Different playoff histories converge in Class AA clash
The semifinal game between Freedom and Aliquippa will feature one team that will be making its fifth appearance in this game since 1998 and one that hasn’t been there since 1977. Aliquippa has advanced to the semifinals in 1998, 1999, 2000 and last year. Freedom’s most recent trip to the playoffs was 1990.
“I guess the experience of having been there before does help,” Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac said. “But every game is its own entity. We played Freedom earlier this season, and I know we both learned a lot from that game. I know we are better since that game. I also know Freedom is better, too.”
Aliquippa won, 20-8, in the Midwestern Conference matchup played Sept. 19.
“We have to stand up and take their best punches and punch them back,” said Freedom coach Jim Wilson, in his fifth season. “We must play mistake-free football.”
Freedom has limited its miscues this season, and Wilson credits his team’s focus. He added his squad might be surprising other people having made it this far, but he and his players aren’t shocked. After two 1-9 seasons and finishes of 4-6 and 5-5, the Bulldogs reached the postseason under Wilson.
“We expected to be here,” Wilson said. “We have been through some tough seasons, but these kids turned the program around.”
Aliquippa running back/wide receiver Darrelle Revis said he and his teammates are well aware of what Freedom can do. Revis added he and the Quips have experience playing in the semifinals doesn’t necessarily give them a huge advantage. Revis is dangerous at running back or receiver as the favorite target of Quips quarterback Sjavante Gilliam. Running back Dontae Patrick has also helped Aliquippa gain yards on the ground.
“I think we just need to stay focused and not underestimate Freedom,” Revis said. “Experience is good, but I know they will be ready for us.”
Aliquippa needs to be ready for Freedom quarterback Chris Glass, who makes the offense roll. Zmijanac said Glass has moves like Doug Flutie. The Quips cannot allow Glass to run wild, Zmijanac said, because when Glass does, he has four targets to hit in Andy Rape, Jeff Eckmann, Cody Hartley and Justin Welsh.
On the ground, Glass also makes things happen along with running back Kurt Brenner.
“Chris is a great kid,” Wilson said. “He wanted to play wide receiver, but we needed him at quarterback. That is how this team is. We talk about common heart and common goal. I could go on and on about kids who have impacted this program.
“I know there is no way we could have gotten this far if it weren’t for the fans in this community,” Wilson said. “They have helped make a difference.”
|FREEDOM (9-2 ) VS. ALIQUIPPA (10-1) 7:30 p.m. FRIDAY — AMBRIDGE HIGH SCHOOL|
Road to Heinz Field
d. Shenango, 37-16
d. South Park, 32-23
Kurt Brenner: 156 carries, 767 yards, 17 TD
Chris Glass: 83 carries, 468 yards, 6 TD
Chris Glass: 82 of 136 for 1,408 yards and 12 TD
Andy Rape: 22 catches for 385 yards and 3 TD
Jeff Eckmann: 15 catches for 317 yards and 3 TD
Freedom has only allowed 171 points this season for an average of 15.5 per game. The Bulldogs have held opponents to two touchdowns or less five times this season. Their two losses were to Beaver and tomorrow’s opponent Aliquippa.
Road to Heinz Field
d. Union, 54-0
d. Ford City, 28-7
Dontae Patrick: 112 carries, 773 yards, 11 TD
Darrelle Revis: 26 carries, 327 yards, 2 TD
Sjavante Gilliam: 66 of 121 for 1,149 yards and 17 TD
Michael Washington: 25 catches for 613 yards and 7 TD
Darrelle Revis: 15 for 184 yards and 2 TD
Defensive keys: Aliquippa has only allowed 27 points in the past five games while scoring 236. The most points Aliquippa gave up was 33 in a loss to Beaver Falls.