After a 13-0 start and back-to-back WPIAL titles, Aliquippa’s “Dream Team” finally met its match.

In a highly anticipated rematch one year in the making, Bishop McDevitt pushed the Quips around and controlled the tempo from start to finish en route to a dominating 41-18 victory in the PIAA Class 4A championship clash Thursday night at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, Pa. It marks the first state title in 27 years and only the second in school history for McDevitt (13-1), which had lost its previous four PIAA championship appearances.

Aliquippa (13-1) defeated the Crusaders in the 2021 title game, 34-27, after climbing out of an early 13-0 hole. This time, the deficit was too much to overcome, as the Quips fell to 4-5 all time in PIAA title games. Aliquippa had won 25 consecutive games dating back to last September, while McDevitt ended the season on a 13-game winning streak.

“We were sure enough trying [to come back],” said Aliquippa coach Mike Warfield. “The kids didn’t give up. They played until the end. Of course everyone is disappointed, but they played well. They were just better than us tonight. You have to give them credit.”

Star sophomore quarterback Stone Saunders lived up to his billing and then some, completing 10 of 16 passes for 167 yards and five touchdowns. Although he also threw three interceptions, Saunders did a stellar job of fitting the ball into tight windows against Aliquippa’s ball-hawking defense, which entered the game allowing only 117.8 total yards per game.

Saunders got a major assist from senior receiver Tyshawn Russell, who caught four passes for 121 yards and scored on all four receptions. Minnesota recruit Marquese Williams also had a big game with 24 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown.

For the Quips, John Tracy led the way with 77 yards on 15 carries, while Tiqwai Hayes carried 15 times for 70 yards while playing through a lower-body injury which occurred last week.

“It was coming out of his hand hot,” Warfield said about Saunders. “I like watching good quarterbacks play. Unfortunately, it was against us tonight. But he was making quick, precise decisions and delivering the ball. Plus, you have to respect their run. They have it on both ends as far as their run game and the passing game.”

The numbers might point to Saunders or Russell as the game’s MVP, but the real star of the show was defensive tackle Riley Robell. A defending PIAA heavyweight wrestling champion, Robell might as well have taken up permanent residence in the Quips backfield. Not fazed by the massive “Trench Dawgs” on Aliquippa’s offensive line, he forced two crucial fumbles while making several big hits and constantly pressuring Quips quarterback Quentin Goode and slowing down Aliquippa’s acclaimed running backs.

“He was even more impressive in person than he was on tape,” Warfield said.

Just like a year ago, the Quips fell into an early hole after going three-and-out on their opening possession. Saunders connected with Russell on a quick slant on McDevitt’s first offensive snap, and Russell outraced the defense for a 70-yard touchdown to give the Crusaders a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.

Aliquippa quarterback Quentin Goode and the Quips lost to Bishop McDevitt in the PIAA Class 4A football championship Thursday night at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, Pa. (Emmalee Reed/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Cam Lindsey got Aliquippa on the board with a 10-yard touchdown reception on the ensuing drive, but that was about the only thing that went right for the defending champs in the first half. Saunders hooked up with Russell for a 12-yard touchdown with 5:10 left in the half, then he found Rico Scott for another score after a fumble forced by Robell made it a 20-6 McDevitt lead at the half.

Robell then disrupted another handoff to force his second fumble of the game early in the third quarter, and the Crusaders again took advantage after recovering. Saunders fired two more touchdown passes to Russell in the quarter, giving McDevitt a seemingly insurmountable 34-6 lead — but the Quips refused to go away.

With the Crusaders driving again late in the third, Saunders made a rare mistake by lobbing an overthrown pass toward the sideline, and Hayes made him pay by returning an interception 54 yards for a score. D.J. Walker then came up with another interception for Aliquippa on the ensuing drive — his seventh interception of the season — setting up the Quips near midfield to start the final quarter.

Tracy and Hayes then put together back-to-back hard-nosed runs to set up a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Quentin Goode, cutting the deficit to 34-18 with 10:41 to play.

Although Aliquippa showed tremendous heart in battling back from the brink of a mercy rule, it turned out to be too little, too late. McDevitt put together a back-breaking drive capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run by Marquese Williams with 5:27 remaining, all but sealing the revenge-game victory for the Crusaders.

“These seniors — they came in with me my second year, so we sort of grew up together,” Warfield said. “It’s going to be very difficult to see them go, because they mean so much to the program. They set some higher standards. We always had high standards, but I think they raised them even higher.”

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at