WPIAL releases football schedules for 2020 season

Thursday, January 30, 2020 | 8:57 AM

The loudest complaints from WPIAL football teams were about travel and blowouts.

So the WPIAL released schedules Thursday for the 2020 and ‘21 seasons tailored specifically to address those concerns, WPIAL associate executive director Amy Scheuneman said. The schedules differ from years past because the WPIAL handpicked most nonconference opponents rather than assign them randomly.

The intent was to either shorten travel or create stronger competition.

“Ninety percent (of nonconference matchups) meet one of those two categories,” Scheuneman said. “Of course you’re not going to be 100 percent perfect, but we wanted either a good matchup or close competition.”

As a result, Weeks 1 and 2 include many regional rivalries and some of the strongest matchups.

The majority of nonconference games will be grouped at the start of the schedule rather than scattered throughout, another change from recent years. Coaches had disliked playing “meaningless” games late in the season.

The Week 1 schedule includes Beaver Falls at Aliquippa, Mt. Lebanon at Upper St. Clair, McKeesport at Woodland Hills and Gateway at Thomas Jefferson.

Week 2 has WPIAL championship rematches with Pine-Richland/Central Catholic and Central Valley/Aliquippa. WPIAL powers Clairton and Washington also meet in Week 2, along with Thomas Jefferson and South Fayette.

These schedules were the second step in a realignment process that occurs every two years. The WPIAL released updated conferences Jan. 20.

The final step in the realignment involves deciding the number of playoff qualifiers and choosing which classifications will play their championships at Heinz Field, but those details won’t be finalized until at least March, Scheuneman said.

The WPIAL has witnessed a decline in football attendance, in part because of the increased travel and lopsided scores since the sports expanded to six classifications. The WPIAL is optimistic that these new schedules might spark renewed interest in the sport.

“You don’t look at those first two weeks and see blowouts,” Scheuneman said. “I think most of them you’ll look at and say, ‘I don’t know who’s going to win.’ Or maybe it’s a 60-40 (split). Everybody starts the season with the potential to win.”

Gone are the mismatches that had teams considering a forfeit rather than playing. Now, most teams will face nonconference opponents with similar success.

For example, defending WPIAL Class 5A champion Gateway will play nonconference opponents Thomas Jefferson, Penn Hills, Bethel Park and Pine-Richland. Combined, those four teams went 43-8 last year.

“They want to see the best play the best,” Scheuneman said. “They don’t want to see the best play the worst.”

With an odd number of football schools (119), one team must have an open date each week.

North Allegheny, which didn’t want to play schools from smaller classifications, voluntarily accepted open weeks in Week 1 and 2. That allows NA to find its own nonconference opponents from outside of the WPIAL.

The other open weeks were spread among seven teams in Class 2A: South Side in Week 3, Ligonier Valley in Week 4, McGuffey in Week 5, Washington in Week 6, Waynesburg in Week 7, Charleroi in Week 8 and Chartiers-Houston in Week 9. Each can fill that week, if it chooses.

Also, schools will schedule their own Week Zero games once again.

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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