Central Valley hands shocking blowout loss to Aliquippa

Friday, October 25, 2019 | 11:39 PM

Aliquippa’s sterling record at home is a thing of legend, but Friday night, The Pit was overtaken by a Valley.

Second-ranked Central Valley never took its foot off the gas, blowing the game open with a 31-point second quarter to take a 45-6 win over No. 1 Aliquippa and win the Class 3A Tri-County West Conference in the process.

The Warriors (9-1, 7-0) kept Aliquippa’s strong rushing attack in check, limiting running backs Antonio Quinn and Vernon Redd to 62 and 54 yards, respectively. Central Valley also recovered two first-half fumbles on defense, the second returned 21 yards for a score by Reed FitzSimmons, and got a short field from a fumbled punt snap by the Quips (8-1, 6-1).

“I thought our defensive coaches put together one heck of a game plan, and then, obviously, the players executed,” Central Valley coach Mark Lyons said. “I think everybody committed to the defensive game plan. … I couldn’t have wrote this script if I tried 50 times. They gave us a couple of turnovers, but our guys had a lot of bounce in their step. Early on, we got on top, and our sideline was filled with excitement.”

Though the Warriors also scored a narrow upset over the Quips last year, 14-8, that game was played at Central Valley. This year, Central Valley handed Aliquippa only their second home loss in the past 54 games, and they did so in front of a season-finale crowd bordering on standing-room only.

“It is special. They were something like 52-1 the last 11 years. But we welcome it. You play high school football to play in big games,” Lyons said. “You want to always be in a great crowd, a great atmosphere, and we told them when you leave this locker room, you’re going to feel some electricity. Don’t be in awe. Welcome it, thrive on it. That’s what you play for. That’s what you signed up for, to put that helmet on and be in this environment.”

Lyons’ players took that message to heart and came in with a mindset to execute, regardless of the venue.

“It’s any other field to us. It’s Aliquippa either way. You’ve just got to play physical,” FitzSimmons said.

The Quips’ downfall began on the opening play from scrimmage, when Matt Merritt fell on a fumble by Redd to give the Warriors possession at the 13. Two plays later, quarterback Ameer Dudley kept the ball on an option play and scored on a 7-yard run.

Dudley finished 5 for 8 passing, but those five completions went for 141 yards, including touchdowns of 49 and 35 yards to Jawon Hall. Jaylen Guy finished with 82 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries for the Warriors, and all his touches came in the first half as his team built a 38-0 lead.

“(Dudley), he’s awesome. Our athletes are all over the field, we just try to give our guys as much time as possible,” said FitzSimmons, a lineman, who said there was no thought of just falling on the ball with a chance for his own rare mention in the box score.

“I love it. I don’t get to score too many touchdowns, so it’s very exciting — scoop and score,” he said.

As for the Quips, who had blown through their opponents with a 415-53 point differential through the first nine games, this final regular season game might have served as a wake-up call for some of the inexperienced players who perhaps weren’t ready for the sudden jump in quality of opposition.

“I totally agree,” Quips coach Mike Warfield said when asked if facing Central Valley represented a big step up for his team. “Usually you catch a team sleeping, where one or two (players) are in the wrong place, but (Central Valley is) going to be right where they should be all the time. That’s just coaching, and I respect those guys very much. We didn’t do the job we needed to, coaching-wise, to get our kids prepared, and I take responsibility for that.”

Both teams are playoff bound, and the win gives Central Valley, whose only loss is to Class 4A powerhouse Thomas Jefferson, a likely claim to the No. 1 seed. But both Lyons and FitzSimmons talked about learning from last year’s ending, when the Warriors scored the big Week 9 win over the Quips only to get blown out in the first round by Derry.

Aliquippa’s players, while sad, weren’t hanging their heads. That’s because the Quips remember what they did last year: Shake off a loss to Central Valley to win the WPIAL and PIAA titles.

Matt Grubba is a contributing writer.

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