PIAA puts Philadelphia football powers in WPIAL champions’ paths to Hershey

Thursday, January 25, 2018 | 12:21 PM

The road to Hershey will run directly through Philadelphia for WPIAL Class 6A and 5A football teams.

The WPIAL and District 12, which contains Philadelphia's public and Catholic schools, share the same side of the state playoff bracket in Class 6A and 5A, according to updated 2018 and 2019 brackets revealed Wednesday at the PIAA board of directors meeting in Mechanicsburg.

A year ago, WPIAL champions Pine-Richland and Gateway faced District 12 champions St. Joseph's Prep and Archbishop Wood in the state finals. If those teams were to meet this fall, the rematches would occur in the state semifinals.

But the PIAA won't make the WPIAL 6A champion face a sub-regional as some feared. Instead, the winner of the WPIAL's largest classification will continue to join the state playoffs in the quarterfinal round.

The Class 4A champion also will join in the quarterfinals (week 13), while Class 5A, 3A, 2A and A join a week later in the semifinals (week 14).

The only schedule change from the past two seasons was for the Class 5A champion, which now enters a week later. That means the 5A champion has to win just one state playoff game to reach the finals rather than two.

With that information now revealed, the WPIAL strategic planning committee can decide how many teams from each classification will qualify for the district playoffs and which championship games will be played at Heinz Field.

That information likely will be approved at the WPIAL board meeting Feb. 19. The WPIAL couldn't finalize its playoff brackets until the PIAA released its.

The PIAA board voted Wednesday to approve the brackets on a first reading, meaning the brackets technically will need two more votes to become official.

The WPIAL will have only nine Class 6A football teams next season under the new alignment after Bethel Park, Penn Hills, Peters Township and Shaler dropped to Class 5A, and Altoona joined District 3.

With so few member schools in the largest classification, there was concern among WPIAL administrators and coaches that the Class 6A champion's entry point into the state playoffs would be moved a round earlier, but that didn't happen.

Instead, the WPIAL Class 6A champion will face a team from District 2, 4, 6, 8 or 10 in a quarterfinal on the weekend of Nov. 23. Should the WPIAL team win then, it would face either District 11 or 12 in the semifinals.

On the other side of the 6A bracket, the District 1 champion (suburban Philadelphia) faces District 3 (Harrisburg area) in a semifinal.

Class 5A is similar except that the WPIAL champion advances directly to the semifinals Nov. 30 or Dec. 1, and there it awaits a team from District 12, 2, 6, 8, 10 or 11. Districts 1 and 3 face off in the other semifinal.

In Class 4A, the WPIAL champion faces a team from District 6, 8, 9 or 10 in the quarterfinals. The winner faces District 3 in the semifinals. Districts 1, 2, 4, 11 and 12 are on the opposite side of the bracket.

In Class 3A, the WPIAL champion's semifinal matchup is either the District 10 champion or a team from Districts 5, 6, 8 or 9.

In Class 2A and A, the WPIAL champion's semifinal matchup is a team from District 5, 9 or 10.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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