The 2020 high school football season in Pennsylvania will be unlike any other in history. Due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, the season will be shortened and the format of the postseason is still up in the air. The PIAA has set the official start date for games for Thursday, September 10. This year, our WPIAL coverage is sponsored by the Small Player Big Play App, which provides schools the opportunity to fundraise by live-streaming their games and events. Check out their Twitter page and get the app for free on Apple or Andriod devices.
Here’s a look at the current streaks for WPIAL teams entering 2020 – both the good and the bad of wins, losses, playoff streaks, and playoff droughts.
We start by looking at the teams that ended the 2019 season on a high note and are carrying winning streaks into 2020.
1. Thomas Jefferson – 16
2t. Carmichaels – 3
2t. Leechburg – 3
2t. Rochester – 3
5t. Hempfield – 2
5t. Laurel – 2
Thomas Jefferson was the only WPIAL school to win a State title last year. The Jaguars last loss came in the 2018 WPIAL title game against South Fayette where they fell on a goal-line interception in the final minute. The only other schools with winning streaks longer than one game entering 2020 are those that missed the playoffs but won their last 2 or 3 games of the regular season. Carmichaels, Leechburg, and Rochester all won their final three games while Hempfield and Laurel won their final two outings.
1. Avonworth – 14
2. Thomas Jefferson – 13
3t. Clairton – 11
3t. Gateway – 11
5. Central Catholic – 9
6. Central Valley – 6
While Thomas Jefferson was the only WPIAL team to win a state title, only 13 of their 16 wins last year came against WPIAL opponents. Avonworth has won the most consecutive games against WPIAL competition with 14. The Lopes only loss last season came in the 2A State final to Southern Columbia. Avonworth moves up to 3A this season and joins a conference with reigning 3A Champions Central Valley.
The other WPIAL Champions from last season round out the list. Clairton and Gateway‘s last losses came in Week 1. Clairton lost a non-conference game to McGuffey and Gateway lost to rival Penn-Trafford who rode that victory to the conference title. Central Catholic‘s only WPIAL loss came in Week 2 against North Allegheny where the Tigers returned a punt for the game-winning TD in the final minutes. 3A Champion Central Valley‘s only loss came in a non-conference game against eventual 4A Champions Thomas Jefferson in Week 6.
Conference Wins (Regular Season Only)
1. South Fayette – 64
2. Thomas Jefferson – 17
3t. Burgettstown – 14
3t. Penn Hills – 14
5t. Washington – 13
5t. North Catholic – 13
7t. Penn-Trafford – 12
7t. Central Valley – 12
9. West Greene – 8
The most astounding current streak in the WPIAL is South Fayette‘s 64-game conference winning streak. The last loss for Joe Rossi’s Lions came back in 2011 in Week 8 against Seton La Salle. Since then, South Fayette went unbeaten in conference play 4 years in AA then moved up to 4A with the six-classification realignment and completed 4 more perfect regular seasons. The Lions are moving up to 5A this cycle which will present a new set of challenges to their streak. Thomas Jefferson has not lost a conference game since falling to Belle Vernon in Week 7 of 2017. The Jaguars would get revenge on the Leopards in the semifinals that year en route to winning the WPIAL title.
Burgettstown and Penn Hills have both gone unbeaten in conference play over the last two seasons. Washington and Penn-Trafford both suffered their last conference losses in Week 1 of 2018. Central Valley has pulled off two regular season victories over Aliquippa and their last conference loss came to Beaver Falls in Week 2 of 2018. North Catholic lost to Derry in Week 4 of 2018 but played in a conference with 9 teams so the Trojans have more consecutive conference wins than Penn-Trafford and Central Valley. West Greene is coming off their best season since 1993 and has not lost to a Tri-County South opponent since Week 6 of 2018.
On the flip side, there are a number of schools that are carrying lengthy losing streaks into 2020 and have not tasted victory in some time.
1. Uniontown – 32
2. Northgate – 24
3. Fort Cherry – 18
4. Ambridge – 17
5. Imani Christian – 11
6. Ellwood City – 10
Uniontown has not won a game in over three seasons with their last victory coming in Week 7 of 2016 against Fayette County rivals Laurel Highlands. The Raiders have the second-longest active losing streak in the state, behind York County Tech’s 34 straight defeats. Uniontown moves back up from 3A to 4A this season. Butler had lost 20 straight games but opted to play an independent schedule this season before joining the ranks of D10 in football only.
This leaves Northgate and Fort Cherry with the next longest losing streaks. At least one is guaranteed to end as the two will play in a conference together with Fort Cherry moving down from 2A to 1A. Ambridge‘s last victory came in Week 2 of 2018 in a non-conference game against Waynesburg, though the Bridgers are moving down to 3A this season. Imani Christian and Ellwood City both won in Week 9 of 2018 then went winless in 2019, but Imani’s streak is one game longer due to a 2018 playoff loss.
