Aliquippa Wins 16th Crown in Ending South Fayette’s 2-Year Reign
Saturday, November 28, 2015 | 9:49 PM
Aliquippa has found it tough to dispatch South Fayette in WPIAL Class AA championship games at Heinz Field. After falling to the Lions in the title contest two straight years, the Quips finally emerged victorious this year. But it wasn’t easy.
In an incredible game that featured numerous ebbs and flows of emotion and momentum, Aliquippa (13-0) topped South Fayette (12-1) in pulsating fashion by a score of 44-38. In the process, the Quips snapped South Fayette’s 44-game winning streak and captured the school’s 16th WPIAL championship.
The winning score came when Aliquippa Coach Mike Zmijanac reached deep into his bag of tricks. Quarterback Sheldon Jeter threw a backward pass to Jassir Jordan, who lofted the ball to a wide open Thomas Perry for a 47-yard touchdown with just 1:11 left on the clock.
The game featured a little bit of everything, including South Fayette constantly proving the old adage, “Never underestimate the heart of a champion.”
Twice, South Fayette fought back to overcome 14-point deficits, the second time coming with two quick strikes in 1:23 in the fourth quarter.
The Lions trailed 38-24, when the combination of Drew Saxton and Ryhan Culberson hooked up for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 5:28 left in the quarter to culminate a 7-play, 82-yard drive that took just 1:38 off the clock. It was the third TD for that combination in the contest.
The Lions tied the score the first play after a Jasper Wolfe interception. Saxton found Nick Ponikvar for a 65-yard touchdown pass that set the stage for the Quips’ trickery and eventual victory.
It actually appeared as if Aliquppa was going to steamroll South Fayette in the early stages of the contest. The Quips notched touchdowns on each of their first two possessions.
Jeter scampered 23 yards for a score on the first drive and Kaezon Pugh scored on a two-yard run and less than six minutes into the game Aliquippa had a 14-0 lead.
Pugh had a great game running the football, but he was exceptional in the first quarter. The senior University of Pittsburgh recruit, rushed for 179 yards on 26 carries, but 99 of those yards came on 10 carries in the first quarter.
South Fayette displayed why it was a two-time champion by responding with 21 unanswered points.
Hunter Hayes collected the first touchdown with a two-yard scoring run. Then the Lions went to an attack that was quite successful the last few years – the passing game.
The combination of Saxton and Culberson connected for scoring throws of 17 and 14 yards and with 3:49 to play in the first half the Lions led 21-14.
Saxton ended the game with a WPIAL record 435 yards, completing 27 of his 43 passes. He also had four touchdown passes. Saxton’s yardage eclipsed the record set just last year by South Fayette’s Brett Brumbaugh with 352 yards.
South Fayette’s lead was short-lived. Just 43 seconds later, Kiyon Brooks popped a quick hitter 44-yards for a touchdown and Aliquippa led 22-21 after a successful two-point conversion pass from Jeter to Jordan.
South Fayette grabbed the lead back before halftime on a 31-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.
As the second half began, it was Aliquippa’s turn to get on a scoring roll. The Quips collected the first 16 points of the half.
A counter play run to perfection resulted in Jordan galloping 60 yards for a touchdown. The next score came as a result of Pugh’s sheer determination. On a third-and-goal play from the one, Pugh appeared to be stopped behind the line of scrimmage, but somehow fought his way into the end zone. Pugh also ran in each of the two point conversions to give the Quips a 38-24 lead.
While Aliquippa was building the lead, the Quips’ defense held South Fayette’s offense to four straight three-and-out professions. The Aliquippa defense also constantly harassed Saxton, sacking him eight times for 67 yards in losses. Taking those into account, South Fayette’s rushing total was -23 yards for the game.
Aliquippa amassed 354 yards rushing and Jeter threw for 100 yards. The Quips advance to the PIAA quarterfinals to take on Karns City, the District 9 champion. The Gremlins defeated Bedford 21-17 in a first-round contest.
Aliquippa 14 8 16 6 – 44
South Fayette 7 17 0 14 – 38
Ali – Sheldon Jeter 23-yard run (run failed).
Ali – Kaezon Pugh 2-yard run (Jassir Jordan pass from Jeter).
SF – Hunter Hayes 2-yard run (Dan Trimbur kick).
SF – Rhyan Culberson 17-yard pass from Drew Saxton (Trimbur kick).
SF – Culberson 14-yard pass from Saxton (Trimbur kick).
Ali – Kiyon Fooks 44-yard run (Jordan pass from Jeter).
SF ¬- Trimbur 31-yard field goal.
Ali – Jordan 59-yard run (Pugh run).
Ali – Pugh 1-yard run (Pugh run).
SF – Culberson 15-yard pass from Saxton (Trimbur kick).
SF – Ponikvar 65-yard pass from Saxton (Trimbur kick).
Ali – Thomas Perry 47-yrd pass from Jordan (run failed).
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