It has been a summer of change for the Aliquippa football program.

Sure the Quips won their record 19th WPIAL championship last fall, appearing in the district title game for the 15th consecutive season before advancing to the PIAA Class 4A championship game for the second season in a row.

Aliquippa coach Mike Warfield achieved those feats behind the Quips’ now traditional stable of top-flight skill position players, including quarterback Quentin Goode and running backs Tiqwai Hayes and John Tracy — in addition to receivers Brandon Banks and D.J. Walker.

But with Warfield and his staff working to develop a new crop of two-way linemen to replace a dominant group nicknamed “The Trench Dawgs,” plenty will be different for Aliquippa this fall as it christens its newly renovated Carl Aschman Stadium later this month.

“With lower numbers we have to basically coach on our talent and not on our philosophy,” Warfield said. “We have to coach on what we have that particular year and that may change year to year. We are definitely going to have to make adjustments from last year.

“We’re still going to go at it,” he added. “No one is going to feel sorry for us, so we’ve got to get ready and be prepared.”

Aliquippa lost plenty of talent with the graduation of two-way linemen Naquan Crowder, Neco Eberhardt and Jason McBride — last year’s senior core of the “Trench Dawgs.”

Crowder, who is now a freshman at Cal U, McBride, now at IUP, and Eberhardt, now at Albany, pushed opposing defenses and offenses around last season. The massive linemen paved the way for the Quips’ 3,000 rushing yards, while combining for 150 tackles and 18 sacks.

While Warfield said it will be nearly impossible to re-create their size — Crowder is 6 feet 3, 341 pounds, McBride is 6-2, 298 pounds and Eberhardt is 6-2, 286 pounds — he and his coaching staff have faith in the players they are transitioning to the trenches for the Quips this season.

Warfield said his linemen will rely on a different set of skills now.

“We’ve got to play more of a speed game,” Warfield said. “Once you get down the stretch and deep in the playoffs you are going to have to be able to do both. We are just going to have to keep working toward that goal and hopefully at the end we’ll reach it.”

Senior offensive and defensive tackle Kamari Matthews is poised to lead Aliquippa in the trenches this season, along with classmate center and defensive tackle Braylon Wilcox.

“We’ve got to gear it up,” Warfield said. “We’ve got some good young talent, but you never know how they’re going to react once the official games start up. I’ve got confidence in them. I’ve got confidence in the coaching staff. We’ll be ready. To what degree, we’ll see.”

Aliquippa has relied on its “Trench Dawgs,” linemen who have pushed opponents around, for its success in the past. With several of the wide-bodies graduated, the Quips will be turning to smaller faster linemen this season. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Warfield said junior Devon Humphries, sophomore Justus Starks and freshman Miles Henderson are slated to join Matthews and Wilcox as starters along the offensive and defensive lines.

“Those three big guys leaving, I mean, it was a big piece of the team,” Wilcox said. “A bunch of young guys are coming in and they’re working every day. It’s going to be tough this season, but once we progress and get together, we are going to be straight.”

Matthews said Aliquippa’s linemen rely on their speed, footwork and technique this season.

“We’ve got little, smaller guys now,” Matthews said. “We are not as big as last year, so it’s really hard. It’s different.”

Regardless, the expectations are the same.

Class previews

“What we do in the trenches, it means a lot,” Wilcox said. “Tiqwai wouldn’t be Tiqwai if it wasn’t for the big guys up in front. Everything runs due to the offensive line first. Skill guys get all the glory and touchdowns and stuff, but it really starts in the trenches.”

No one in Aliquippa is likely expecting anything less from the Quips’ skill-position players this season.

Hayes rushed for 1,981 yards on 252 carries with 33 touchdowns as a sophomore last season, after he announced his presence as one of the WPIAL’s top young running backs a year earlier by rushing for 1,746 yards and 23 scores. He is joined in the backfield by Tracy, who contributed 827 yards and 11 scores last season, while Pitt linebacker recruit Cameron Lindsey added 214 yards and five scores.

“It’s good to have,” said Warfied of his stable of running backs. “I’d rather have it than not.”

Warfield said he has been particularly impressed by Hayes’ maturation this offseason.

“He works hard,” Warfield said. “It’s no secret. He hasn’t lost a sprint once conditioning started.

“Kids listen to him because he puts the work in,” he added. “He’s a beautiful kid on and off the field. He’s starting to become more vocal and we need that.”

Aliquippa quarterback Quentin Goode, left, and Tiqwai Hayes celebrate after Hayes scored a touchdown during practice on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, at the Pit. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Goode has also contributed mightily for the Quips. The quarterback completed 118 of 228 passes for 1,935 yards, 23 touchdowns and just six interceptions in 2022 after leading his team to a WPIAL and state title a year earlier throwing for 1,927 yards, 17 scores and just five picks.

The Aliquippa passing game will feature Banks, a Yale recruit, who racked up 398 yards and six touchdowns a season ago. The Quips will be without Walker, now a freshman at Ohio University, who caught a team-high 35 passes for 591 yards and 5 scores.

“I think he will be fine,” Warfield said of Goode. “We are going to rely on him to get everybody in the right positions and let him make some more in-game decisions. He has experience, he has played 30 games as a starter and been to the state championship twice, back to back. We’ve got trust in him.”

And, like his offense, Warfield said he is expecting some growing pains along the defensive line, but with Lindsey and Cleaster Longmire at linebacker and senior defensive end Jayace Williams, there should be plenty of havoc coming from the Quips’ front seven.

“We don’t have the three bigs up front, but we’ve got some guys who are going to fight,” Warfield said. “That’s all we ask them to do, is just fight.”

Banks and Hayes will anchor Aliquippa’s defensive backfield, along with Demarkus and Arison Walker.

Class Focus

“We aren’t as big up front anymore,” Lindsey said. “I think we’ve got a lot more speed all around now as opposed to just maybe being the linebacker and skill positions. I feel all around we’ve got pretty good lateral movement to be able to get from sideline to sideline.”

In addition to the new faces on his team, Lindsey said he is excited for the WPIAL to see its new facilities.

Aliquippa practices on its new field on Aug. 8. The Quips’ field, affectionately known as The Pit, has partnered with Heinz Kraft and named its new facility Heinz Field. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

The additions to Aliquippa’s stadium, affectionately known as “The Pit,” include new field turf, enhanced stadium lighting and a video scoreboard, in addition to new goal posts and bleachers.

“I feel like now we went from one of the worst stadiums ever to one of the best,” Lindsey said. “It’s been a great transition. Having it has just been the best.”

Those facilities are only going to improve. Heinz Kraft announced last month it would donate $1.3 million to build a new academic and athletic center attached to the field that will be rebranded as “Heinz Field.”

“We are fortunate for Kraft Heinz to take the time to come out and listen to us and hear our vision for what we are trying to accomplish for the kids as far as after-school programs, summer programs with the academic athletic center, with the new turf and the lights and scoreboard and the stands,” Warfield said. “We are very appreciative that they took a moment to hear us out and we were able to come together.”

Lindsey said he and his teammates are appreciative of all of the support they’ve received this summer, including the opportunity for him and his teammates to be in attendance at former Aliquippa, Pitt and New York Jets great Darrelle Revis’ Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

“Having the new Heinz Field name, it makes it pretty cool since we are always up there,” said Lindsey of the home stadium of Pitt and the Steelers, which is now named Acrisure Stadium. “Now it’s really our home.”

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

John Santa

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at