Wyomissing completes perfect season with first PIAA championshipWritten by: Josh Funk on Saturday, December 15th, 2012
HERSHEY, Pa. – Aliquippa. The name alone carries with it an aura, a mystique of sorts. Its slogan could very well be “Where legends are made.”
But on the state’s biggest stage, Wyomissing wrote a few legends of its own, and arguably the program’s biggest victory in its gridiron history proved to be no tall tale.
Wyomissing (16-0) rallied for 10 unanswered points in the second half and the Spartan defense limited Aliquippa to 2-for-6 in red zone opportunities to claim their first PIAA championship with a 17-14 victory over WPIAL champion Aliquippa (15-1) Saturday afternoon from sun-splashed Hersheypark Stadium.
The victory gave District 3 a perfect 8-0 record in PIAA A and AA championship games, while Beaver County teams fell to 7-9 all-time in PIAA championship games, with Aliquippa falling to 2-3. The Wyomissing victory marked the first PIAA championship ever won for Berks County and the Spartans became the third D3 program to finish a season 16-0, joining the 2008 Steelton-Highspire Steamrollers and the 2011 Lancaster Catholic Crusaders.
Chalk the blue and white’s victory up to two critical areas – defense and special teams. But especially the defense, where the numbers proved to be quite deceiving.
The Quips finished the game with 323 yards rushing and junior teammates Dravon Henry and Terry Swanson each rushed for more than 120 yards. On the Quips’ first two drives, they amassed nearly 100 yards of offense, all rushing, and led, 8-0.
“The first two times they had the ball, they just kicked our (butts) all over the field,” said Wyomissing head coach Bob Wolfrum. “But our defense – I’ve said this on numerous occasions – our defense has really been what’s carried us and held us together each of the last two seasons.
“We shifted to a Double Eagle flex (defense) about two or three years ago, and it really allows our linebackers to flow from sideline to sideline,” Wolfrum continued. “This team just finds a way. They just kept plugging and plugging.”
So tighten up the screws and rachet the bolts the Spartans did. While Aliquippa gained its share of yards between the 10s, it didn’t do much once it got in the Wyomissing red zone.
Take the Quips’ second possession of the game. After driving to the Spartan 3, Aliquippa went for it on fourth down and missed scoring by a yard. A second trip to the red zone in the first half ended on a turnover on downs. And right before halftime, after Malik Shegog busted a 48-yard run into the Spartan red zone for a third time, the guests were turned away on a 7-yard Shegog run on 4th and long.
“We couldn’t have done this without every little guy, including every guy on the practice squad,” said two-way senior Will Kroppe, a starting guard and linebacker.
Kroppe had several big blocks on offense, including a key one to spring Notre Dame recruit Alex Anzalone on the Spartans’ 99-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter. He also was johnny-on-the-spot defensively, posting 5.5 tackles, deflecting a key pass in the first half to thwart a potential Quip touchdown and picking off the game-sealing interception with 44 seconds left.
On the pass deflection, Kroppe got in front of Shegog’s pass which was intended for junior tight end Dajon Perry. Without Kroppe’s hand redirecting the spiral, it could have been a sure touchdown.
“I didn’t think that guy (Perry) was an eligible guy on that play,” Kroppe admitted. “I just kind of stuck my hands up and got lucky there.”
And special teams was won easily by Wyomissing. The Spartan kicker, senior Jonah Bowman, booted a pair of touchbacks and a PIAA-championship game record 52-yard field goal in the third quarter. Bowman finished the season 9-of-12 converting field goals, and his previous season long was 45 yards. He also missed a 42-yarder against Berks Catholic in the Spartans’ regular season finale.
“He makes those kicks in practice every day,” Wolfrum said of Bowman. “It was sort of a no-brainer for us (to kick it). The only question was if it was going to be blocked.”
Bowman’s kick cleared the crossbar with five yards to spare. It was the longest field goal in a PIAA championship game since 1988, when Bethlehem Catholic’s Tony Lasiello booted a 45-yarder against Wilmington. Bowman’s boot also established a new PIAA playoff record, surpassing a 47-yarder by Bishop McCort’s Matt Domonkos in 2001.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Bowman said. “Oh yes (this is surreal), oh my goodness yes. It just feels great to be able to help the team in whatever way I can.”
Mason Smith, too, proved an integral part of the Wyomissing Wing-T offense. With Anzalone stuffed to just 41 yards on 16 carries, Smith darted through the Quips’ seemingly inpenetrable defense for 127 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
“I don’t know what happened on those trap plays to the short side of the field,” said Quips’ head coach Mike Zmijanic. “I’ll have to go back and watch the film on that.
“We didn’t do anything differently (with Anzalone). We just play the way we play,” Zmijanic continued. “They’re a very good football team and they’re not a one-man team.”
It was Smith’s 36-yard run which gave the Spartans a lead they wouldn’t relinquish with 11:18 left in regulation. No. 30 finished as the Spartans’ second-leading rusher for the season, with 895 yards. Wyomissing finished the season with four backs over 630 yards rushing and three over 800.
“We don’t care who scores the touchdowns here,” Wolfrum said. “We got just enough offense (today).”
Just enough, though, to become Berks County legends.
NOTES: The phrase “it’s all about the academics” isn’t just a catch phrase at Wyomissing. The Spartans’ football team featured the valedictorian, salutatorian and No. 3-ranked individuals in the school’s 2013 graduating class…….Penn State head football coach Bill O’Brien was in attendance at Saturday’s game…….Wyomissing became the first team to successfully complete a 99-yard scoring drive against Aliquippa’s defense, doing so in the second quarter on nine plays……..Aliquippa’s pair of 1,000-yard rushers, Henry and Swanson, finished with 1,919 and 1,546 yards, respectively, and scored 52 of the Quips’ total touchdowns for the season. But, since 2006, teams with a pair of 1,000-yard rushers have fallen to 7-9 overall in PIAA championship games.
Aliquippa 8 6 0 0 – 14
Wyomissing 0 7 3 7 – 17
ALQ – Dravon Henry run (Swanson run)
WYO – Mason Smith 13 run (Jonah Bowman kick)
ALQ – Henry 10 run (pass failed)
WYO – FG, Bowman 52
WYO – Smith 36 run (Bowman kick)
Rushes-yds 48-323 47-211
Passing 2-11-1 4-10-1
Passing yds 23 42
Total offense 346 253
1st downs 14 14
Penalties 5-40 3-23
Turnovers 2 4
RUSHING: ALQ: Terry Swanson 14-126; Dravon Henry 22-123 2 TD; Malik Shegog 11-72; Jyier Turner 1-2. WYO: Mason Smith 15-127 2 TD; Alex Anzalone 16-41; Brandon Gonzalez 4-33; Scott McAvoy 4-16; Justin Causa 5-10; Corey Unger 2-minus-4; Spencer Lloyd 1-minus-12.
PASSING: ALQ: Shegog 2-10-0-23; Darrien Fields 0-1-1-0. WYO: Unger 4-10-1-42.
RECEIVING: ALQ: Devon Walker 1-17; Dennis Moreland 1-6. WYO: Anzalone 2-24; Gerald Burns 1-14; Mason Smith 1-4.
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