What we learned in Week 1: New WPIAL approach leads to competitive schedule
Saturday, September 3, 2022 | 8:26 PM
This was the most competitive Week 1 in recent WPIAL history, but that probably wasn’t a coincidence.
The WPIAL made a major change in recent years to the way it schedules nonconference games, an adjustment that seemed evident in the final scores Friday night. In all, there were five overtime games, including three that needed a second OT. Seven other WPIAL games were decided by three points or fewer.
And among the 58 WPIAL-scheduled games, only seven ended in shutouts.
It’s only Week 1, but so far, so good.
Since 2020, the WPIAL has handpicked nonconference opponents, replacing a grid system that had randomly assigned games. But this year, the WPIAL took that customization a step further.
For the first time, teams were given a say in who they wanted to play. Schools were asked to provide several out-of-conference opponents they’d prefer to see on their schedules, and two they’d like to avoid.
WPIAL administrators and football committee members put that info to use when they met over multiple days to create and finalize the 2022 and ’23 schedules.
“We really made a conscious effort to poll schools on who they wanted to play and who they didn’t want to play,” Burrell said. “Did we meet every request? No. But we did do our due diligence and the best that we could.
“Even though it takes several days and several drafts, it was well worth it in my mind. And from what I’ve heard from coaches, other athletic directors, other schools, they’re just as pleased with it.”
The best in 2A
Might the best Class 2A team in Western Pennsylvania not play in the WPIAL?
City League team Westinghouse could make that argument after celebrating a win Friday over the state’s top-ranked team in Class A. The Bulldogs traveled to the Harrisburg area and defeated Steelton-Highspire, 39-18, on its home turf.
“It could be (true), but we can’t think like that,” Westinghouse coach Donta Green said. “We’ve got to continue to get better every week.”
Green said he sought out Steelton-Highspire and Clairton in an effort to make Westinghouse’s schedule tougher. The team also has non-league games against Butler and Kennedy Catholic later this season.
“The biggest thing (these wins accomplish) is cancelling out all the noise our kids hear constantly,” Green said. “Talk that City League football isn’t good, that we can’t compete with anybody in the WPIAL, that we play a weak schedule. … A win like this just solidifies the confidence in our guys that we’re willing to compete with whoever.”
Blast from the past
There were some handshakes and hugs with former players after the game, which Knause said he appreciated, but was disappointed the pregame reception was less friendly. Many were surprised when he’d left his alma mater to work as football coach and assistant principal at Trinity.
“Some things happened pregame that I wasn’t thrilled about, but I can’t control that,” said the 1996 Chartiers Valley grad, who coached the Colts for five years. “At the end of the day, I think those kids at Chartiers Valley know I genuinely care about them. But I’m at Trinity now, and these kids know I’m invested in them.”
Chartiers Valley had a breakthrough year under Knause in 2020, when they went 6-2 overall, 4-1 in the Parkway Conference, and reached the WPIAL playoffs. He said this Week 1 matchup wasn’t one he relished or used as added motivation at practice.
“I’m glad it’s over,” he said. “Let’s put it that way.”
Only 10 teams in the WPIAL allowed more points per game last season than Hempfield. Opponents averaged 38.4 against the Spartans.
This year, nobody has allowed fewer.
The Spartans have given up only three points combined in two games. They’re one of five defenses that already have played twice and allowed a touchdown or less.
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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