Aliquippa routs Derry to claim 17th WPIAL Class 3A championship
Saturday, November 17, 2018 | 5:33 PM
Aliquippa couldn’t have asked for a better start to the WPIAL Class 3A championship game Saturday at Heinz Field.
Derry couldn’t have started worse.
The Quips took advantage of two Derry turnovers and a long punt return in the first quarter, built a three-touchdown lead and rolled to their 17 th WPIAL title 42-19 against first-time finalist Derry.
Aliquippa (12-1) ended a two-game losing streak in the finals and was making its 11 th consecutive trip to the finals.
Aliquippa will get a week off and will play Sharo, Bedford or Bald Eagle Area on either Nov. 30 or Dec. 1 in the state semifinals. Bedford and Bald Eagle will play Sunday at Mansion Park Stadium and that winner will play Sharon next week in the quarterfinals.
Derry (11-2), which was coming off one of the largest comebacks in WPIAL history in the WPIAL semifinals, had trouble containing the Aliquippa passing game and the Quips’ quickness. The Trojans’ offense also had a tough time getting started against the stout Quips defense.
“It was very important to have a fast start,” Aliquippa first-year coach Mike Warfield said. “Any time you can get ahead early in a championship game, and especially against a team that hasn’t been here before, it was a plus.”
Quips senior quarterback Eli Kosanovich and wide receiver William Gipson connected for three touchdowns. Kosanovich completed 18 of 33 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns. Gipson caught seven passes for 165 yards.
“We felt, weather permitting, we’d be fine in the passing game,” Warfield said. “The things we do in August, sometimes we can’t do in November and December because of the elements. We were prepared for everything and anything. Preparation takes away pressure; the players did well.”
Things started poorly for Derry; it lost a fumble on its first possession, and Aliquippa’s MJ Devonshire picked off quarterback Paul Koontz on the next possession.
And while Aliquippa failed to capitalize and score after the second turnover, Devonshire’s 25-yard punt return set up a second touchdown.
Kosanovich hit Gipson from 15 yards for the first score and Xavier Harvey scored from the 1 to make it 16-0.
Before the quarter ended, Devonshire picked off his second pass of the game, and a play later Kosanovich and Gipson struck on a 42-yard score to make it 22-0.
“When you start like that, against any team, you dig yourself a hole,” Derry coach Tim Sweeney said. “Any football team is beatable. When you start a game like that and you play a team the caliber of Aliquippa, it’s hard to overcome. We dug ourselves a hole, and we could never get back from it.”
Sweeney said he didn’t know if his team was tense because of the surroundings.
Derry’s offense, which was stymied and held to minus-17 yards in the first quarter, produced a long scoring drive in the second quarter. Justin Flack scored on a 3-yard run to trim the deficit to 22-6. Flack had connected with Justin Huss on a 39-yard pass to set up the score.
But a play after Derry’s score, Kosanovich and Devonshire connected on a 56-yard touchdown pass for a 30-6 lead at halftime.
“It was great to win this,” Aliquippa senior running back Avante McKenzie said. “We came a long way. For the seniors, it’s very important because we worked for it. This is what we wanted.”
Aliquippa senior defensive back Larry Walker said the defense came out with a lot of energy in the first quarter.
“Energy was part of it,” Walker said. “We felt like we played with more energy and were comfortable with ourselves. It fueled our fire to stop the run game.”
Derry produced another long scoring drive in the third quarter, driving 52 yards, with Flack scoring his second touchdown on a 1-yard run to make it 30-12.
But that momentum was short lived as Kosanovich and Devonshire, who had three interceptions, connected for a 56-yard touchdown pass to make it 32-12.
“When you look at the speed and height they have on the outside, we don’t always see that through the conference,” Sweeney said. “I’m not certain it was their passing game, but more the way we tackled or didn’t tackle. “
Kosanovich said the quick score helped weather the storm.
“They had the momentum, and we had to get it back, so we could create our own,” Kosanovich said. “We didn’t want them to get on a roll.”
Aliquippa extended its lead to 42-12 early in the fourth quarter before Derry went on a long drive that Flack capped off with another 1-yard run, his third touchdown of the game. He finished with 94 yards rushing.
“Our goal wasn’t Heinz Field, it was Hershey,” Flack said. “Obviously, we didn’t make that. We’re a team that will continue to fight and continue to battle.”
But on Saturday, the day belonged to Aliquippa.
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at email@example.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.
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