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WPIAL to have just 9 Class 6A football teams next fall

Chris Harlan
| Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, 11:48 a.m.
Bethel Park's Tanner Volatti pulls away from Norwin's Gage Luptak Friday, Sept. 15, 2017 at Black Hawk Stadium.
Chaz Palla
Bethel Park's Tanner Volatti pulls away from Norwin's Gage Luptak Friday, Sept. 15, 2017 at Black Hawk Stadium.

The odds could be 1 in 9 to win a WPIAL Class 6A football title.

The PIAA on Friday released enrollment numbers for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years, and the drastic difference was that the WPIAL has only nine Class 6A football teams for next season.

Bethel Park, Penn Hills, Peters Township and Shaler are dropping to Class 5A under the updated classifications that cut the largest football class at 561 boys and above. A fifth 6A football school, Altoona, is leaving the WPIAL.

Schools have until Dec. 6 to elect to “play up,” so it's possible a 5A team could move up voluntarily. But either way, the WPIAL has a dilemma.

The teams could form one large 6A conference that stretches from Butler to Canon-McMillan to Hempfield, but how would the playoff structure work? Would eight of the nine qualify for the postseason?

The WPIAL strategic planning committee will discuss the issue Dec. 12, said WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley.

“Could you do hybrids … and somehow be creative?” said O'Malley, suggesting a combined 6A/5A classification. “We're going to have to look at all kinds of things.”

Those decisions must be made in the coming weeks by the WPIAL board and its committees. New WPIAL conference and section alignments for fall sports are typically revealed in January.

Penn Hills coach Jon LeDonne expected to sit down soon with his school's administration to decide what's best for the football team, dropping to Class 5A or voluntarily staying in 6A.

“(Class) 5A puts you with teams that have (enrollment) numbers more like yours,” said LeDonne, whose school lists 498 boys. “It gets you away from some of the giants in 6A like Pine-Richland, NA and Central Catholic. But at the same time, 5A top to bottom, is brutal.”

Among the other football teams switching classes, McKeesport will drop to Class 4A next season unless the Tigers elect to play up. McKeesport lists 335 boys, down from 439 two years ago.

Beaver, a Class 3A semifinalist this year, will join 4A. Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic will jump to 3A. Also on the rise are Albert Gallatin and Mars to 5A, along with Class 2A newcomers Carmichaels, Fort Cherry, Shenango, Summit Academy and Western Beaver.

The other football teams in position to drop next season are Uniontown to Class 3A; Ellwood City, McGuffey, Shady Side Academy, Southmoreland and Valley to 2A; and Bentworth, Chartiers-Houston, Laurel, Serra Catholic and Vincentian Academy to A. Vincentian did not field a team this season.

In other sports, Latrobe baseball is headed to Class 6A after winning the WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A title last season. Penn Hills would drop to 5A in both boys and girls basketball.

The PIAA realigns its classifications every two years based on enrollment figures from students in grades 9, 10 and 11.

The full list is available at piaa.org .

For football, basketball, baseball and softball, that largest-to-smallest school list is divided evenly into six groups. The new enrollment parameters for football are 1 to 131 boys for Class A, 132-198 for 2A, 199-272 for 3A, 273-384 for 4A, 385-560 for 5A and above 560 for 6A.

Soccer and volleyball are divided into four classes. Cross country and field hockey have three. Golf, lacrosse, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and wrestling have two.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

Football classifications for 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Teams have until Dec. 6 to voluntarily play up in classification.

Class 6A

WPIAL: North Allegheny 1,089, Seneca Valley 865, Butler 728, Hempfield 712, Mt. Lebanon 651, Central Catholic 635, Norwin 632, Pine-Richland 631, Canon-McMillan 628

City League (District 8): Allderdice 623

Class 5A

WPIAL: Bethel Park 558, Peters Township 549, Baldwin 530, Upper St. Clair 530, Latrobe 529, Connellsville 528, Penn-Trafford 519, Fox Chapel 516, Penn Hills 498, Shaler 498, Plum 461, Woodland Hills 461, Franklin Regional 446, Kiski Area 446, North Hills 446, Moon 445, Armstrong 440, Gateway 440, Hampton 400, West Allegheny 395, Chartiers Valley 394, Mars 390, Albert Gallatin 386

City League (District 8): Brashear 540

Class 4A

WPIAL: Trinity 384, South Fayette 362, Laurel Highlands 359, Montour 350, Thomas Jefferson 341, Indiana 340, McKeesport 335, Greensburg Salem 328, West Mifflin 327, Knoch 324, Ringgold 315, Ambridge 312, New Castle 307, Belle Vernon 305, Blackhawk 290, Highlands 281, Beaver 277

Class 3A

WPIAL: Uniontown 272, Elizabeth Forward 256, Yough 255, Derry 253, Quaker Valley 248, Mount Pleasant 246, Central Valley 243, South Park 239, Hopewell 234, Waynesburg 231, Freeport 228, Burrell 219, CWNC 217, Keystone Oaks 212, Beaver Falls 209, Deer Lakes 201

City League (District 8): Obama Academy 253, University Prep 245, Westinghouse 240, Perry 234

Class 2A

WPIAL: Freedom 196, Southmoreland 195, Valley 193, McGuffey 185, Shady Side Academy 180, Charleroi 179, Ellwood City 177, Beth-Center 176, Washington 173, East Allegheny 170, New Brighton 170, South Allegheny 170, Steel Valley 170, Brownsville 163, Avonworth 160, Neshannock 156, Seton LaSalle 156, Riverside 155, Frazier 153, Carlynton 152, Fort Cherry 149, Apollo-Ridge 148, Brentwood 148, Mohawk 148, Western Beaver 146, Summit Academy 144, Burgettstown 140, South Side Beaver 136, Shenango 135, Carmichaels 132

District 6: Ligonier Valley 197

Class A

WPIAL: Laurel 131, Bentworth 130, Serra Catholic 127, Northgate 121, Riverview 121, Sto-Rox 119, Jeannette 118, Chartiers-Houston 117, Vincentian Academy 116, OLSH 113, Aliquippa 110, California 110, Springdale 102, Cornell 98, Bishop Canevin 96, Leechburg 96, Greensburg Central Catholic 97, Monessen 92, Union 91, Jefferson-Morgan 90, West Greene 88, Rochester 86, Clairton 77, Avella 61, Mapletown 61, Imani Christian 31

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