, if they would pass that would be a good thing.

“They really perfected their blocking scheme. They are very, very good up front. But we knew if they had to pass, we would be up.”

The Quips (12-1) didn’t return one for a score, but their takeaways set up the offense for short drives. Devonshire picked off Paul Koontz in the first quarter when the Quips took a 22-0 lead.

Derry knew how diabolically threatening the Quips’ secondary was and the problems it could present.

“We came in wanting to run the ball,” Trojans coach Tim Sweeney said. “But once we dug a hole, it became difficult to do that. We didn’t abandon the run but we maybe started to press a little bit.

“That interception right before the half hurt us.”

Flack, who played much of the game at quarterback, was picked off by Devonshire later in the quarter.

Derry rushed for 154 yards, 94 by Flack.

William Gipson, a Ball State recruit who caught seven passes for 165 yards and three touchdowns, had an interception in the third quarter.

Larry Walker, another Division I prospect, also had a pick, just before halftime.

Devonshire, who has a number of Division I offers including Pitt and West Virginia, added a 56-yard touchdown reception and a long punt return to set up another score.

The Quips’ passing game flourished as Eli Kosanovich completed 18 of 33 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns. He was intercepted once, by Matt McDowell, with 21 seconds left in the first half.

Flack did throw to Justin Huss for a 38-yard gain to set up his short touchdown run to make it 22-6 late in the second quarter.

In all, Koontz and Flack were a combined 2 of 10 for 46 yards.

Aliquippa, however, only registered one sack.

Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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