Trib HSSN football team of the week for 2023 Week 14

Monday, December 4, 2023 | 7:51 PM

Two and a half weeks ago, the North Allegheny football team repeated as WPIAL 6A champions, 11 years after it won three straight district titles.

Now following a victory Saturday, the Tigers (13-1) are one win away from their third PIAA football crown and their first state title in 11 years.

“It’s an exciting time for our community, for our school and for our players,” North Allegheny coach Art Walker said. “I’ve been doing this long enough to know this isn’t something that’s easy to accomplish. The WPIAL is very special in this area and especially to me growing up in our household before the state championships were even around.”

After winning WPIAL gold last year, North Allegheny lost in the PIAA quarterfinals to State College.

This season, the Tigers defeated District 10 champion McDowell in the quarterfinals before dispatching District 3 winner Harrisburg in the state semifinals on Saturday, 24-12.

“I think the experience they went through,” Walker said, explaining the difference between the PIAA playoffs last year and this season. “Our seniors right now were big contributors to that team last year. Those games and time that you log on Friday nights and going through adversity and that learning process that they were able to take from last year were big.

“To have that big goal and accomplish it (by winning the WPIAL championship), then you are on the road to State College, but I think we had a little bit of, ‘Hey, we accomplished our main goal.’ This year, that has not been the mindset whatsoever. We want to have the opportunity to play in a state championship game and win it. That’s been their main focus and that’s what made them different.”

Senior running back Tyree Alualu got the ball rolling Saturday with an 8-yard first-quarter touchdown run. He contributed to a Tigers running game that rushed for 273 yards and three touchdowns.

“I think getting a quick score with Tyree running hard, Liam Flaherty running hard and (quarterback Logan Kushner) kind of being Logan and his role as a running quarterback was big,” Walker said. “The key that doesn’t get measured very much is what happens up front. (Harrisburg was) very big, very active and created some problems, and there was a challenge put on our guys on both sides of the ball for them to dictate the football game. They provided opportunities for us to rush, and they provided us opportunities to stop Harrisburg. Big applause to those guys in the trenches.”

It was another big day at the office for Kushner, who threw for only 47 yards but ran for 164 yards and two touchdowns. The senior is putting together player-of-the-year type numbers this season, throwing for 1,589 yards and 23 touchdowns while running for 1,209 yards and 19 TDs.

“(Kushner) earned the job outright as a sophomore midway through the season and gained a lot of experience going against great high school football teams,” Walker said. “What he turned into his junior year was an exceptional game manager who started to run the ball and his completion percentage went up. Then when we hit the offseason, there’s not a guy on our team who worked harder than him in that weight room. He put on 20-plus pounds of all good weight and has become faster and his accuracy improved. He’s a great leader. He’s everything you want in a quarterback.”

NA is going to need a monster game from Kushner and everybody dressed in black and gold come Saturday night when it closes out the 2023 high school football season in the PIAA 6A championship game against defending champion and District 12 perennial power St. Joseph’s Prep (12-1).

“They’re good, they’re seventh in the country, and they’ve won five of the last seven (6A state titles) and been there nine times in 11 years,” Walker said. “We understand who they are. We know they’re very, very good. They present challenges.

“They are really good on defense. Secondary’s good, linebackers are physical, and they’re big up front. Offense is good: big up front, really good receivers, quarterback can run and throw, and they have about four tailbacks. Their kicker is good, but he doesn’t put the ball in the end zone every single time, so that’s the one mistake we’ve discovered so far. They check all the boxes.”

Week 14 honorable mention

Peters Township Indians

The points didn’t flow as they usually do for the WPIAL Class 5A champions, but the defense was typically staunch as Peters Township edged District 3 champion Cocalico in a PIAA semifinal Friday. Sophomore quarterback Nolan DiLucia connected on 17 of 27 passes for 193 yards, but two of those completions went for touchdowns to Carter Shanafelt and Thomas Aspinwall, and the Indians defense kept the Eagles in single-digit points in the 14-9 win.

Aliquippa Quips

Aliquippa is headed to the PIAA Class 4A championship game for a third straight year, but its dance partner will be different in Mechanicsburg after defending state champion Bishop McDevitt lost in double overtime to Dallas. The Quips took care of business in their semifinal thanks to a dynamic duo at running back. Senior John Tracy rushed for 270 yards and scored four touchdowns while junior Tikey Hayes ran for 161 yards and two TDs as the Quips crushed the Seals, 52-32.

Beaver Falls Tigers

They are the only WPIAL champion that won’t be playing for a PIAA state title this week, but what a postseason ride for Beaver Falls. Following a loss to Western Beaver in Week 9 that dropped the orange and black to fourth place in the Midwestern Athletic Conference and a No. 10 seed in the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs, the Tigers won close games against Keystone Oaks, Neshannock, Washington and Steel Valley to win district gold. Their run ended in a PIAA semifinal loss to City League champion Westinghouse, 28-8.

2023 HSSN teams of the week

Week 13 – Belle Vernon Leopards

Week 12 – Avonworth Antelopes

Week 11 – Beaver Falls Tigers

Week 10 – Deer Lakes Lancers

Week 9 – South Side Rams

Week 8 – Central Valley Warriors

Week 7 – Mars Fightin’ Planets

Week 6 – Pine-Richland Rams

Week 5 – Moon Tigers

Week 4 – Thomas Jefferson Jaguars

Week 3 – Knoch Knights

Week 2– Waynesburg Central Raiders

Week 1 – Aliquippa Quips

Week Zero – Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils


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