2022 WPIAL Football games take place at Acrisure Stadium

1A through 4A championships took place on Friday, Nov. 25, each team will make it to PIAA Championship tournaments

Written By Antonio Rossetti, Co-Sports Editor

The 2022 WPIAL football Championships took place on Friday, November 25 at Acrisure Stadium, and the WPIAL season finale presented an action-packed slate of games.

The games being played at the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pittsburgh Panthers is a WPIAL tradition and it caps off the WPIAL season. This year, there were four games played from 11 AM to 8 PM.

In High School football, there is parody and anything can happen at any given moment.  A monumental upset took place at the 11 AM matchup between the no. 1 Bishop Canevin Crusaders and the no. 10 Union Scotties.

The Scotties were the first double-digit seed to make the finals since 2010 and they were going up against a perennial powerhouse in Bishop Canevin.

Nonetheless, Union took the lead early, 8-0 and they didn’t look back. Braylon Thomas spearheaded the Scotties’ offense, rushing for 112 yards. The Scotties strung together 3 touchdowns in under 3 minutes in the second half, earning them their first WPIAL title in 63 years.

There are underdogs like the Scotties, but the Aliquippa Quips have made a reputation for being far from an underdog. Although the team is playing up in 4A despite having considerably fewer students than other 4A schools, the Quips made their way to the WPIAL title game against the no. 2 Central Valley Warriors.

The no. 1 Quips defeated Central Valley 34-7. The team was led by Tiqwai Hayes and John Tracy, who ran for a combined 220 yards, taking home the school’s 19th WPIAL title, the most in WPIAL history.

Aliquippa coach Mike Warfield enjoys the wins and taking home the title, but he said that the players learn a lot from the opportunity.

  “When you get a group of kids, set up four goals, and work towards that goal, and they accomplish the goal, I think it’s more than the sports,” Warfield said. “That turns into life. If you maintain and keep your head down and keep working, good things are going to happen. I’m always I was more satisfied with that more than anything more than winning the game is that this is something they could take on into their life lesson and learn for us when they are adults.”

The Quips didn’t take the opportunity for granted and they showcased their skill and their shut down defense, holding Central Valley to one touchdown, the fewest points they scored during the season.

“The kids maintain their focus and not overlook anything or any small detail that we had,” Warfield said. “Our offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator, coordinator, made sure the kids were prepared and they knew their assignments. And it was good to see how well the kids played collectively, together.”

Warfield added that the team naturally plays a physical brand of football and that’s what gives them the upper hand.

“It was all business,” Warfield said. “The kids were locked in. Film study sessions were great. Our walkthroughs are great. I just point to physicality. We are physical as we are, and we’re not going to get better or less, so we try to maintain that mental aspect of the game making sure the kids know their signs. They were mentally locked in and the physicality will come. That travels, and that’s going to come.”

Warfield mentioned that they won the battle up front and in the trenches.

“Those guys are experienced, they’ve been playing, three and four year starters, the maturity that they had, and really, their commitment to wanting to be successful you can see,” Warfield said. “I’m just so pleased to see them grow from freshman to senior year and I’m just happy for them because they deserve it. Nothing was given to them. They had to earn every bit of it.”

Football is a massive part of the community in Aliquippa. Warfield is happy for the kids that they got the opportunity to play in an NFL venue in front of their fans, friends, and family.

“It’s great for the community. It’s really great for the kids. I know they were excited about it, and the kids are having fun,” Warfield said. “They play well. They’ve been coached well, and that’s not me. It’s my assistants, and Vashawn Patrick,  associate head coach. It’s just a matter of doing it for each other, which means doing it for us and the community. I’m just happy for the kids and happy for the community.”

The players from Quips weren’t the only ones who enjoyed their time at the championship games. The no. 1 Steel Valley Iron Men capped off an undefeated season, winning their sixth WPIAL Championship.

The Iron Men won their last three titles within the last six years, winning it in 2016 and 2018. JeSean Wright, Steel Valley senior wide receiver, loved playing in Acrisure Stadium.

“It’s a dream come true,” Wright said. “Stepping on that field made it feel like I was in the NFL, seeing the crowd cheering on behind us on the sideline just made it real. It still doesn’t feel real to me. But it was great, it was a great experience. That’s something that’s going to stay with you forever.”

Wright was also motivated to play against the team that eliminated them in the semi-finals last year, the no. 2 Beaver Falls Tigers.

“I knew that I had to step it up because last year when we played I knew I didn’t have the best game, I was looking for blood redemption,” Wright said. “That’s what the whole team wanted. Just redemption. And getting it done, it really took a little weight off her chest.”

Wright added that he was happy his head coach, Ray Braszo, got his first championship after coaching for over 30 years. He coached at West Mifflin since 1989 and took the coaching job for the Iron Men in 2019.

The Iron Men played with intensity, winning 34-14. Wright said that momentum played a factor. The Iron men scored 19 straight points in the second half against Neshannock to make it to the title game.

“It carried the whole week and the whole week in practice,” Wright said. “We had a good week of practice. We just had a good week of school. Coming into Friday, we just knew we had to get it done. We knew we couldn’t come out in the 3rd quarter and let people score because we knew they were a good team…we just had to keep the intensity up the whole game.”

Overall, Wright said he’s grateful for the opportunity to play at the big stage, but there is still another championship he wants and that’s a state title.

“We want more, we want two of them,” Wright said. “We can’t settle, so we’ll get back Tuesday and we’ll be ready to get it.”

The 3A winner was the no. 1 Belle Vernon Leopards and they played in the 5 PM matchup, defeating the no. 2 Avonworth Antelopes 24-7.

The Leopards were led by five-star recruit Quinton Martin who sparked the offense with a 51-yard touchdown return.

The day started with the biggest upset in WPIAL history and was followed by three one-seeds winning the titles from 2A to 4A.

The WPIAL Championships bring a lot to the table, but most importantly, it gives the high school players the experience of a lifetime.