Aliquippa’s M.J. Devonshire named Trib HSSN Football Player of the Week
By: Don Rebel
Sunday, December 2, 2018 | 10:54 PM
It has been a special year for M.J. Devonshire and Aliquippa.
Need a big play on offense, defense or special teams, he’s your guy.
“M.J.’s performance was that of a senior leader who was doing everything he could to lead his team to a win,” said Aliquippa first-year coach Mike Warfield.
The Quips leading rusher, Avante McKenzie, did not play Saturday in a PIAA semifinals game against District 10 champion Sharon, but the loss of the team’s leading rusher did not slow Devonshire and Aliquippa.
Devonshire carried the ball 12 times for 117 yards and three touchdown runs.
“From watching Sharon’s best player on defense,” Warfield said, “to playing running back and receiver on offense, to playing special teams, that’s what a leader does when its championship time.”
Devonshire had two catches for 50 yards and added a fourth score on a 56-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Eli Kosanovich to send the Quips to the locker room up 34-7 on the Tigers.
While Aliquippa rolled to victory, the start of the game was a bumpy proposition.
The Quips fumbled the opening kickoff and turned the ball over on their first possession as Sharon grabbed an early 7-0 lead.
But the Aliquippa ship righted itself on a 20-yard run by Devonshire, the first of 41 unanswered points by the WPIAL champs.
“It’s always important to respond when you get down,” Warfield said. “I was proud of the way our team responded collectively when Sharon scored. The kids picked each other up verbally and then physically.”
Devonshire has one more game, Saturday in Hershey at noon, to tie the national high school football record of 9 punts returns for touchdowns in a season. He has been sitting on 8 since teams stopped kicking to him.
Aliquippa returns to the PIAA finals for the first time in 15 years when they face District 3 champion Middletown. The Blue Raiders are making their third straight trip to the 3A title game after losing to Beaver Falls in 2016 and Quaker Valley last year.
Rookie Quips coach Warfield added this quick preview.
“Middletown is a very good team, with talent all over the field.”
WPIAL Week Fourteen Honorable Mentions:
Tank Smith – Penn Hills
Early on against PIAA two-time defending champion Archbishop Wood, WPIAL 5A kings Penn Hills struggled with a bad case of the drops, but it was nothing a quick drive in the Indians Tank couldn’t cure. The Penn Hills defense kept the team in the game early with three poor punt snaps and four fumbles in the first quarter put Archbishop Wood in a position to win in a blowout. But those early Indians mistakes only led to a 3-0 deficit before Tank Smith took off on a 75-yard touchdown run for Penn Hills that seemed to right the ship for the WPIAL champs. Smith finished with 144 yards on 14 carries as the Indians won 20-13 to advance to the 5A state finals in Hershey on Friday for the first time in 23 years where they will face Manheim Central in a battle of 15-0 teams.
Cole Spencer – Pine-Richland
We tip our cap to the Pine-Richland sophomore quarterback, but by no means was this his best day at the office. In a rematch of the 2017 PIAA Class 6A championship game, the outcome was reversed as St. Joe’s Prep rolled in a mismatch against the WPIAL champs. Spencer accounted for more than half of the Rams 156 total yards with 39 yards passing and 53 yards rushing. But those numbers came on 25 throws and 22 carries as the District 12 champion Hawks return to the finals for the fifth time in six years with a 37-0 whitewash of Pine-Richland.
Eshawn Carter – Steel Valley
With starting quarterback Ronnell Lawrence out, the Wilmington defense loaded up the box to stop the vaunted Steel Valley ground attack and it worked perfectly as Todd Hill was held to 18 yards on eight carries and Kam Williams gained 15 yards on 9 attempts. So the lone Ironmen score came in the opening quarter on a 70-yard punt return by Eshawn Carter as the Greyhounds prevailed 26-6.
Tyler Bradley – Our Lady of the Sacred Heart
WPIAL champion Our Lady of the Sacred Heart started with a successful opening drive that led to a field goal and the first lead by anybody against District 10 champion Farrell since August. Then it was all Steelers after that. OLSH’s lone score came on a 3-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by Andrew Schnarre as the Farrell defense was fast and furious with six sacks and an interception of Chargers quarterback Tyler Bradley, who finished with 11 of 23 passing for 122 yards as he finished his great career as the No. 4 quarterback in career passing yards (8,450) in WPIAL history.
Bonus Mention – Eli and the X-man
Aliquippa quarterback Eli Kosanovich eclipsed 3,000 yard passing for the season by hitting on 10 of 13 passes for 136 yards and three touchdowns. While Devonshire helped in the absence of Avante McKenzie, Xavier Harvey led the Quips in rushing with 136 yards on 19 carries.
Don Rebel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Don at email@example.com or via Twitter @TheDonRebel.