In a battle of unbeaten teams, the Wyomissing Spartans won their first ever PIAA football championship with a 17-14 victory over the WPIAL champion Aliquippa Quips on Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.
Wyomissing dodged some bullets early in the contest and forced Aliquippa to come up empty four times in the red zone in the contest.
Mason Smith ran for 127 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. The Spartans defense was in a true bend but not break mode, allowed Aliquippa to run for 323 yards but stopping the Quips when they needed to. Jonah Bowman set a state championship record with a 52 yard field goal in the third quarter for the Spartans.
The game did not start well for the Spartans, Notre Dame recruit Alex Anzalone fumbled on the opening possession, recovered by Malik Stewart. The Quips capitalized, Dravon Henry scored on a one yard run, Terry Swanson added the conversion run to put the Quips up 8-0 less than three minutes into the game. Wyomissing turned the ball over on the second possession, Stewart stepped in front of a Corey Unger pass, the Quips drove to the one yard line, but were stopped on downs, a sign of things to come for Aliquippa.
Wyomissing took the ball and drove the length of the field, going 99 yards on nine plays, Smith scored on a 16 yard run, teetering along the side lines for the score. The Quips got another turnover when Anzalone fumbled a punt, Stewart recovered the fumble and Henry scored ten plays later from ten out to put Aliquippa up 14-7, the Quips missed the two point conversion, that would prove large later in the contest.
Aliquippa got the ball back with 1:16 remaining, quarterback Malik Shegog had a big run to the Quips 13, but having no timeouts, Shegog had to spike the ball, a pass for Dajon Perry was tipped at the goal line and Aliquippa came up empty for the second time in the first half.
The Quips got the ball to start the third quarter, the usually sure-handed Swanson was stripped of the ball, the Spartans stalled out on the drive and Bowman came on for his record setting attempt. The senior kicker has walk on opportunities from Pitt, Old Dominion and Villanova, he may also be receiving a look from Penn State. Coach Bill O’Brien was in attendance and was standing in the end zone when Bowman made his kick and then put the kickoff out of the end zone. O’Brien told reporters after the game that he was interested and received a call from his special team coach after the kick.
Swanson made up for the fumble with a 49 yard run, but the Quips again came up empty, turning the ball over on downs at the Spartan 20. Anzalone allowed the drive to continue by converting a 4th and 1 at their own 29 yard line by gaining two, Smith would cap the drive with a 36 yard run in the opening minute of the fourth to put Wyomissing up for the first time.
Aliquippa moved the ball again, down to the 13 yard line, but for the second time in the game, the 13 proved to be unlucky as a holding penalty and a sack forced the Quips to go for a long 4th down play, which was unsuccessful. Wyomissing was able to take over five minutes off the clock before turning the ball back to the Quips with 3:27 remaining.
The Quips lost one yard on the first three plays of the drive, on 4th down, Shegog overthrew a wide-open Shaquere McBride who was behind the defense, for the third consecutive drive, the Quips were stopped on downs. Wyomissing was able to pick up a first down and force Aliquippa to take their two remaining timeouts, when it looked like all hope was lost for the Quips, Smith fumbled the football, Aliquippa recovered, setting up for a miracle finish.
With 53 seconds left at their own 16 and no timeouts, Darrien Fields came into the game at quarterback, he was hit as he was throwing the football, popping it straight into the air, Will Kroppe pulled in the wounded duck, the Spartans took a knee to end the game and clinch the undefeated season.
Wyomissing finishes 16-0, Anzalone was held to just 41 yards on 16 carries, he entered the game with over 14 hundred yards rushing. Unger finished 4-10 for 42 yards. Anzalone was a force defensively, he is graduating early to play for Notre Dame at linebacker, he made 8.5 tackles, sharing game high honors with Brian Bamberger.
The win was the first ever football championship for a Berks County school and made it back to back for District 3, as Lancaster Catholic won the title last season with a win over Tyrone.
Henry and Swanson both finished with over 100 yards, Swanson ran 14 times for 126 yards, Henry 22-123. Shegog added 72 yards on 11 carries. The Quips were 1 of 9 on third down and 1 of 6 on 4th down in conversions. Celo Chavis led the Quips with 8 tackles. Stewart finished with two stops, two fumble recoveries and the interception. Aliquippa had not played for a state title since 2003, when they defeated Northern Lehigh, the Quips are 2-3 in PIAA title games.
Wyomissing Spartans : 0 – 7 – 3 – 7 = 17
Aliquippa Quips : 7 – 7 – 0 – 0 = 14
A: Dravon Henry 1 run(Terry Swanson run) 9:15
W: Mason Smith 13 run(Jonah Bowman kick) 9:16
A: Henry 10 run(pass failed)
W: Bowman 52 FG(sets PIAA Playoff and Championship Record) 9:48
W: Smith 36 run(Bowman kick) 11:18