George Guido: New enrollment figures could alter WPIAL landscape

Tuesday, October 15, 2019 | 4:43 PM

Tuesday concluded what is the biggest, biennial, off-the-field event in Pennsylvania high school sports.

It was the end of the 15-day period where schools report their enrollment to the PIAA for reclassification purposes.

Every two years, the PIAA takes enrollment figures for male and female students currently in ninth, 10th and 11th grades at member schools. Then, the PIAA determines which classification each schools’ teams will play in by taking the number of schools in a given sport divided by the number of classes.

For example, there are about 600 schools that play football, and they are divided by six (the number of classes).

The 100 largest schools play in Class 6A, the next 100 play in 5A, and so on.

Schools can voluntarily jump up to a larger classification, but cannot opt to play in a smaller one.

For the past two seasons, Aliquippa has had a Class A enrollment, but the Quips play football in Class 3A. In girls basketball, Apollo-Ridge has had a Class 3A enrollment, but prefers Class 4A in order to keep local rivalries like Burrell, Freeport and Highlands.

Many fans don’t realize the WPIAL does not determine which class a school plays in. The league gets the data from the PIAA then arranges the teams in conferences with accompanying playing schedules.

There is currently sentiment among WPIAL football schools to go to five or four classifications on its own, then slot in the schools in the right classification when the PIAA playoffs begin. That way, some geographic rivalries could be kept in tact.

Play of the year

The most significant play of the local football season thus far might be the Burrell two-point conversion against Freeport last Friday.

The Bucs scored a touchdown to trail Freeport in the first overtime session, 35-34. Burrell coach Shawn Liotta decided to go for two, and Alex Arledge hit Zach Miller right at the goal line for a 36-35 victory.

The Bucs (4-3 in the Big East Conference) are now on the verge of making the WPIAL playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. Burrell, however, has a nonconference game against Waynesburg Friday but could qualify if Deer Lakes (3-3) loses to Derry and Freeport (3-4) beats Mt. Pleasant (2-4).

The Bucs could also clinch if they beat Derry next week. But if Burrell loses that game and Mt. Pleasant defeats Freeport and Uniontown, Mt. Pleasant would go because the Vikings defeated Burrell in head-to-head competition.

So Burrell fans are now in the situation where they have to root for Freeport Friday.

Derry, North Catholic and Elizabeth Forward have clinched from the Big East Conference.

The reward for the fourth-place finisher? An expected trip to Aliquippa to start the playoffs on Nov. 1.

Ligonier looks to return

In case you missed the blockbuster news from Monday night, the Ligonier Valley School Board voted unanimously to return to the WPIAL.

The school was a WPIAL member from 1927-69 before it moved to PIAA District 6.

Many of the schools Ligonier played in that era were being swallowed up in mergers, including local schools like Bell Township, Washington Township, Avonmore and Arnold. During the 1940s, Ligonier played in what was called the Little 6 Diadem, which sounds more like a Cold War-era spy novel than a football conference.

The Little 6 included Bell for its brief existence.

Earlier this decade, Ligonier merged with Laurel Valley High School to form Ligonier Valley and has dominated the Heritage Conference in several sports.

But before Ligonier Valley comes into the WPIAL fold, District 6 has to vote to release Ligonier and the WPIAL has to accept the school.

The PIAA then has the final say, but often goes along with both districts’ desires.

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