The WPIAL recently released its football alignments for the next two years. I, like most local high school football fans, believe that the committee corrected the egregious errors that negatively affected both Waynesburg Central and Carmichaels.
After the Raiders were forced to log hundreds of bus miles to be a part of the Beaver County-centered Tri-County West in Class 3A for two seasons, the Red and Black was not only wisely moved down to 2A, but into the much more geographically sensible Section 3.
Instead of dealing with the likes of Aliquippa, Beaver Falls and Central Valley, the Raiders will see some old familiar faces from Washington, McGuffey and others. Games against Chartiers-Houston, Beth-Center and Frazier should make for some buzz-worthy tri-county matchups.
After battling in 2A, the Mikes are back in their more familiar stomping grounds of 1A in the Tri-County South. Whoever takes over the team for the resigned Ryan Krull will inherit a roster that should compete right away in the suddenly wide-open TCS.
West Greene is graduating one of its most accomplished senior classes in history, Monessen is in danger of not having a team in 2020 and California will have plenty of holes to fill, leaving a void at the top of the league. If Jefferson-Morgan can bring back most of, if not all of its intriguing talent at the skill positions, I think the Rockets could be a surprise contender in the section. Getting Carmichaels back in the mix also guarantees the immediate future of one of the oldest and most spirited rivalries in the WPIAL.
Looking outside the county, Class 6A WPIAL runner-up Pine-Richland has been dropped to 5A. The Rams’ exit from the state’s largest classification appears to create a pretty easy path to the district title game for arch-rival Pittsburgh Central Catholic. The two teams have combined to win all four district titles in the classification.
However, 6A’s loss could be 5A’s gain when it comes to creating marquee playoff matchups. Pine-Richland joins Upper St. Clair, West Allegheny, Gateway, Penn-Trafford, Woodland Hills and Penn Hills in an already crowded top of the pigskin pecking order.
Speaking of changing the landscape, Aliquippa’s much publicized forced move to 4A after already playing up two classes for several seasons, all but guarantees a second-straight WPIAL crown for a young, talented Central Valley squad in 3A. One team that could throw a monkey wrench in the Warriors’ plans, however, are the 2019 WPIAL champions from Avonworth, which were bumped up for next fall.
The change could also yield a dream championship showdown between the Quips and Thomas Jefferson. After taking first in 3A in 2015, the Jaguars were bumped up to 4A and proceeded to win trophies in 2016 and 2017. Aliquippa has hoisted five championship trophies over the last nine years.
Moving down to 2A, Avonworth’s departure would leave a pretty clear path to the trophy for Washington, unless the latest addition to District 7, Ligonier Valley, can overcome the loss of several scholarship-level players along the line of scrimmage. The Rams went 12-1 last year and bring with them a tradition of success on the gridiron that should allow them to be immediately competitive in the WPIAL ranks.
Two years ago, it seemed like the WPIAL had no idea what it was doing when it came to creating a competitive landscape that benefited both its teams and their fans. These most recent changes seemed to have not only re-established sections that not only make sense, but that could yield some truly entertaining and memorable showdowns.