Aliquippa rolls past Central Valley to capture 19th WPIAL football title

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Friday, November 25, 2022 | 10:35 PM


Aliquippa’s Tiqwai Hayes landed in the end zone after leaping headfirst over his linemen, but the running back was quickly airborne again when guard Neco Eberhardt celebrated by lifting the sophomore off his feet.

The big men upfront did a lot of heavy lifting Friday night in a championship effort. Hayes and John Tracy each rushed for more than 100 yards and combined to score four short touchdowns as defending champion Aliquippa defeated rival Central Valley, 34-7, in the WPIAL Class 4A final at Acrisure Stadium.

One stat summed up the line’s work: Aliquippa rushed for 249 yards and Central Valley had just 1 yard.

“We brought that physicality and mental toughness to the field,” senior lineman Jason McBride said, “and let our running backs do what they do.”

“We knew we had to dominate them up front and that’s what we did,” Eberhardt said.

The win added a remarkable 19th title to Aliquippa’s unmatched collection of WPIAL football championships. Darrelle Revis, one of the program’s all-time greats, gave the team a pregame talk and watched the win from the sidelines.

The Quips (12-0) start their state title defense next weekend against District 11 champion Allentown Central Catholic (9-5) at a site and time to be determined.

“It feels good,” said Aliquippa coach Mike Warfield, who won his third title in five years. “To do it back to back, that was important to the kids. I’m pleased that they’re satisfied to the degree of winning the game. I know there’s more work to do.”

Hayes rushed 26 times for 112 yards and three touchdowns. Tracy, a junior, had 108 yards on 22 carries and scored once. The team’s first three touchdown drives lasted 16, 14 and 14 plays and covered 86, 62 and 84 yards.

The shortest of the three drives lasted just over 6 minutes. The longest was more than 8 minutes.

Aliquippa ran almost twice as many offensive plays as Central Valley (69 to 35), dominated time of possession by more than 20 minutes and snapped the Warriors’ string of WPIAL titles.

Central Valley (11-2) had won the past three WPIAL Class 3A titles and was a two-time state champion before moving up to 4A this season.

“This is tough because this is something we’re not used to and don’t want to get used to,” Central Valley coach Mark Lyons said.

Aliquippa held possession for more than 34 minutes in a 48-minute game. Central Valley finished with only 128 yards of total offense on 35 plays.

“Sooner or later, that was going to start to take its effect,” Lyons said of Aliquippa’s grinding offense. “We’re usually on the other side where those 4 or 5 yards become 8, 10 or 12 yards and then 20 or 30. Everybody says you want a physical presence on defense. It’s a physical presence on offense (you want). That’s how you take someone’s will and momentum away.”

Hayes scored on runs of 2, 1 and 4 yards to lead 14-0 at halftime and 21-0 in the third quarter. Tracy added a 2-yard TD run in the third and Jayace Williams caught a 34-yarder in the fourth quarter to lead 34-0. Central Valley broke the shutout with a 21-yard touchdown catch by Brady Hudson with less than 2 minutes left.

Adding to the significance is that the schools are less than 10 miles apart in Beaver County.

“Sharing a zip code with a team, that’s an automatic rivalry,” Hayes said. “This year, we get the bragging rights for the entire 15001.”

Hayes’ biggest touchdown was a 1-yarder just before halftime. Aliquippa had a 7-0 lead and faced a fourth-and-goal at the 1 when Hayes leaped into the end zone on the last snap of the second quarter.

“In the huddle I said, ‘I’m going over the top, so get a big push,’” Hayes said. “They got a big push. … That made a statement.”

Aliquippa had 142 rushing yards in the first half alone.

Leading 14-0, the Quips took the second-half kickoff and marched 84 yards in 14 plays, ending with a 3-yard touchdown run by Hayes. His big day was a credit to the offensive line, he said.

“They were blowing people off the ball by like five yards,” Hayes said. “That’s easy. All I have to do is go behind them.”

Leading 27-0 in the fourth quarter, the Quips made a couple of surprisingly aggressive plays — one intentional and one accidental, Warfield said. Aliquippa recovered an unintentional onside kick that was meant to be merely a squib kick, but it bounced off a Central Valley player.

What looked like an onside kick on the opening kickoff also was unintentional, he said.

However, with less than 3 minutes left, Quips quarterback Quentin Goode was told to throw downfield for a 34-yard touchdown to Williams for a 34-0 lead. Asked about the late play choices, Lyons said: “No comment.”

Warfield said Aliquippa was content to run out the clock, but reacted to the way Central Valley’s defense was approaching those run plays.

“It’s going down to the end, we’re trying to just run the ball out and you come and crash, coming all out and hitting our guys like that,” Warfield said. “Well, we’re going to go over the top. That’s just part of it. We’re competing.”

Goode finished 6 of 12 for 117 yards and one touchdown.

Central Valley quarterback Antwon Johnson completed 10 of 19 attempts for 127 yards and one touchdown. CV running back Bret FitzSimmons had 9 yards on 10 carries, and Johnson had minus-8 yards on six carries.

The Quips out-scored their three WPIAL playoff opponents 117-21.

This matchup was more competitive four weeks ago when Aliquippa won 35-24 in the regular-season finale. The Quips trailed 24-14 in that game before shutting out Central Valley in the second half.

Warfield said he has seen a different team, a more-confident team, ever since.

“These guys didn’t blink at halftime,” Warfield said of the Oct. 28 matchup with Central Valley. “I went in there and everybody was quiet. I said, ‘Do I need to say something?’ But they knew it. They said, ‘We’re good.’”

Watch an archived video stream broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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