Goin' Campin; is Varsity Blog's road show series that gives notes, quotes, anecdotes and whatever else from district preseason football camps.
The rivalry between Aliquippa and Beaver Falls has been strong, although it often has been lopsided in football towards Aliquippa, evidenced by last year's 56-6 Aliquippa win. But the Aliquippa-Beaver Falls rivalry looks like it could be as strong as ever this year.
Saying Aliquippa will be in the WPIAL Class AA final this year is not exactly a bold statement. The Quips have made it seven years in a row. Aliquippa is good again, although maybe not quite as good as the Quips have been the past few seasons. Meanwhile, Beaver Falls has loads of returning players from last year's 7-3 team.
Beaver Falls thinks it will be very good this year. So does Aliquippa. Their players watch each other. They talk about each other. We'll have to wait until Oct. 30, the final Friday of the regular season, for the teams to meet. But exactly what is going on with both teams? Let's go campin'.
**** Should the Quips be No. 1 in the preseason? Or maybe Beaver Falls? Or how about two-time defending champ South Fayette? Or maybe Washington? Tough to say.
**** The Quips are in their second year of using a new practice field that sits on the grounds of the old high school that was torn down. Nice. Sherman McBride is the swiss army knife of Aliquippa football, meaning he seems to do anything and everything. He points out that they even put goal posts on the practice field.
"Why?" I ask. "You guys don't need them."
Aliquippa, you see, never seems to have a kicker and goes for two after touchdowns.
"Well, at least to make it look like a field," McBride said.
Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac later points out how nice it is to have a decent practice field. But again, I ask why the goal posts?
"So at least we know where the end zone is," Zmijanac says.
**** Zmijanac will be Aliquippa's coach and athletic director at least this season and two more. He signed a new contract. After that, who knows?
**** Making the championship game seven years in a row is truly amazing, and from the DYK department: Aliquippa has finished the regular season with a perfect record five consecutive seasons. That is No. 2 on the WPIAL all-time list. Braddock is No. 1 with six consecutive perfect regular seasons from 1954-59.
**** Aliquippa running back-linebacker Kaezon Pugh is the subject of today's Blue Chip Chat in the Post-Gazette.
**** Pugh (pictured) and teammate DiMonte Bronaugh are undoubtedly one of the WPIAL's best running combinations. Last year, Pugh ran for 1,626 yards and averaged 10.6 yards a carry. Bronaugh ran for 1,262 and averaged 9.3.
**** Jassir Jordan was a standout guard on Aliquippa's basketball team that made it all the way to the Class AA state final with a perfect record before losing. Jordan and Sheldon Jeter are vying for Aliquippa's quarterback job.
Funny. Another Sheldon Jeter is a former standout basketball player at Beaver Falls who now plays at Pitt. Are the Jeters related? Who knows. Probably. Haven't there been like 167 Jeters playing at Aliquippa and Beaver Falls?
**** Aliquippa has three or four freshmen who might see playing time. But don't ask Zmianac their names.
"Don't you dare mention any freshmen names in the paper. They haven't done anything," Zmijanac said.
**** Zmijanac on team: "We have some holes to fill on the line. We had four two-year starters on the lines. Our skill people are very good. Quarterback is a little bit of an issue but we have some guys."
**** Pugh has Division I offers. He mentions Pitt, West Virginia and Maryland as his favorites.
**** Pugh on Beaver Falls: "We always trash them. They think they’re the best team and that’s good, because if I played at Beaver Falls, I’d feel that way, too. I’m sure they do feel like they will beat Aliquippa, but that’s just not going to happen."
Next stop: Beaver Falls
**** A lot of Tigers earned their stripes last year as sophomores. Now, those Tigers are a year older, a year bigger, a year wiser. Things are looking up at Beaver Falls.
"At one point in the year last year we were starting nine sophomores and a freshman," said Beaver Falls coach Ryan Matsook. "A couple games it was eight sophomores and two freshmen. We were pretty much a JV team the first five or six weeks, but we saw some flashes."
Beaver Falls finished 7-3.
**** The player who stands out the most at Beaver Falls is junior lineman Donovan Jeter - because of his size but also because of his talent. He is 6 feet 5, 275 pounds and he already has scholarship offers from 11 major colleges. Ohio State just offered a few weeks ago. He says Pitt, Penn State and Ohio State are probably his top choices right now, but he insists he isn't close to making a decision and says he probably won't until after his senior season.
Jeter (pictured) also is a top basketball player but realized last year that football would be best for his future. He will continue to play basketball. Donovan is the brother of the aforementioned Sheldon Jeter (Pitt basketball player).
"[Donovan] ran a 4.7 or a 4.7 40 down at Pitt and then did the same thing at Ohio State when they offered," said Matsook. "He just has all the tools."
**** Donovan Jeter on Aliquippa: "I feel like we should be the team to beat. I feel like people have the fear of Aliquippa, but I don't know why. I know they beat us bad last year, but they're not the same Aliquippa of last year or the year before. I'm not scared of them. Not down here. Other teams can be scared of them and have nightmares about them. That's not us. Honestly, I feel like we're the team to beat. We have too many weapons to just be 7-3 again."
**** There can't be many Class AA teams with bigger lines than Beaver Falls. Jeter will play defensive end and tight end. Next to him on the line will be 6-4, 275-pound Raquan Crowder (pictured to the right).
"We have Matt Gandy, who is 6-4, 280," said Matsook. "We have other big bodies who are in the 6-2, 260-pound range. We've got 11 or 12 lineman who can play."
**** Matsook's father, Dan, once again is a Beaver Falls assistant coaching the defensive line. Dan Matsook won WPIAL and PIAA titles at Rochester and most recently was acting superintendent at Wilkinsburg.
"We call him Senior Sook," said Jeter.