Aliquippa buries Ford City in semifinals
Any doubts about the bounces going Aliquippa’s way Friday night disappeared after Wildcat quarterback Haetaun Mathis dropped the ball and watched it hop back up into his hands after a stride or two as he headed for the end zone late in the second quarter.
The top-seeded Quips (12-0) overcame early turnover troubles and made fourth-seeded Ford City (11-1) pay for its giveaways during a 26-7 win in the WPIAL Class AA semifinals at NexTier Stadium in Harmony. Aliquippa earned its third straight trip to the finals and will meet No. 3 South Fayette on Saturday at Heinz Field.
“The truth is, we thought from the beginning that there were four or five teams that had the chance to (reach the finals), and two of them are there,” Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac said.
Aliquippa turned the ball over twice in the first half, but Ford City failed to get a first down on either ensuing drive.
Donald McKenzie recovered a fumble, Ford City’s second turnover of the half, and returned it 21 yards for Aliquippa’s first touchdown.
Mikal Hall scrambled 13 yards for a touchdown 30 seconds into the second quarter, and Mathis’ touchdown with less than three minutes left before the half put Aliquippa up, 19-0.
Zmijanac said neither the good nor bad turnovers hurt the Quips much at halftime.
“We’re kind of unemotional about that kind of stuff because the truth is, you get to play this game so many times, and then you don’t get to play football anymore,” he said.
Ford City’s fortunes didn’t improve after the half. The Sabers’ first offensive drive of the third quarter ended with a 71-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Richard Lowe.
“I thought the big turnovers gave them momentum, and when you get plays like that, that’s hard to make up for,” Ford City coach John Bartolovic said.
Ford City finished with four turnovers. The Sabers rushed for 85 yards and passed for 79 yards.
“We told them, ‘Keep playing. Keep digging.’ And you hope that it goes our way,” Bartolovic said. “I told them, ‘Hey, pro athletes do the same thing.’ They practice and play every day and have played for their entire life, and you know, it was just the wrong time to make those kinds of mistakes.”
Cody Gispanski had a 2-yard touchdown run to end Aliquippa’s shutout midway through the fourth quarter.
Aliquippa’s offense had 182 yards rushing and 1 yard passing.