Pine-Richland, South Fayette join 5A football as PIAA officially draws up new classifications in all sports

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Thursday, December 5, 2019 | 9:44 PM


Claiming a Class 5A title in WPIAL football will be that much more difficult next season, according to enrollment numbers released by the PIAA Thursday.

Pine-Richland, a Class 6A finalist this season, will drop to 5A for the new two-year cycle that begins in the fall. The Rams will now be the largest school in the classification with 571 boys in grades 10-12.

South Fayette, meanwhile, one of the top programs in Class 4A in recent years, remains one of the fastest growing school districts in Western Pennsylvania and will bump up to Class 5A. The Lions didn’t sneak into the larger class, either. With 440 boys in the top three grades, there are five Class 5A schools that are smaller.

The new classification guidelines went public last month when the PIAA inadvertently released a set of figures on its website. Those figures weren’t official, however, until the PIAA board held its December meeting.

Now, the official numbers are available for all sports in all classifications.

The website also lists all PIAA schools voluntarily playing up in class.

There were some changes between the unofficial figures released last month and Thursday’s official count.

For example, Blackhawk football was expected to drop to 3A based on the November numbers, but as it turns out, it will remain in 4A as the second-smallest school in the classification.

While Pine-Richland and South Fayette are joining 5A, a handful of teams are vacating the classification for a move down to 4A. Most notably, McKeesport, a school with a 4A enrollment that was voluntarily playing up in 5A during the current cycle, has decided to play in 4A the next two years.

Other schools making the drop from 5A to 4A include Plum, Armstrong, Chartiers Valley, Albert Gallatin, Mars and Hampton.

Avonworth, which won a WPIAL title in Class 2A this season and will play for a state title on Friday, will bump up to 3A next fall. Valley, East Allegheny, South Allegheny and Brownsville will make the same jump from 2A to 3A.

Sto-Rox, which reached the Class A WPIAL finals this season, will be the smallest school in Class 2A next year.

Baldwin will make the leap from 5A to 6A, giving the district nine schools in the largest classification even without Pine-Richland.

Aliquippa will continue to voluntarily play up in class. A Class A school by enrollment, the Quips will continue to compete in 3A in football and boys basketball.

In football, enrollment parameters are 582 and above for 6A, 399-582 for 5A, 275-398 for 4A, 196-274 for 3A, 130-196 for 2A and 130 and below for Class A.

In boys basketball, Greensburg Salem could be the biggest mover. By enrollment, it’s the smallest school in Class 5A with 305 boys in the top three grades. It will voluntarily jump up to play in Class 6A next season. The move will allow the school to compete with Westmoreland County 6A rivals such as Hempfield, Penn-Trafford and Norwin.

North Hills is making a similar decision, checking in as a 5A boys basketball school by enrollment but playing up in 6A by choice.

Latrobe, conversely, will drop down from 6A in boys basketball and become the largest 5A school with 499 boys in the top three grades.

Perennial power New Castle will bump up from 4A to 5A, as will Highlands. North Catholic will jump from 3A to 4A.

jonathan.bombulie is a Tribune-Review freelancer. You can contact jonathan.bombulie at [email protected].

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