5 things to watch in Week 1 high school football

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Thursday, August 29, 2019 | 7:53 PM


Aliquippa’s Mike Warfield would like to see old Aschman Stadium renovated, but the second-year coach started with the field house that holds the team’s lockers and weight room.

There are now flat-screen TVs for watching game film, modern workout equipment and a bright-red locker room that’s far more welcoming than before.

Soon, it’ll also have a new name.

The field house will be named after Mike Ditka, Sean Gilbert, Ty Law and Darrelle Revis before Friday night’s game against Waynesburg. The festivities are scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Gilbert, Law and Revis have said they will attend the event, Warfield said. Ditka was unable to accept his invitation.

“It’s time to give back to them because they’ve given us so much,” Warfield said.

“They’ve given our kids a sense of direction,” he added. “Everyone talks about finances or this and that, but just giving our kids an opportunity to say, ‘Dang, they come from the same place and the same circumstances I came from. If I work hard, I can do it, too.’ ”

All four starred for the Quips and later became first-round NFL draft picks.

Ditka graduated from Aliquippa in 1957, Gilbert in ’89, Law in ’92 and Revis in 2004. Ditka and Law are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with Revis likely to join them.

Protective pads line the outside wall of the field house, which sits just behind the end zone. Some pads commemorate WPIAL football titles. Others hung Thursday honor Ditka, Gilbert, Law and Revis.

The official name is DGLR Field House.

“I don’t want our kids to take stuff for granted,” Warfield said. “We might not have advantages in certain areas, but we’ve still got that Quip pride, and that’s priceless. People would rather have that than money. They’ve given us so much. This program has meant so much to so many people in the community. We need to celebrate that.”

The locker room door to the field was replaced during renovations and now hangs from the ceiling inside, a reminder for current players about those who passed through it before.

Next on Warfield’s stadium wish list is a new scoreboard and artificial turf.

“We’re trying to get back to having pride in our facilities,” Warfield said.

2. Ready or not?

It might seem crazy, but conference titles could be on the line Friday night.

In decades past, WPIAL football teams had at least a couple of weeks of nonconference games before facing a game that truly mattered.

That’s no longer the case.

Consider, either Gateway or Penn-Trafford will claim the early lead in the Class 5A Big East. The two rivals finished first and second in the conference last season — separated by only one game.

It’s the same situation for Charleroi and Washington, who finished first and second in the Class 2A Interstate last year. They play Friday night at Washington.

3. Worth the wait

Most WPIAL football teams started their seasons least week, but not everybody.

There are 19 teams playing season openers Friday, including four that will take the field for the first time with their new coaches: Bethel Park’s Brian DeLallo, West Allegheny’s Chris Lucas, Steel Valley’s Ray Braszo and Seton LaSalle’s Mike Zmijanac.

4. Big week for Big 7

One week could reveal a lot about the Class A Big Seven. The top four teams in that conference meet head to head Friday night.

Third-ranked Laurel visits No. 4 Rochester at 7:30 p.m., and defending WPIAL champion OLSH travels to Sto-Rox at 7 p.m.

Only the top two teams from each Class A conference are guaranteed WPIAL playoff spots, but the third-place team could claim a wild card.

5. Off and running

West Greene’s Ben Jackson, the WPIAL’s top returning rusher, is off to another strong start. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior topped 4,000 career rushing yards last season and appears on his way to 5,000.

Jackson rushed for 253 yards on 15 carries and scored six touchdowns last week in a 61-20 victory over Cameron, W.Va.

Next on West Greene’s schedule is Bentworth, a team that surrendered 241 rushing yards to Jackson last season.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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