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High school notebook: Gateway football falls to Class AAA based on new PIAA enrollment figures

| Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, 2:18 p.m.

Newly compiled PIAA enrollment figures would drop Gateway football to Class AAA for the next two seasons, athletic director Randy Rovesti said. But the school has until Dec. 10 to decide whether to voluntarily remain in Class AAAA.

“We haven't decided just yet what we're going to do,” said Rovesti, who received the PIAA's updated numbers Monday. “We'll talk to the superintendent, get the principals together, talk to the head coach and see what everybody thinks.”

The PIAA on Friday mailed information to each member school. The state's complete list of realigned classifications for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years has not been made public.

Under the new PIAA football classifications, Class AAAA will include schools with more than 492 boys enrolled in grades 9, 10 and 11. Class AAA has between 300 and 492, Class AA has 175 to 299 and Class A has fewer than 175.

Each cutoff dropped by about 10 to 15 boys from the current two-year alignment, when Class AAAA was 506 and above. The two smallest teams in Class AAAA, Plum and McKeesport, will remain above the new cutoff, their athletic directors said.

Gateway has excelled as one of the smaller schools in Class AAAA. The Gators reached the WPIAL championship game four times in the past decade. The team was 8-3 this season and lost to eventual champion Central Catholic, 27-21, in the quarterfinals.

Among the other WPIAL teams affected, Yough jumps to Class AAA, Highlands and Derry drop to Class AA, and Riverside slips to Class A. Other changes might be revealed once the PIAA releases its list. However, reigning WPIAL champion South Fayette remains in Class AA despite expectations that district growth would move the Lions to Class AAA. But, like Gateway, the school voluntarily could move up.

With 302 boys in the previous realignment (eight fewer than Derry), Highlands was the WPIAL's smallest Class AAA football school. Coach Sam Albert welcomes the move.

“After I got up and spoke at our last pep assembly, I said to the principal: ‘Is everybody here?' ” said Albert, who has coached at the school for 10 years. “He started laughing and said, ‘Yeah, we've dropped.' When I first started at Highlands, we were Quad. We've come down that far.”

The PIAA will finalize classifications at its Dec. 12 meeting and then release the list to the public. The WPIAL football committee will set conferences Jan. 3 for WPIAL Board of Control approval Jan. 21.

Hoops power moving up

The PIAA will release classification for its other sports. Among the anticipated changes, Chartiers Valley boys basketball will return to Class AAAA after two seasons in Class AAA.

The PIAA set the Class AAAA enrollment cutoff at 412 boys, a number Chartiers Valley surpasses, athletic director Frank Vulcano said.

Home of a legend

A notable out-of-district boys basketball game this season will be New Castle's visit to Kobe Bryant Gymnasium to face Lower Merion on Jan. 18. Bryant, a 1996 graduate of the Philadelphia high school, donated more than $400,000 toward the 1,300-seat gym that opened in 2010.

Lower Merion beat New Castle, 67-63, in last season's PIAA Class AAAA semifinals.

Finals attendance

Despite cold and snow, the WPIAL football championships drew approximately 17,500 to Heinz Field for Saturday's four games, executive director Tim O'Malley said.

“We'd obviously like to see more,” O'Malley said, “but in light of the weather — and how negatively it was forecast in advance — that was as many as we could have hoped for.”

There were 18,601 in attendance at the 2012 finals.

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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