High school football notebook: Rematches tough to avoid in WPIAL 1st round
By: Chris Harlan
Wednesday, November 1, 2017 | 7:15 PM
Montour and New Castle tied for second in the Northwest Nine, but the WPIAL scheduled them head-to-head for the ultimate tiebreaker.
The conference foes meet Friday in the first round of the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs. Montour was seeded fourth with New Castle fifth in the eight-team bracket. For years, the WPIAL football committee avoided first-round rematches between teams from the same conference, but that policy was nixed a year ago when the sport expanded to six classifications.
This year there are three first-round conference rematches. Seton LaSalle and Freeport meet Friday in Class 3A, matching the first- and second-place teams from the Allegheny Conference. In Class 4A, Big 9 teams Thomas Jefferson and Trinity face off.
Montour defeated New Castle, 42-21, in Week 1. Seton LaSalle defeated Freeport, 21-10, in Week 7. Thomas Jefferson defeated Trinity, 35-0, in Week 2.
The WPIAL could have switched No. 6 seeded Trinity (6-3) and No. 5 New Castle (7-3) to avoid two first-round rematches. But the football committee believed New Castle was the better team and should be seeded higher than Trinity, regardless of conference.
“When you have 16 teams, you're typically able to avoid (conference rematches) in most cases,” WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said. “But when you have eight teams, what are you going to do? When it really came down to it, in 4A, is it fair for your three seed to play a better team than your four seed?”
There were five first-round conference rematches last season. Twice, the lower seed avenged a regular-season loss. Gateway defeated Armstrong, and New Castle defeated South Fayette.
“The discussion at the beginning of the meeting goes to approach,” O'Malley said. “Is your approach as a committee collectively to seed them or is your approach to separate them by conference?”
Under the six-class format, it's not always possible to do both.
MPC accepts Altoona
Altoona's days in the WPIAL are ending.
The Mid-Penn Conference athletic directors voted Wednesday to let the school join in football, basketball and boys volleyball. Altoona had played WPIAL football since 2010 as an associate member but will instead join the MPC next fall, Altoona athletic director Phil Riccio said, pending school board approval.
“Being in the WPIAL has been an outstanding experience,” Riccio said. “The professionalism and class from Tim O'Malley to every administrator, athletic director and coach that we've dealt with, I can't say enough about the positive experience that we've had there. Even given our lack of success at times, it has been nothing but a positive experience.”
The Blair County school had recently asked the WPIAL for full membership, a request that the WPIAL Board of Directors is scheduled to address at its meeting this month. Altoona was seeking a more structured league schedule for its sports other than football. However, WPIAL acceptance was likely a longshot because of the distance and added winter travel member schools would endure for basketball season.
The Mid-Penn Conference includes Harrisburg, Carlisle, State College, Shippensburg and a number of other schools from the center of the state.
Two more schools are looking for a new football coach. Ringgold coach Nick Milchovich and Laurel Highlands' Zack Just each resigned this week. Milchovich went 30-13 in four seasons. Just went 21-49 in seven seasons