Today the WPIAL released the official conference alignments for the 2018-19 cycle of competition. A month ago, I took my best guess at how the conferences should be aligned based on geography and quality of competition. All in all, the WPIAL did a fairly good job with their decisions on the alignment of conferences. The only classification that raises a significant eyebrow is 3A where they chose to divide teams based on an “east-west” alignment rather than a “north-south” alignment. The WPIAL has not yet announced how the playoffs will be structured in each classification and what the schedules will look like for teams. With only 9 teams in 6A, the possibility exists for a cross-classification matchup with 5A teams (potentially reuniting some old rivals like Mt Lebanon and Upper St Clair or North Allegheny and North Hills). There are an even 120 teams competing in WPIAL football for the 2018-19 alignment cycle (Vincentian does not appear on the official conference list). This means the WPIAL will be able to have all teams play games against only WPIAL competition throughout the regular season schedule.
6A was the easiest classification to align. With only 9 teams and no one opting to play up, all of the teams will compete in one conference. The 9 6A teams are: Butler, Canon-McMillan, Central Catholic, Hempfield, Mt. Lebanon, Norwin, North Allegheny, Pine-Richland, and Seneca Valley.
As I discussed back in December, 5A was always going to be the most difficult classification to align, because of the six teams in the east hills that all have high playoff pedigrees. In the end, the WPIAL chose an option that balanced quality of competition and geography. Class 5A saw the addition of 6 teams this cycle with Bethel Park, Penn Hills, Peters Twp, and Shaler moving down from 6A and Albert Gallatin and Mars moving up from 4A. The new alignments do restore some of the old Southeastern Conference rivalries between Baldwin, Bethel Park, and Upper St Clair. The top of the “eastern” conference will be absolutely loaded with Franklin Regional, Gateway, Penn-Trafford, and McKeesport.
With 16 teams in 4A, the WPIAL had a fairly easy geographic divide between “north” and “south” teams. These mostly fell into the same conferences as the last cycle with Beaver moving up to replace Mars and Uniontown dropping down to 3A. The question the WPIAL had to decide was whether to move South Fayette to the “south” conference (as the southern-most team from the north) or to select another school. In the end, they made the right decision and moved Indiana to keep the powerhouses of Thomas Jefferson and South Fayette separated.
On the map, the WPIAL seemingly had an easy choice with 3A to align it based on a North-South divide, as I had suggested back in December. However, the WPIAL went in a different direction and chose to split the 17 teams into two conferences based on an East-West divide. Geographically, this makes less sense because it will create longer travel distances for many teams.
In 2A there are 31 teams which forced the WPIAL to split them into four conferences. The biggest decision here was how to handle the seven “centrally located” schools. In the end, the WPIAL chose to split them apart, spreading them out over two conferences. The addition of Seton La Salle to 2A should make things interesting over the next two years as the Rebels should challenge Steel Valley and Washington atop the classification. Additionally, with Ellwood City moving down, their rivalry game with Riverside is once again a conference showdown.
Class 1A also fell into line very easily. Three schools dropped down to 1A (Bentworth, Chartiers-Houston, and Laurel). These three were easily slotted into the “southern” and “northern” conferences. The only change to the “eastern” conference was the departure of Bishop Canevin, which was moved to the conference with other northern and western schools. It is worth noting that even though they submitted enrollment figures, Vincentian does not appear on the WPIAL’s official publication for conferences. Vincentian folded their team last year during the summer due to a lack of participation and was slated to be a 1A team this cylce based on their enrollment. If the Royals re-start their program, they could either be added to the open slot in Section 1 or to Section 3 (the better geographic fit) with Bishop Canevin moving back to Section 1.