MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — Mike Warfield stood around his players and consoled them after a deflating, 41-18, loss to Bishop McDevitt in the PIAA Class 4A State Title game at Harry C. Chapman III Memorial Field Thursday night.
The Quips (13-1) ended their 25-game winning streak with the loss against the Crusaders (13-1). A part of that winning streak for the Quips included a state title victory over the Crusaders in 2021, 34-27.
This time around, instead of celebrating with the team, Warfield comforted them and thanked them for their effort all season. He spoke postgame and said that the team has no regrets with their performance.
“They beat us today,” Warfield said of Bishop McDevitt’s performance. “They came out and they were prepared and like I always teach the kids about regrets. If you’re not prepared, if you didn’t do what you’re supposed to do, then you should be regretting it. These kids have nothing to regret. They were ready. They played well the whole season. They just beat us tonight. It was a better team tonight and I got to tip my hat to those guys. To the coaching staff, they came ready to play. We had a little bit of turnovers at the beginning. Some bad decision making, but they beat us. No excuses. Simple as that.”
He also understands losing in a state championship final. Warfield, as a senior and member of the Quips, lost the PIAA Class 3A Basketball Championship to York Catholic.
Warfield said that his kids are competitors, and their reactions aren’t shocking. He said that later on in life, they’ll learn from this loss and mature from it.
“It’s tough for kids that are 17-18 years old, sometimes they don’t understand the meaning of defeat,” Warfield said. “You don’t grow without pain. There’s no growth without pain. This is painful and they’re going to learn from it.”
Warfield has changed the Aliquippa program for the better since coming in. He just completed his fifth season and has three WPIAL titles as well as two state championships to go along with them.
Former head coach Mike Zmijanac coached the Quips for 17 years from 2001-17, where he won six WPIAL titles, but just one state title.
The size difference between the two schools in this matchup is also a big difference. Aliquippa has around 400-425 students while Bishop McDevitt, a private, Catholic school, has 757 kids in the 2022-23 school year.
The Quips consistently play above what their class normally would be for their size. They moved up to 3A when the PIAA moved to six classifications in 2016 and then moved up to 4A in 2020.
The reason for Aliquippa moving up to 4A despite a stagnant school population is due to the PIAA Competitive Balance rule.
The rule started in 2018 and applies only to football and basketball. The state uses it to measure transfers and postseason success to put teams in a higher classification
For instance, if a team accrues six points (four for PIAA title berth, three for a semifinal berth, two for a quarterfinal berth, etc.) and three transfers, a school is reclassified up a division. The PIAA awarded The Quips four points last year — and six over the past two seasons. And with eight transfers, the Quips exceeded the limit.
The PIAA announced that Aliquippa would move up to 5A, despite having a 1A enrollment. Aliquippa voluntarily chose to play in 3A initially and then moved up to 4A due to the rule.
Thanks to Warfield, Aliquippa and alums like former NFL player Ty Law in their appeal to the PIAA, the Quips stayed in 4A this season, but still have to fight in the future to be where they belong.
This is why they play against teams like Bishop McDevitt, who have a slew of Division I athletes. This includes a duo of three-star Class of 2023 players in running back Marquese Willams, a Minnesota commit, and offensive lineman Gabriel Arena, a Virginia Tech commit.
It also includes class of 2024 four-star wide receiver Rico Scott, who holds offers from Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia and Power 5 schools like Auburn, Michigan and Texas A&M. Finally, 2025 quarterback Stone Saunders, who earned offers from Pitt, Penn State, Michigan and Georgia, caps off a fantastic team.
Saunders and Strong combined for a touchdown in the second quarter on a 12-yard slant route, displaying the combined talent Bishop McDevitt possesses.
Warfield didn’t give his team any excuses and said that his team played a great season as a whole. He also said that being able to perform at a high level while playing in a higher classification shows how good Aliquippa really are as a team.
“People never want to talk about the elephant in the room, as far as us playing up,” Warfield said. “For us to do that, that’s incredible and that’s all I’m going to say about that because I don’t want to take from these guys’ accomplishments.”