PITTSBURGH – Aliquippa lineman Solvauhn Moreland summarized it pretty well when he said first-year coach Mike Warfield is like “walking motivation.”
He has the presence needed to coach a championship team and has kept the Quips focused on the ultimate goal following a coaching change last offseason, when he replaced longtime coach Mike Zmijanic.
Warfield is now no stranger to the program or the players, and was quick to give them the credit.
“This group of seniors has been here every year since they’ve been in ninth grade,” said Warfield. “Some of these players are being recruited by Ivy League schools. Two players are over 4.0 (GPA). As a head coach, (it’s) what they’re doing in the classroom and the field.”
“It’s an experience (playing for Warfield),” said Moreland. “He’s very hard on us. We take it sometimes, but it’s a good thing. We knew him before he became the coach, he’s just walking motivation. He pushes us. What he gives to us, we want to give back.”
The win gets the Quips over a mini-hump as the team hadn’t won a WPIAL Championship since 2015. For many schools, that’s hardly a dry spell, but it was validation for the group of seniors who were the key players for a championship team.
“Every year, we have a group of seniors that say they’ve been together since little league,” said Moreland. “These guys have pushed each and every one of us. Everybody stepped up. Everyone in the locker room just works and pushes each other.”
KEEPING THE FAITH
After Derry cut the Aliquippa lead to 30-12 early in the third quarter, the Quips wanted to gain the momentum back.
The plan: Get the ball to their most explosive receiver.
On the Quips next offensive play, Eli Kosanovich hooked up with receiver Will Gipson for a 75-yard gain, and Aliquippa scored one play later.
The pass probably went four yards in the air. The rest was Gipson who ran down the sideline, completely reversed field and even conceded yardage to get to the opposite sideline and get down to the five-yard line.
“I had a couple drops in the first half and (coach) preached to me ‘next play, stay in the game,'” Gipson said. “So the first play I got the ball and made a big play, I just thank him for keeping me motivated and into the game.”
Kosanovich said the team knew Derry would make their push.
“Just weathering the storm. They had the momentum, we had to take it back and make some of our own. It’s a game of runs, like coach (Warfield) told us in May.”
CLEANING IT UP
It was a near perfect game for Aliquippa.
The Quips scored early and often, played suffocating defense and cruised on their way to a 17th WPIAL Championship.
If there’s one negative to take away it was the penalties.
Aliquippa was flagged 18 times for 144 yards, including 30 on one play.
A seemingly harmless run toward the sideline for Derry resulted in an illegal hands to the face followed by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Boom, 30 yards in one play.
Warfield was in good spirits about the penalties and said the team was preparing for something to not go their way.
“Of course, we don’t want to see them. I think it cost us one touchdown, maybe two,” he said. “But that happens. We spoke to it all week and all year, I think it was Thursday this week, I guaranteed them something bad would happen. My challenge to them was how do they respond when something bad happens. And they responded well.”