Aliquippa, Belle Vernon, Steel Valley, Union Capture WPIAL Football Titles at Acrisure Stadium

Monday, November 28, 2022

Pittsburgh, Pa. – The Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) held its football championship games in the 1A, 2A, 3A, and 4A classifications this past Friday at Acrisure Stadium. Aliquippa (4A), Belle Vernon (3A), Steel Valley (2A), and Union (1A) emerged as champions after their respective championship games.

Aliquippa made it back-to-back titles in 4A, extending its WPIAL record of football championships to 19. The Quips previously won in 1952, 1955, 1964, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1996, 2000, 2003, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2018, and 2021.

In 3A, Belle Vernon’s crown was its second in school history, as the Leopards previously won 27 years ago in 1995. Union is also a new two-time champion, with the 1A winners first claiming WPIAL gold in 1959.

Steel Valley, the 2A champions, now have six WPIAL titles, with its previous trophies coming in 1982, 1988, 1989, 2016, and 2018.

Aliquippa, Belle Vernon, Steel Valley, and Union have qualified for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Football Championships, as they enter the semifinal round on Friday, December 2. The championship games are set for December 8-10 at Cumberland Valley High School.

4A RECAP [Box Score]
Aliquippa continued its reign as 4A champions by defeating Central Valley, 34-7, on Friday, November 25 in the final game of four title tilts at Acrisure Stadium.

Top-seeded Aliquippa (12-0) held the ball for 34:19 of the game’s 48 minutes and outgained second-seeded Central Valley (12-1) on the ground by a 249-1 margin. The Quips converted 23 first downs to the Warriors’ seven and were a perfect 3-for-3 on fourth down conversions.

Aliquippa’s sophomore runningback duo of Tiqwai Hayes and John Tracy combined for 210 yards and four touchdowns on 48 carries. Hayes scored the Quips’ first three touchdowns and had 112 yards on 26 carries, while Tracy added the fourth score as part of a 22-carry, 108-yard evening.

Each of Aliquippa’s first three scoring drives lasted at least 14 plays and over six minutes. The Quips opened with a 16-play, 86-yard drive that ended in a Hayes two-yard touchdown plunge, then finished the half with a 14-play, 62-yard touchdown trek. In the third quarter, Aliquippa went 14 plays for 84 yards over 6:50 before capping the drive with a Hayes three-yard touchdown.

The Quips added a pair of scores in the fourth quarter, as Tracy found paydirt from two yards out, and junior quarterback Quentin Goode found classmate Jayace Williams for a 33-yard touchdown pass to make it 34-0. Central Valley pulled a touchdown back late in the game when senior quarterback Antwon Johnson connected with classmate Brady Hudson for a 21-yard scoring play.

Goode finished with 117 yards on 6-of-12 passing, while Johnson was 10-of-19 for 127 yards through the air.

Defensively, Warriors freshman linebacker J.J. Work led all players with 12 tackles and senior defensive back Deniro Simpson added 10. Aliquippa was led by junior linebacker Cameron Lindsey, who had six tackles, while Williams collected two sacks and sophomore defensive end Mekhi Green tallied one sack.

Aliquippa will travel to Bald Eagle High School to take on District XI champion Allentown Central Catholic in the PIAA Championships semifinal round.

3A RECAP [Box Score]
For the first time in 27 years, Belle Vernon claimed WPIAL gold as it came back from an early 7-0 deficit to defeat Avonworth, 24-7, in the 3A championship game on Friday, November 25.

Second-seeded Avonworth (11-2) outgained top-seeded Belle Vernon (10-2) offensively, 261-170, and ran 61 offensive plays to the Leopards’ 39. But Belle Vernon capitalized on a trio of splash plays, scoring touchdowns of 32, 45, and 51 yards to ultimately come away with the victory.

Neither team could find the end zone in the first quarter, but the Antelopes were in the middle of a 12-play, 45-yard drive when the frame ended. It took just two plays to find paydirt at the start of the second stanza, as junior runningback Brandon Biagiarelli punched it in from a yard out to make it 7-0.

The Leopards responded with a 12-play, 49-yard drive, but only could get three points out of it after junior kicker Willie Schwerha split the uprights with a 31-yard field goal. Belle Vernon’s defense then forced a three-and-out on the ensuing drive, and took the lead with 1:15 remaining in the half when junior quarterback Braden Laux hooked up with classmate Quinton Martin for a 32-yard touchdown to give the Leopards a 10-7 advantage.

That scoreline remained through half of the third quarter before Belle Vernon struck again. Following an Avonworth three-and-out, Martin caught the punt on his own 49-yard line and broke multiple tackles on his way for a 51-yard trip to paydirt.

In the fourth quarter, the Leopards forced a turnover on downs three minutes into the frame and set up shop on the Antelopes’ 45-yard line. It took just one play for Belle Vernon to extend its lead, as Martin took the carry and raced 45 yards to set the final scoreline at 24-7.

Martin finished with 152 all-purpose yards (60 rushing, 51 punt return, 41 receiving) and three touchdowns. He added five tackles defensively, while Laux and senior defensive lineman Steve Macheska both collected a sack.

Avonworth senior quarterback Nathan Harper threw for 127 yards, with five of his 12 completions going to junior wide receiver Andrew Kuban for 67 yards. Biagiarelli had 47 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Defensively, the Antelopes received seven tackles, a sack, and forced fumble from senior linebacker Gabriel Bonnet, and an interception from senior defensive back Elvin Le.

