Talent & tradition run deep at Aliquippa

As part of my job as a recruiting analyst here on the scout.com network is to evaluate talent. No, I do not just sit behind my computer monitor and watch highlight video's I take to road almost every Friday and Saturday scouting high school football games.

The recruiting analyst's here on our network take that part of their job very seriously as this is what separates us from the others. On Friday night myself and my photo-man Les kemp of A-K recruiting ventured to Deer Lakes to see a WPIAL Class A Quarterfinal match-up between Aliquippa and Deer Lakes.

Unlike others who profess that coaches will not grant them access to certain teams, we stood on the Aliquippa sidelines to bring the game to the Panther fans. Aliquippa has been good to the Panthers and to football in general over the years. Current Aliquippa defensive coordinator Dan "Peep" Short roamed the Panthers secondary during the Marino era. Who can forget Sean Gilbert perhaps the most dominating defensive lineman to ever wear blue and Vegas? Even in the present day with starting Pittsburgh corners Bernard "Josh" Lay and Darrelle Revis. Ty Law was the famous one who got away as he ended up in Ann Arbor, and is still one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Even head coach Mike Zmijanic is familiar with the Panthers; he attended graduate school at Pitt.

Upon reaching our destination which was a 140-mile roundtrip, and of course we underestimated the distance, we saw a beautiful new facility at Deer Lakes high school equipped with state of the art plastic grass. There are so many names for the stuff anymore it's easier just to call it plastic grass. Aliquippa played without starting QB S`Javantae Gilliam and starting CB/WR Mike Washington. After the game I'm sure Ford City was glad that neither played after being on the receiving end of a 31-7 beating. A few things that struck me was the speed of Aliquippa, I didn't time them all of course but I would not hesitate to say they have to have at least 10-12 kids who run a sub 4.6. The second thing is just the love for the game that the Aliquippa kids and coaches have. I met most of these kids before during my camp trips in the spring and summer, but a lot of the coaches I met for the first time. By the end of the game, I was practically a part of the team. This was by far one of my most enjoyable trips of the season. The greatest moment was actually seeing Coach "Z" smile after the game was clearly in hand.

Aliquippa was not really considered a serious contender coming into the season. They did capture a PIAA championship last year; they lost the AP Class AA player of the year in Darrelle Revis and standout LB Will Forbes. I guess there is no "Rebuilding" at Aliquippa they "Reload". Aliquippa will take a (11-0) record to Ambridge this weekend to face off against unbeaten Burrell, which is led by yet another player with ties to Pitt John Brown. Brown ended his recruitment early as he quickly gave a verbal pledge to Walt Harris upon being offered.

WPIAL coaches don't look now but the Quips have a lot of young talent on this year's team as well. Here's a look at some of the Quip's standouts

Senior CB/WR Mike Washington (5-8, 155, 4.3) Mike came to Aliquippa in 9^th grade from Union, SC. He currently has offers from Kent State and Akron. Washington is one of the most electrifying kids in the state.

Senior LB/G Donnell McKenzie (6-2, 235, 4.7) Donnell has verbal offers from Indiana and Pittsburgh. The only thing stopping Donnell was his SAT that he had not previously taken, he took it for the first time on Saturday. Donnell is a monster, the kid is the size of an NFL LB right now.

Senior WR/S Tommie Campbell (6-4, 190, 4.4) This kid has a scary amount of potential. After a year in a good strength and conditioning program, and focusing on one sport look out. Has offers from Pittsburgh and Eastern Michigan likely has more but Coach "Z" likes to wait until after the season to tell kid that stuff to keep them focused.

Senior QB S`Javante Gilliam (6-3, 175, 4.6) has an absolute cannon for an arm; I have never seen a QB who is raw but has an unbelievable touch on the deep ball. No offers yet, but is receiving some D-1 interest.

Senior FB/LB D`von Jeter (6-0, 213, 4.6) possibly the best kept secret in Western PA. The kid is an absolute bull reminds me a lot of Lousaka Polite coming out of high school. Not many are on him right now, but someone will get a steal like Pitt did with Polite.

Senior RB Desmond Patrick (5-7, 174, 4.3) a likely track star in college, he reminds me of a mouse. He slips through a small opening and just breaks loose. Once he slips through that little crease the only thing you see is the back of jersey #10.

Senior CB/WR Brandon Revis (5-9, 163, 4.5) could pass as Darrelle's little brother, but it's his 1^st cousin. Brandon needs to work on academics but he is a very solid cover corner. He's (5-9) but plays as if he's (6-2).

Senior OL/DL Willie Walker (6-2, 245, 4.8) "Silent but violent" Willie does not talk too much but he can play the game. He has been the stalwart of the offensive and defensive lines the past two seasons.

Junior DE Brandon Lindsey (6-2, 200, 4.6) if you want to see a high school kid rush off the edge check out this kid. Brandon had 12 sacks going into the Ford City game and was in the Sabers backfield all night long. Definite D-1 prospect.

Junior QB Stephen Hardy (6-2, 150, 4.5) has the same build as Gilliam did as a junior and as Marquis Counsel did before him. Gilliam didn't play so Hardy took the reins and played like a veteran very poised.

Sophomore CB Antonio Reddic (6-2, 160, 4.4) If you want to see the next star that comes out of Aliquippa here he is. When coaches tell you a kid has skills that will compare to Revis and Lay and he's a sophomore he is definitely a D-1 prospect.

Freshman RB Daron Cox (5-7, 160, 4.4) depending on his size this kid has a chance to be really special.

Freshman WR Jonathan Baldwin (6-4, 186, 4.5) very rarely do you see a freshman who is built like this kid. He is the son of former Panther Jeffrey Baldwin.

Hope you enjoyed the road trip Panther fans.

Photographic Images provided by Les Kemp

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