WPIAL Class 5A to get more crowded for football as PIAA ‘play up’ deadline arrives

Wednesday, December 6, 2017 | 12:54 PM

In WPIAL football, there's suddenly a crowd in Class 5A.

High school sports teams around the state had until Wednesday to decide whether to accept the PIAA classification that matched their enrollment or voluntarily “play up” into a class with larger schools.

The new enrollment numbers would have dropped McKeesport football to Class 4A, but the Tigers elected to remain in 5A for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, athletic director Charley Kiss said. The school wanted to maintain the football rivalries it has with teams in the Big East Conference.

McKeesport's addition leaves the WPIAL with 24 teams in Class 5A, up from 18 this season. Only Class 2A is larger, with 31 teams.

“I've enjoyed the Big East football conference the last couple of years,” Kiss said. “I thought 5A was very competitive. The (McKeesport) fans would probably say the same thing.”

McKeesport lists 335 boys in grades 9-11, down from 439 two years ago. Class 5A football includes schools with enrollments between 385 and 560.

“The difference between your 4A and 5A schools in terms of enrollment … there's still an apples-to-apples comparison,” Kiss said.

The only other WPIAL football teams that elected to play up were Aliquippa in Class 3A and Serra Catholic in 2A.

No teams voluntarily joined Class 6A, leaving only nine WPIAL teams in the largest classifications. Former 6A schools Bethel Park, Penn Hills, Peters Township and Shaler all dropped to 5A.

“Geographics are going to be awesome in 5A, I'm assuming,” said Peters Township athletic director Brian Geyer, whose football team could join a conference with Baldwin, Bethel Park, Chartiers Valley and Upper St. Clair.

The PIAA released new enrollment numbers in November that showed which classification each team would occupy for the next two school years and set a “play up” deadline for Wednesday.

Among boys basketball teams, the new enrollment numbers would have dropped North Hills to Class 5A, but the Indians have elected to play up and remain in Class 6A. The school board unanimously approved that decision Tuesday night. The move maintains North Hills' rivalries with Pine-Richland, North Allegheny, Seneca Valley and others.

Aliquippa once again will play Class 3A football and basketball. Lincoln Park boys basketball also will voluntarily remain in Class 3A.

Now that the PIAA has locked schools into classifications, the WPIAL steering committees will align the teams into sections and conferences. The WPIAL is expected to approve an updated alignment for fall sports at its January board meeting. Winter sports will be approved in February, with spring sports by March.

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

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