Ligonier Valley, Derry weigh effects of WPIAL football realignment

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Saturday, January 18, 2020 | 6:19 PM


With realignment, WPIAL football will change again like it does every two years.

The latest tweaks won’t reach the drastic degree some thought, but a number of teams undoubtedly will be competing in new territory come the fall — and not everyone will he happy.

The new-look landscape will not affect anyone greater than it will Ligonier Valley. That is because the Rams are the WPIAL’s newest member, having moved from District 6.

The former Heritage Conference powerhouse will compete in Class 2A, and under the first of two proposals set up by the league, would join Apollo-Ridge, Serra Catholic, Shady Side Academy, Steel Valley and Summit Academy in Section 1.

The WPIAL offered two proposals to member schools. “Proposal 1” is based on enrollment and maintains six classifications. New conferences have not yet been approved.

“Being that we are new to the WPIAL, we don’t have much experience to dwell on,” Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel said. “With that being said, we are very happy with the adoption of proposal No. 1. We left that world of points and playing schools of different classifications, and those were some of the factors that made joining the WPIAL attractive to us. It also gives us the opportunity to play schools close to us like Derry and Indiana, which will be good for the communities.”

The “world of points” refers to a second proposal that took many coaches aback. The “regionalization” idea, which is used by other districts, is based on geography, not enrollment.

That proposal was rejected by the majority of the league. Each conference would have had 10 teams and included schools from more than one class. A points system would have determined playoff qualifiers.

Ligonier Valley dealt with a point system in District 6, where it faced teams from different classifications.

“Every game, every point could make or break your season,” Beitel said. “When we saw Proposal 2, we thought, ‘Here we go again.’ Them staying away from that idea was what was so appealing. Now, a 4A team plays a 2A team, and you know who wins? The better team.”

Nonconference games won’t be must-win games now for Ligonier Valley, which is 28-7 against 2A teams since 2015.

“We still want to win football games,” Beitel said. “But playing (with a point system) and people questioning who you play and (classifications) kind of cheapened some of our kids’ accomplishments, and that wasn’t right. We’re looking forward to a fresh start.”

Beitel said there are plans for the Rams to play Indiana in Week Zero, Derry in Week 1 and Yough in Week 2.

Schedules are in the works around the league. Another big change is to nonconference games, which now will be handpicked by the WPIAL, which should create more formidable and intriguing matchups and remove hollow spots on schedules.

“The WPIAL accommodated most schools, it appears,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “Tough task, but they put a lot of effort into it.”

Penn-Trafford is one of 18 teams in Class 5A (down from 24) and is projected to be in Section 2 with Connellsville, Franklin Regional, Gateway, Latrobe and Woodland Hills. Class 5A will have three, six- team conferences.

Derry not with locals

Derry has grown accustomed to playing local rivalry games against Mt. Pleasant and Yough, but the new proposed alignment has the Trojans in a different conference.

Section 2-3A would consist of Burrell, Deer Lakes, Derry, East Allegheny, Freeport, Keystone Oaks and Valley.

Southmoreland is moving up to 3A and is set to join Brownsville, Elizabeth Forward, Mt. Pleasant, South Allegheny, South Park and Yough in another conference.

Derry coach Tim Sweeney was displeased the realignment took away games against some Westmoreland teams.

“It just always seems like the WPIAL, in its decision-making, Derry plays second fiddle to everyone else,” Sweeney said. “The whole process was a charade. They want you to feel like you’re part of the process with the survey and everything, but they are going to do what they want to do.”

Sweeney said two conferences with nine regular-season games would have been a better plan for 3A to better tie geography into the equation.

The other 3A conference would have Ambridge, Avonworth, Central Valley, Hopewell, North Catholic and Quaker Valley.

A more drastic solution from the coach?

“Maybe we should just form a Westmoreland County league,” Sweeney said. “Everyone could just pull out of the WPIAL. If Derry has to play teams like Hempfield and Norwin, so be it. I’m all for it. Maybe one day we’ll beat one of those teams.”

Full proposal

Here is the full realignment introduced by the WPIAL:

Class 6A, Section 1

Baldwin, Canon-McMillan, Central Catholic, Hempfield, Mt. Lebanon, North Allegheny, Norwin, Seneca Valley

Class 5A, Section 1

Bethel Park, Moon, Peters Township, South Fayette, Upper St. Clair, West Allegheny

Class 5A, Section 2

Connellsville, Franklin Regional, Gateway, Latrobe, Penn-Trafford, Woodland Hills

Class 5A, Section 3

Fox Chapel, Kiski Area, North Hills, Penn Hills, Pine-Richland, Shaler

Class 4A, Section 1

Aliquippa, Beaver, Blackhawk, Chartiers Valley, Hampton, Mars, Montour, New Castle

Class 4A, Section 2

Armstrong, Greensburg Salem, Highlands, Indiana, Knoch, McKeesport, Plum

Class 4A, Section 3

Belle Vernon, Laurel Highlands, Ringgold, Thomas Jefferson, Trinity, Uniontown, West Mifflin

Class 3A, Section 1

Ambridge, Avonworth, Central Valley, Hopewell, North Catholic, Quaker Valley

Class 3A, Section 2

Burrell, Deer Lakes, Derry, East Allegheny, Freeport, Keystone Oaks, Valley

Class 3A, Section 3

Brownsville, Elizabeth Forward, Mt. Pleasant, South Allegheny, Southmoreland, South Park, Yough

Class 2A, Section 1

Apollo-Ridge, Ligonier Valley, Serra Catholic, Shady Side Academy, Steel Valley, Summit Academy

Class 2A, Section 2

Beaver Falls, Ellwood City, Freedom, Laurel, Mohawk, Neshannock, New Brighton, Riverside

Class 2A, Section 3

Beth-Center, Chartiers-Houston, Charleroi, Frazier, McGuffey, Waynesburg, Washington

Class 2A, Section 4

Brentwood, Carlynton, Seton LaSalle, South Side, Sto-Rox, Western Beaver

Class A, Section 1

Clairton, Fort Cherry, Greensburg Central Catholic, Imani Christian, Jeannette, Leechburg, Riverview, Springdale

Class A, Section 2

Avella, Bentworth, California, Carmichaels, Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown, Monessen, West Greene

Class A, Section 3

Bishop Canevin, Burgettstown, Cornell, Northgate, OLSH, Rochester, Shenango, Union

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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