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WPIAL

‘Just Finish:’ Aliquippa Football Propelled by Offensive Line

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ALIQUIPPA, Pa. — When Aliquippa head coach Mark Warfield broke it down with his team after a 63-6 win over New Castle Friday night at the Pit, it signified the end of a regular season in which the Quips went 9-1 and clinched the top spot in the WPIAL Class 4-A Parkway conference. However, he stressed the importance of actually finishing. This season, high school careers and everything else in life.

And his team took the message to heart, echoing his resolve to finish this season a month and a half from now.

“We just gotta keep working hard practice every day, keep our line and everything straight and get our minds right,” senior wide receiver Cyair Clark said after a two-touchdown performance against New Castle, reiterating Warfield’s message of, ‘just having to finish.’

It’s been a long, hard-fought 10 game season, but the WPIAL and, if the Quips can indeed finish, PIAA playoffs are a whole different beast. After an unbeaten regular season in 2020, Aliquippa advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals and bowed out to eventual state champion Thomas Jefferson.

While the Quips are a younger team this season, a lot of those players from last season, like Clark and junior lineman Naquan Crowder, are back again and certainly remember the sting of defeat. Crowder knows it’s time to finish hard, and he just wants to keep it simple.

“There ain’t no message, just continue to finish,” Crowder said. “Gotta come out and bust every team in the mouth that we come against. Every team.”

Aliquippa certainly busted New Castle in the mouth Friday night, the defense leaving New Castle quarterback Christopher Hood running for his life on every play and the offense allowing the Quips’ running backs to run roughshod on the New Castle defense with power blocking. It was a plan executed to near perfection by Crowder and the Quips’ linemen.

“Our game plan was just come out and bust them,” Crowder said. “That’s all we needed to do, our defensive line played good, it doesn’t matter what condition we play in, we just gotta come out and beat ’em. We just play them good upfront, we stuff them up and everybody else gets hyped.”

A platoon of Aliquippa running backs, freshman Tiqwai Hays, freshman Cameron Lindsey, sophomore John Tracy, junior Quaylon Darby and senior Floyd Sims, ran for five touchdowns and consistently caused havoc for the New Castle defense in slicing through the Hurricanes’ defense with sharp cuts, power moves and everything in between. Clark, who scored his pair of touchdowns on a catch and run of 47 yards and a 27-yard strike in the back of the end zone from sophomore quarterback Quentin Goode, credits the offensive line providing the foundation for the success the Quips’ offense has achieved this season.

“Our line,” Clark said. “Our line [has] really been picking up after these couple weeks, from the first game to this game, they’ve been working hard every day at practice. They’ve just been doing their job, and this is how it’s been going.”

Clark said the offensive game plan was to come into the New Castle game with the right mindset, handle business and turn the focus toward the playoffs — and a championship run. Now it’s just time for Aliquippa to finish the job. With big, mauling linemen controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, it’s just what Warfield has been teaching his team.

“At practice every day, coach Mike tells us that we’ve gotta keep pushing, keep working and keep doing what we doin’,” Crowder said. “That’s why we depend on our running backs to make the holes, create the holes and run the rock. You see what happens, Tiqwai Hays just hit 1,000 yards.”

Nine wins and a conference title is certainly an accomplishment, but for Aliquippa, it’s still just the beginning. The story is far from finished.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker

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