Is it cruel irony? After all, a 550-page book about the town of Aliquippa, steel industry and the Quips football program was released today – the same day as coach Mike Zmijanac and the Quips were hit with the news that two players have been charged with criminal homicide.
The book, written by Sports Illustrated wirter S.L. Price, is titled “Playing Through The Whistle – Steel, Football and an American Town.
But last night, Aliquippa players Ron Foster and Deontae Jones, both seniors and both 17, were booked and charged as adults in the fatal shooting Sept. 29 of Cade Booher in the 1100 block of Wade St. in Aliquippa. Both were arraigned this morning and bail was denied. The two are charged with homicide, robbery and conspiracy in connection with Booher’s death. (Jones is pictured, No. 21, trying to make a tackle against Beaver Falls earlier this season)
Meanwhile, Beaver County District Attorney David Lozier told the Post-Gazette’s Jonathan Silver that a third defendant and suspected triggerman, Lawrence “Pooh Rat” Reddick Jr., remains at large. The DA’s office said the three defendants conspired to rob Cade of marijuana and money. Reddick is not an Aliquippa player.
Aliquippa should be eagerly looking forward to Friday night’s big game against Clairton. It is a long-awaited game, one that most likely will be a sellout at Clairton. Instead, Zmijanac is answering questions about players in a murder investigation. I’ve always called Aliquippa one of the best places because of some of the people there, their work ethic and the town’s love of sports. But I’ve also said it’s one of the worst. This day is an example of both sides.
It’s a sad story for an Aliquippa program that has the best winning percentage of any WPIAL team over the past 32 years. Zmijanac, one of the best coaches in WPIAL history and also the school’s athletic director, said the news of Foster and Jones was “distressing.”
“First of all, I want to say my heart goes out to the families of all these kids, both the ones who got hurt and the ones who have been arrested,” said Zmijanac. “Quite obviously, these were young men doing the wrong thing. You hear so much about these things going on, but when it hits close to you, it makes it even worse.”
Both Foster and Jones are first-year players at Aliquippa. Foster transferred to Aliquippa in the spring and Jones transferred from Ambridge in August. Foster was seeing considerable playing time and started last Friday’s game against South Park.
Due to the players being new, Zmijanac (pictured) said he didn’t know either one extensively.
“They seemed like typical kids for us, but who knows what’s going on when they’re not around the football program,” said Zmijanac. “It’s distressing because they’re supposed to be just kid. It’s not supposed to be a grown-up world for them yet. Unfortunately, these are the ordeals of our society right now.”
This is yet another horrible day in what has been a trying few months for the Aliquippa program. In August, the Quips learned talented running back DiMantae Bronaugh won’t be able to play this season because of the return of leukemia. In July, an Aliquippa player died. In late spring, former Aliquippa QB Sjavante Gilliam, a Marine veteran with a Purple Heart, was shot and killed in Aliquippa.
“It’s been difficult, just as a human story,” said Zmijanac.
Aliquippa has a long-awaited game Friday against Clairton. The game likely will be a sellout.
“We preach all the time to our players about just be a kid while you still have a chance,” said Zmijanac. “Hopefully, they’ll be able to deal with this. It’s bad news because these are people you known. We’ll move on to the best of our ability.”