ALIQUIPPA, Pa (KDKA) — It’s been a good postseason for local high school football, as five WPIAL teams are headed to Hershey to play in the state championships this week.
One of those teams is Aliquippa, which will play for the Class 4A championship on Thursday despite having a much smaller enrollment than the team they’ll be playing, and that’s something that doesn’t sit well with the people in Aliquippa.READ MORE: City Of Pittsburgh Begins Disciplinary Process Against 8 Officers Involved In Jim Rogers' Death
Aliquippa has long been a successful football program. So successful that for years, the team has voluntarily “played up” in classification so it can face better competition.
But two years ago, the PIAA instituted the “competitive balance rule,” which targeted teams that won postseason games while receiving more than three incoming transfers in a two-year period. That rule forced Aliquippa up another class into 4A.
“There’s not another team in the state, for sure, and there might not be another in the country that is being forced to play up three classifications,” said Aliquippa head football coach Mike Warfield.
The state’s rule was intended to keep teams from bringing in talent via transfers, which is something Warfield said is not happening.
“Our kids are transient,” Warfield said. “They’re trying to survive. It could be a family situation where they had to move in with an auntie one week, then come stay with mom or grandma next week. They’re just trying to survive.”READ MORE: Ford Recalls 200K Cars Due To Braking Issues
To prove Warfield’s point, take a look at Aliquippa’s practice situation this week. Due to lack of funding, its stadium, which is nearly condemned, doesn’t have artificial turf. The team has to bus to Hopewell High School just to hold practice.
“I agree with the rule, but there’s a flaw in the rule that could simply be corrected,” Warfield said. “Start schools from where their enrollment is and go from there.”
Just this week, the Quips found out that because of their success this year, the state will likely force them to move up another level into 5A next season, which would put them four classifications above their 1A enrollment.
“I’m mostly concerned with our kids’ safety and health,” Warfield said. “We don’t have the numbers that these 4A and 5A schools have, and I’m concerned that it’s going to be a risk to our kids’ physical and mental health.”
And despite playing schools much bigger than them, the Quips just keep on winning.
“Anything it takes for us to win, we’ll do,” Quips wide receiver Brandon Banks said.
“We try not to worry about it,” said Quips offensive lineman Jason McBride. “We just try to take every game one at a time and however many kids they got, we just dominate them. That’s what we do.”MORE NEWS: Pennsylvania Department of Revenue Taking Applications For Property Tax And Rent Rebate Program
If the state does force Aliquippa to move up into 5A next season, its superintendent has hinted at pulling out of the WPIAL and PIAA to play an independent schedule. But if the team did so, it wouldn’t be able to compete for championships like the ones in Hershey.