Aliquippa debuts at new Heinz Field with convincing victory over Armstrong

Saturday, September 2, 2023 | 12:47 AM

Aliquippa debuted its renovated stadium Friday night the only way the Quips knew how, with a dominant victory.

An overcapacity crowd of more than 3,500 gathered at the newly named Heinz Field to watch the Quips defeat Armstrong, 37-19, in a nonconference contest.

“Now I finally can reflect back on it,” Aliquippa coach Mike Warfield said. “I first had a responsibility to make sure we went out there and performed and would win a football game. But looking up in the stands, looking at the Heinz Field sign lit up was a pretty sight.”

The large crowd, pregame tailgate and other activities helped make the night special.

Kraft Heinz donated $1.3 million to Aliquippa School District to help fund renovations at Carl A. Aschman Stadium, which was built in the 1930s and was renovated over the past year-plus to revive “The Pit,” which had deteriorated in recent decades. The stadium is now called Heinz Field.

“There were so many people,” Warfield said. “Not just from Aliquippa, but from the whole area. We have a program with a lot of history to it.”

The game was deadlocked early, with the teams exchanging touchdowns in the first quarter. After a 12-12 tie through the first quarter, Aliquippa scored 25 unanswered points. With the absence of a Week Zero game, Warfield expected a slow start.

“That wasn’t too surprising to me,” Warfield said. “Last year, we didn’t have a Week Zero, and this year we didn’t have a Week Zero. I think giving our kids rest is more important than Week Zero. What that does is makes us start out slow in getting caught up to the speed of the game. Once we got caught up, we played well.”

A fumble and two turnovers on downs deep in Aliquippa territory hurt Armstrong.

“We call them SIW’s or self-inflicted wounds,” Armstrong coach Frank Fabian said. “When you make mistakes, good teams capitalize on them. That’s what Aliquippa did. The margin for error is so small when you’re playing them. When you make those errors, they just pounce on them.”

Sophomore Colt Sprankle and freshman Jaydon Oliver split reps at quarterback for the River Hawks. Sprankle threw a 16-yard touchdown to Isaiah Brown in the first quarter.

“I liked their grit and I liked the way they battled,” Fabian said. “I thought they played well. We have four games before we play in the conference. We’re in evaluation mode.”

Running back Tiqwai Hayes led the charge for Aliquippa, scoring three rushing touchdowns. The junior scored a touchdown in each of the first three quarters.

“He wants to be great,” Warfield said. “For him, it’s not good enough to just be good. I haven’t seen him lose a sprint all spring. That’s who he is. Not just on the field, but in the classroom as well.”

For Fabian, the test of playing Aliquippa is worth it.

“We’re gonna learn a lot from our film tomorrow morning,” he said. “Those guys are going to see their mistakes. For that reason, I think it’s good.”

Despite the slow start, Warfield was pleased with his team sticking with it.

“I liked that they stuck together. There was no complaining. The kids just kept playing. I’m pleased with that.”

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