WPIAL football championships will return to Heinz Field this fall — maybe over 2 days

Monday, July 19, 2021 | 4:33 PM

The WPIAL football championships are returning to Heinz Field this fall, maybe for a two-day affair Thanksgiving weekend at the North Shore stadium.

The football finals were held at high school venues last season because of the pandemic, but the WPIAL board voted Monday to take four or five of the six championship games back to Heinz Field in November. The exact schedule remains undecided.

The WPIAL could hold four games in one day either Nov. 26 or 27. Or, in a break from tradition, the WPIAL might reserve the stadium for both dates and spread the Class 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A and A finals over two days, said WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman.

“We are going back there,” she said. “It could be four games there or it could be five. We have to work out the details with Heinz Field.”

A deciding factor will be the “cost effectiveness of what we can reasonably afford,” she added.

No matter which decision is made, the WPIAL Class 6A final will not be played at Heinz Field. That big-school championship must be held a week earlier — Nov. 19 or 20 — because of where the WPIAL champion fits into the state playoff bracket. Scheuneman said the WPIAL will use a high school venue for 6A.

Heinz Field is available Nov. 26-27 since Pitt and the Pittsburgh Steelers are on the road that weekend. Pitt plays at Syracuse on Saturday and the Steelers visit Cincinnati on Sunday.

“Heinz Field is very welcoming,” Scheuneman said. “They have an entire wall dedicated to our champions and value high school athletics.”

The WPIAL used North Allegheny’s Newman Stadium and North Hills’ Martorelli Stadium last fall when Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration had tight limits on gathering sizes at events, making Heinz Field unaffordable. The board’s desire to return to Heinz Field this year was unanimous, Scheuneman said.

“The board feels strongly about the championship experience there,” she said. “The opportunity to play in that facility was a value to our student-athletes, so they wanted to go back there.”

Starting at Three Rivers Stadium in 1986, the WPIAL built a tradition of playing four championship games in one day. That tradition shifted to Heinz Field in 2001 but was complicated when the PIAA expanded football to six classifications in 2016. Since expansion, the WPIAL has played four games at Heinz Field and two elsewhere.

If the WPIAL adopts a two-day schedule for Heinz Field, there will be two games Friday and three Saturday.

Along with football, the WPIAL board also approved championship sites for other fall sports Monday with an added emphasis on using college or professional venues.

Highmark Stadium will host boys and girls soccer finals Nov. 4-6. The girls volleyball finals are Nov. 6 at Robert Morris. Washington & Jefferson will host championships for girls team tennis (Oct. 20) and field hockey (Oct. 30). The boys and girls cross country finals are Oct. 28 at Cal (Pa.).

“We wanted to elevate some of those (championship venues) to have the same experience as the higher-profile sports,” Scheuneman said.

North Allegheny and Bethel Park will host the girls tennis singles and doubles tournaments. Singles are Sept. 23-24 and doubles are Oct. 6-7.

The boys and girls golf championships will be spread across three courses. The Class AA boys individual tournament is Sept. 30 at Allegheny Country Club and the AAA boys play Oct. 5 at Nemacolin. The Class AA and AAA girls championships are both Oct. 7 at Hannastown.

The boys and girls team golf championships are Oct. 14 at Cedarbrook.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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