HERSHEY, Pa. — As the Aliquippa football team slid into position around the PIAA Class-4A championship trophy on the field at Hersheypark Stadium Thursday night, head coach Mike Warfield stood back. He was just watching, almost as a proud father would. After all, they’re his boys too.
“It’s incredible, they deserve all the credit,” Warfield said. “They should be commended; they should be celebrated. I know there’s a lot of talk going on about the classification, but these kids, for what they’ve done has never been done before, they should be celebrated.”
Aliquippa battled back from an early 13-0 deficit against Bishop McDevitt, a microcosm of the Quips’ 2021 season, to clinch the 4A state title just two years removed from being bumped up from 3A — despite the enrollment of a small 1A school. The Quips chose to play in 3A, but the jump to 4A was forced. And a likely jump to 5A is unacceptable.
After winning the WPIAL 4A title last month, there was talk that Aliquippa would once again jump up a division. The PIAA’s “competitive balance formula” that factors in postseason success, along with the number of transfers, to determine reclassification. So, four points for a PIAA championship berth, three for semifinals, two for quarterfinals, etc. With three transfers and six points, the PIAA reclassifies a school up a division over the next two-year cycle.
And while Aliquippa’s success — in the face of what should be insurmountable odds — is undeniable, Warfield said it wasn’t transfer players that played Thursday night, it was Aliquippa kids.
“I don’t want to hear nothing about no transfers because ain’t no transfer played tonight,” Warfield said. “Ain’t no transfer played in the playoffs, so I don’t want to hear anything about transfers. So anybody that tries to mix that word up with recruiting or transfers … not true. Not true.”
With the Quips continuing to move up and continuing to win, Warfield said his kids don’t care if they’re playing 1A or 6A football. If they’re told they’re playing Thursday at 7, he said, they’re gonna show up. But it’s his job as their coach to take care of his kids, he said.
“But at some point, me as an adult, I have to make sure I’m looking after my kids,” Warfield said. “To be moved up, we didn’t practice with our big guys for like two weeks because they were so beat up, they couldn’t practice because we were trying to rest them. This week we couldn’t practice them because we played Friday and we were coming back to play on Thursday.”
The Quips won the 4A state title, but the toll left on the kids playing the games is apparent. And with some from Aliquippa landing in the district due to circumstances outside of their own control, the decision to elevate Aliquippa to 5A is downright dangerous despite the PIAA’s competitive balance formula — that doesn’t take the human-interest factor into the thought process.
Aliquippa is appealing the PIAA decision, but if it is upheld, the Quips will consider leaving the WPIAL and PIAA outright.