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For the past four weeks, the Aliquippa football team’s No. 1 goal has been the same: take care of your school work first.
It’s not a new or radical way to approach high school football, but first-year coach Mike Warfield is putting in the effort to have an impact on more than football at Aliquippa.
Warfield, a 1987 graduate from Aliquippa, has been working to install several non-football bonding related activities to keep his players focused.
Representative Connor Lamb was this week’s special visitor to the team but the Quips have also met with Woodland Hills principal Dr. Philip K. Woods (an Aliquippa graduate) and former Steeler Derek Moye (a 2007 graduate from Rochester).
Warfield said the goal of the meetings is simply to introduce the team to successful people from the area and give the speakers a chance to tell their story.
More importantly, Warfield has created an “each one, teach one” program where players gather in the cafeteria after school to do their homework before football practice can begin.
An upperclassman is paired with an underclassman, and the mentor role has been working out well for all involved.
“Sometimes we get on the field late, late because we try to make sure that’s first,” said Warfield. “When I came through, there were guys we looked up to. We wanted to be like them. And they weren’t out on the corner, they were in the weight room trying to get better and trying to go to college.
“And when our younger kids see Eli (Kosanovich), and Will (Gipson) and (Deoveon) Crute and Solvauhn (Moreland) and the rest of the seniors working, they want to do that. And we try to bring the Little Quips around as well. It gives them something to look forward to. A sense of direction is so important for a kid, they see someone consistently and can touch that person and say ‘I know that person who is doing something positive’.”
Finally, Warfield said the team has weekly meetings in which the players and coaches are given the chance for a casual town-hall-like meeting to discuss life issues.
“Most of the time it’s about what they want to wear. Kids like to be seen,” said Warfield. “But we talk about life issues. The kids are knowledgeable and they’re eager, and it’s getting better. It’s the kind of thing they will appreciate later in life.”
The early returns are good for the Quips as the team enters Friday’s game against Beaver Falls undefeated with the highest-scoring team in the WPIAL. The defense has allowed just six points in four games, and MJ Devonshire is on pace to set a national record for punt-return touchdowns in a season.
The wins and accolades will continue to come their way, but none of that matters to Warfield.
“I told them, don’t think I took this job to win games, because I didn’t. My main concern is about you and your lives. I don’t want them to think I’ll tolerate nonsense to win a game. If you aren’t taking care of your responsibilities, you’re not going to play. I’d rather lose a game than play with you not taking care of your responsibilities. My main focus isn’t about my record, it’s about pointing these kids in the right direction.”