Aliquippa scores 27 consecutive points in PIAA semifinal victory over Jersey Shore

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Friday, December 3, 2021 | 10:39 PM


EBENSBURG — Six minutes saved Aliquippa’s state title hopes.

The Quips looked out of sorts for two quarters Friday night before scoring four times in a 6-minute span, including an 83-yard pass and an 94-yard punt return, to defeat District 4 champion Jersey Shore, 41-16, in a PIAA Class 4A semifinal at Central Cambria.

Aliquippa took the lead by scoring touchdowns on both the last play of the first half and the first play of the second half. By game’s end, the final score was lopsided in the Quips’ favor like many others this season. They scored touchdowns four different ways. Twice they ran interceptions back for touchdowns.

Yet, for quite awhile Friday, the Quips were scoreless and searching for any spark they could.

“We just kept our heads right, and came out with a mindset that we’ve been through this,” said senior Cyair Clark, who scored twice. “We’ve just got to keep going.”

That spark finally came as the first-half clock reached zero.

Jersey Shore had a 10-0 lead late in the second quarter before Aliquippa turned momentum its way with a 19-play, 87-yard drive and a dramatic last-second touchdown on the final play of the first half. On fourth-and-goal with 1 second left, Aliquippa’s Tiqwai Hayes fell across the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown as the first-half clock expired.

The Quips then scored 27 consecutive points.

Sophomore quarterback Quentin Goode found wideout Tajier Thornton for an 83-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second half to take a 14-10 lead.

“We just stuck in and kept fighting,” said Goode, who passed for 205 yards and the one touchdown. “We aren’t going to ever stop fighting — especially if it’s (only) 10-0.”

The victory takes Aliquippa (12-1) to Hershey for the second time in four years. The Quips play District 3 champion Bishop McDevitt (12-1) in the PIAA finals at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hersheypark Stadium.

Jersey Shore (14-1) was the PIAA runner-up last year.

The state championship appearance will be Aliquippa’s first in Class 4A. The Quips won Class 3A in 2018 following 2A titles in 2003 and 1991.

“It feels good to finally get over that hump after losing at WPIALs and coming up short (in 2019 and ’20),” Clark said. “This one really feels good.”

In Friday’s first half, Aliquippa’s playoff run appeared in jeopardy. Their first five offensive possessions were all three-and-outs. To make matters worse, one of their five punts was blocked.

The score was close thanks largely to its defense.

A usually reliable Aliquippa running game wasn’t working early. Hayes and Jon Tracy combined had 25 yards on 17 first-half carries, so the Quips turned instead to Goode and a quick-passing attack. The sophomore completed five throws for 71 yards on the long touchdown drive just before halftime. On the first play after halftime, Goode threw deep to Thornton for the 83-yard touchdown and a 14-10 lead.

“We knew we’d been here before,” Aliquippa coach Mike Warfield said. “The kids just had to settle down. The coaches had to settle down. We were just all over the place today. Maybe that’s on me. I don’t know if the reason was we had a big game last weekend.”

If so, the dreaded WPIAL hangover didn’t doom the Quips.

Holding a 14-10 lead, Aliquippa’s defense and special teams went to work. Cameron Lindsey returned an interception 14 yards for a touchdown and Clark took a punt return 94 yards for another.

With 6 minutes left in the third quarter, the Quips led 27-10.

“(Former Notre Dame coach) Lou Holtz always said the important parts of a game are the final 5 minutes of a half and the first 5 minutes of the second half,” Jersey Shore coach Tom Gravish said. “They kind of shined in those moments, getting that drive down there (at the end of the first half) was kind of clutch on their part.”

Junior quarterback Brady Jordan accounted for both of Jersey Shore’s touchdowns. He threw a 26-yard touchdown to Dathan Tyson in the second quarter and scored on a 1-yard run in the third. However, a first-quarter scoring attempt was thwarted by a red zone interception.

The only first-quarter points were a 25-yard field goal by Jersey Shore, but Aliquippa blocked an earlier 35-yard attempt.

“They were 14-0 for a reason,” Warfield said. “They were in the state championship last year. They’re a great team.”

Hayes and Clark each scored twice for Aliquippa. Along with his long punt return, Clark added a 25-yard interception return touchdown in the fourth quarter. Hayes added a 37-yard touchdown run.

“We knew they were good,” Gravish said. “Nothing really surprised us about how good they were or their abilities, whether it was a punt return or any of that. They were who we thought they were.”

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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