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Scheduling quite a task for City League teams

| Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012, 11:10 p.m.
Allderdice's Patrick Ferguson runs the ball following a catch during practice on Thursday August 16, 2012. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
University Prep's head coach Lou Berry watches his players during camp on Thursday August 16, 2012. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review

University Prep coach Lou Berry was willing to travel almost anywhere this season to keep his players from sitting idle three weekends this fall.

Ohio? No problem.

New York? Sure.

In fact, had plans not stalled, Berry and his players would have bused to Michigan this week.

Instead, they will start their season with an open date, highlighting the logistical challenges faced by the six teams left in the streamlined City League.

“It was tough to tell them we don't have a game because they're really excited to get out there,” said Berry, who admits in hindsight that his program waited too long to schedule. “We as coaches see the value in another week of practice. But these kids really want to get out there and play.”

With so few City teams, each program must find three nonleague opponents to complete an eight-game schedule — which is one game shorter than 2011.

University Prep, the defending City champion, had just six games on its schedule until earlier this month, when it arranged a Sept. 8 game against Aquinas Institute in Rochester, N.Y.

“They really have rolled out the red carpet for us,” said Berry, adding that Aquinas offered to help feed and lodge them.

Many City schools finalized schedules last spring when dates for league games at Cupples Stadium were decided. But each year has become a little more complicated. That's because the City League was reduced from eight teams to six this summer when Oliver and Langley closed. This came a year after Peabody closed, and about a decade after South Vo-Tech folded.

When Westinghouse coach Monte Robinson was playing tailback there in the 1990s, the City League was 10 teams strong. And scheduling wasn't an issue. This year, Westinghouse will travel to Buckeye Local and Steubenville in Ohio, as well as Wheeling Central Catholic in West Virginia.

“We get the schedule done,” Robinson said, “but it's tough, because we end up scheduling a couple teams that are probably above our class. But we really didn't have a choice, because we needed the games.”

The new scheduling system that the WPIAL installed this year limited the City League's options. In years past, WPIAL schools scheduled at least one of their nonconference games. A year ago, every City League team had one WPIAL opponent on its schedule. But beginning this year, the WPIAL schedules all games and provided no room for non-WPIAL opponents.

“We're going to miss that,” said Berry, whose team played Summit Academy in 2011. “I'm hoping we can get that back.”

That left the City League to look elsewhere for at least this year and next, including 11 games against out-of-state schools. Allderdice has games against three West Virginia teams. Westinghouse has two in Ohio. Carrick will travel to Fort Hill, Md., a familiar face in the shrinking City League.

Allderdice coach Jerry Haslett believes we might be seeing the final days of the City League. The WPIAL realigns every two years, meaning next year's schedule will be similar to this. But come 2014, things could change.

“Maybe we'll be in the WPIAL after that,” Haslett said. “I don't know. I would probably think so.”

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at charlan@tribweb.com or 412-380-5666.

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