Belle Vernon will play District VI champion Central in the PIAA Championships semifinal round at Central Cambria High School.

2A RECAP [Box Score]
Steel Valley scored four touchdowns of 50 or more yards as it defeated Beaver Falls, 34-14, to claim the WPIAL 2A championship on Friday, November 25.

Top-seeded Steel Valley (12-0) averaged 8.3 yards per play and owned a 274-193 edge in offensive yards over second-seeded Beaver Falls (11-2), with all of those coming on the ground. The Ironmen also forced three turnovers defensively, recovering a pair of fumbles and intercepting a pass.

It took just 59 seconds for Steel Valley to dent the scoreboard as senior quarterback Cruce Brookins kept it himself for a 56-yard touchdown to make it 6-0.

After a pair of three-and-outs, Beaver Falls took an 8-6 lead after completing a 10-play, 64-yard drive. Senior quarterback Jaren Brickner found classmate Trey Singleton from 24 yards out on fourth down to tie the game, and then connected with junior wide receiver De’Sean Anderson for the two-point conversion.

That lead lasted 23 seconds however, as Brookins called his own number again on the next drive, racing in from 53 yards out to make it 13-8. The advantage then grew to 20-8 with 28 seconds remaining in the half when sophomore linebacker Donald Barksdale ran back a Brickner interception 53 yards to the end zone.

Following a scoreless second quarter, the Tigers pulled within six at 20-14 after an 11-play, 68-yard drive. Junior runningback Da’talian Beauford would finish the trek with a two-yard plunge, but Beaver Falls couldn’t convert the two-point play afterward. Steel Valley answered with a 53-yard kick return by freshman Da’Ron Barksdale to the Beaver Falls’ 22-yard line, and Brookins rushed for 17 and five yards on back-to-back carries to restore his team’s two-score lead at 27-14.

That scoreline remained until the 3:06 mark of the fourth quarter, as Steel Valley put the game away with a 56-yard touchdown rush by Donald Barksdale.

For the Ironmen, Brookins rushed for 170 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries, while Donald Barksdale added 86 yards and a score on 10 carries. Senior linebacker JeSean Wright led all players with 13 tackles and recovered a fumble, and classmate Gregory Smith added 10 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. Brookins had an interception defensively with six tackles, and Donald Barksdale also forced a fumble in addition to his 53-yard pick six in the first quarter.

Brickner compiled 93 passing yards, 53 rushing yards, and a touchdown for Beaver Falls, with Singleton recording three receptions for 45 yards. Beauford led the Tigers with eight tackles and a sack, and junior defensive lineman Damian Lee also tallied a sack.

Steel Valley will play District VIII champion Westinghouse in the PIAA Championships semifinal round at West Mifflin High School.

1A RECAP [Box Score]
Union’s defense forced four turnovers and scored two touchdowns en route to winning its first WPIAL football title in 63 years with a 26-0 blanking of Bishop Canevin in the 1A championship game on Friday, November 25.

10th-seeded Union (11-3) is the first double-digit seed to win a WPIAL championship since Central Valley did it as the 14th seed in the 3A classification in 2010. The Scotties defense held top-seeded Bishop Canevin (12-2) to nine rushing yards on 19 attempts, and its offense held the ball for 29:09 to limit the Crusaders’ opportunities.

Neither team could do much with its opening drive, but Union found the end zone first with an 11-play, 33-yard methodical trek in the first quarter. The Scotties converted a pair of fourth downs on the arm of junior quarterback Braylon Thomas, with the signal-caller ultimately taking it in himself from six yards out. Thomas then found junior wide receiver Grayson Blakely for the two-point conversion to make it 8-0.

Union engineered another two long drives in the second quarter, though neither ended in points. The Scotties managed to keep their 8-0 advantage thanks in part to a forced fumble and recovery from sophomore defensive lineman Jamel Mitchell two plays after the offense was stopped on fourth down.

After forcing a punt on Bishop Canevin’s first drive of the second half, Union went 69 yards on eight plays to extend its lead to 14-0. Thomas factored into six of the eight plays, rushing three times and throwing twice before escaping for a 38-yard touchdown sprint.

That gap hit 20-0 following the kickoff, as senior linebacker Matt Stanley scooped up his own forced fumble and rumbled 32 yards to paydirt. Three plays into the Crusaders’ next drive, junior defensive back Mike Gunn picked off a pass in his own half and raced 59 yards for the final scoring play of the afternoon.

For Union, Thomas compiled 192 offensive yards (112 rushing, 80 passing) and two rushing scores. The Scotties defense generated five sacks with seniors Mark Stanley and Brennan Porter collecting 1.5 each, Mitchell netting one, and seniors Kaden Fisher and Antonio Perez notching half a sack. Matt Stanley led the team with eight tackles, and classmate Elijah Booker also intercepted a pass.

Sophomore quarterback Kole Olszewski threw for 146 yards on 8-of-15 passing for Bishop Canevin. Senior wide receiver Xavier Nelson had four catches for 60 yards offensively, and paced the Crusaders with 11 tackles and a sack defensively. Senior linebacker Braden Travis recorded 10 tackles, classmate Keyshawn McCaskill forced a fumble, and senior defensive back Lesae Lacks intercepted a pass.

Union will travel to Memorial Stadium on the campus of PennWest Clarion to play District IX champion Port Allegany in the PIAA Championships semifinal round.

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