Aliquippa secures 3rd straight state finals appearance with win over Selinsgrove
Friday, December 1, 2023 | 11:32 PM
EBENSBURG — There was some fourth-quarter suspense for Aliquippa as the final minutes ticked away in the state semifinal Friday night.
It was felt whenever the stadium’s PA announcer gave updates on the other semifinal 3½ hours away. The Quips’ only question at that point was who’d be waiting for them in the finals this time.
The running back tandem of John Tracy and Tikey Hayes combined for more than 400 yards and six touchdowns as Aliquippa ran away with a 52-32 win over Selinsgrove in a PIAA Class 4A semifinal at Central Cambria.
The win takes Aliquippa back to the state finals for the third year in a row.
Most everyone anticipated another championship clash with Bishop McDevitt, the same finals opponent Aliquippa defeated in 2021 and lost to last season.
But that won’t be the case.
As the Quips learned from the PA announcer’s updates, defending state champion Bishop McDevitt lost in double overtime Friday. That means Aliquippa (13-0) instead will face District 2 champion Dallas (15-0) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Cumberland Valley.
“We definitely thought we were going to see them but Dallas is a very good team,” Hayes said. “We watched film on them, too. We’re going to prepare the six days we’ve got left in the season to try to beat them.”
The opponent may have changed but the team’s goal certainly hasn’t. This will be their 10th appearance overall in the state finals.
“It was expected,” Tracy said of reaching the finals, “as long as we worked hard at practice and stayed mentally focused.”
Tracy led Friday with 270 yards rushing and four touchdowns, including a 93-yard run early in the fourth quarter. Hayes added 161 yards and two touchdowns, and the defense had five takeaways.
The Quips hope to celebrate their first undefeated state title, an achievement that escaped them a year ago.
“We were here 12 months ago,” Aliquippa coach Mike Warfield said. “Same position. Undefeated. And we left out of there six days later crying. So we’ve got to get locked in. I’m proud of the kids. Proud of how they played. Proud of the coaches and how they had the kids prepare. But this isn’t good enough.”
— Chris Harlan (@CHarlan_Trib) December 2, 2023
The Quips proved their focus against Selinsgrove (13-1-1) by scoring touchdowns on their first four possessions. They led 32-13 at half, stretched the lead to 32 points in the third and pulled their starters in the fourth.
Tracy, a senior, had touchdown runs of 42, 40 and 93 yards and caught a 24-yard touchdown pass. Tracy put the game away with two touchdowns in the third and another early in the fourth.
“You never know who’s going to explode,” Warfield said. “JT didn’t have the game he wanted to have against McKeesport. But you saw him tonight. I think you could see it in his eyes.”
Hayes had a 24-yard touchdown run on the first drive and added a 54-yarder in the second quarter as the Quips built their early lead. But the Penn State-bound junior left after falling hard on his back early in the third quarter.
Tracy took over and scored three times after halftime, highlighted by his 93-yard touchdown run that left would-be tacklers unable to get an angle on him.
“He kept us alive,” Warfield said. “He had some big runs. That last run was JT. He’s very talented and I’m proud of him tonight and how he showed up.”
Hayes, one of the state’s top juniors, said he landed painfully on his back plate on the first play of the third quarter and thought his feet were “tingling.” After missing an offensive series, he returned to gain 16 yards on three carries before heading to the sideline for the duration of the game.
Hayes said he’d be fine for the finals.
The Quips didn’t need any more from him Friday. Aliquippa led 45-13 when Tracy capped that third-quarter drive with a 24-yard touchdown catch.
“I know Tikey pretty well,” Warfield said. “He was hurt a little bit but I know he’ll be back. … I knew once he got back up on his feet he’d be fine.”
Quips quarterback Quentin Goode passed for two touchdowns and rushed for another. DeMarkus Walker caught a 27-yarder to start the second quarter, and Goode reached the end zone on a 9-yard run before half.
The Quips never trailed. They’d led 12-0 after consecutive touchdown runs by Hayes and Tracy. In between was Selinsgrove’s first turnover, a squib kick that bounced off a player and was recovered by Aliquippa.
In all, the Quips recovered three fumbles and intercepted two passes.
“Against a team like that, you just can’t make that many mistakes, give them that many opportunities and expect to win,” Selinsgrove coach Derek Hicks said. “They had a bunch of kids who were as advertised.”
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 email@example.com.
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