1. Ambridge – 30
2. Uniontown – 26
3. Northgate – 18
4t. Waynesburg – 16
4t. Ringgold – 16
6. Chartiers Valley – 14
7. Fort Cherry – 13
While Uniontown has the longest overall losing streak, Ambridge has not won a conference game during the 6-classification era. Their last win over a conference opponent came in Week 9 of 2015, though the move down to 3A should make them more competitive this year. Northgate, Waynesburg, Ringgold, and Chartiers Valley all went winless in conference play during the last two-year cycle. As mentioned above, Northgate and Fort Cherry will both be in the 1A Big Seven Conference this season. In addition to the teams listed, Armstrong, Avella, Beth-Center, Connellsville, Ellwood City, and Imani Christian all went winless in conference play last year.
The first section covered streaks relating to single games. Now, we look at the broader picture of season-by-season streaks. There are 13 teams that reached the postseason in every year of the last decade. Only four teams did not make a playoff appearance in the last decade. In the six-classification era which began in 2016, there are 27 teams that have made the playoffs all four seasons. On the flip side, there are 23 teams that did not make the playoffs in the last four years.
Championship Game Appearances
1. Aliquippa – 12
2. Thomas Jefferson – 5
3. Pine-Richland – 3
4t. Avonworth, Belle Vernon, Clairton, Central Catholic, Central Valley, Gateway, Peters Twp, Sto-Rox, Washington – 1
Arguably one of the most impressive streaks in WPIAL history is Aliquippa‘s current run of 12 consecutive trips to Heinz Field. The Quips are a 1A-sized school that played in AA until the 2016 realignment when they opted to play in 3A. Their run of success continued and reached the WPIAL final in each of the last four seasons. The last time Aliquippa did not appear in a WPIAL title game was in 2007 when they lost in the semifinals to a Jeannette team led by Terrelle Pryor.
This cycle they were forced up to 4A because of the PIAA’s competitive balance formula and will potentially have to vie with Thomas Jefferson – who has reached Heinz Field 5 straight times – for the 4A crown. Pine-Richland reached the 6A WPIAL final in three straight seasons but is moving down to a loaded 5A class this cycle. All of the other schools that reached the WPIAL title games last season did not appear in the 2018 finals.
Playoff Qualification Streaks
1t. Aliquippa – 25
1t. Thomas Jefferson – 25
3. McKeesport – 22
4. Upper St Clair – 20
5. Bethel Park – 19
6. Central Catholic – 17
7t. North Allegheny – 16
7t. Franklin Regional – 16
8. Mars – 15
9. Clairton – 14
10. Avonworth – 12
11t. South Fayette – 11
11t. Belle Vernon – 11
13. West Mifflin – 10
Last year was a landmark season as Woodland Hills missed the playoffs for the first time since 1995, breaking a 23-year streak. The prior year, 1994, was the last time Aliquippa and Thomas Jefferson missed the postseason. Both of their streaks sit at an impressive 25 straight seasons entering 2020. McKeesport and Upper St Clair are the other two programs who have made the playoffs every year this century with McKeesport’s streak dating to 1998 and Upper St Clair’s to 2000.
Bethel Park, Central Catholic, North Allegheny, and Franklin Regional all have playoff streaks dating to the early 2000s and have all won WPIAL titles during that time. Mars has the longest active streak for a school that has never won a WPIAL title and their deepest run since 2005 was two trips to the semifinals. Clairton has absolutely dominated the smallest classification, winning 10 WPIAL titles and 4 State titles in the last 14 seasons. West Mifflin‘s decade-long streak will likely end this season as they have been banned from the postseason due to using an ineligible player last year, though the school is appealing.
Schools with playoff streaks extending beyond the current six-classification structure include: Washington (9 years), North Catholic (8 years), Pine-Richland and New Castle (7 years), Mt. Lebanon and Jeannette (6 years), and Burgettstown (5 years). Other schools that have reached the playoffs in all four years of the six-classification alignment include: California, Derry, Freedom, Gateway, OLSH, Riverside, and Serra Catholic.
Postseason Appearance Droughts
1. Leechburg – 31
2. Brownsville – 19
3. Carlynton – 18
4. Uniontown – 10
Last year was an historic season as Southmoreland snapped their 40-year playoff drought and qualified for the postseason for the first time since 1979. The longest playoff drought now passes to Leechburg, which narrowly missed the postseason last year. Leechburg lost a triple-overtime game to Greensburg Central Catholic by just one point. If the Blue Devils had been victorious in that game, they would have snapped their 30-year drought.
The second-longest drought is Brownsville who has not made the playoffs since 2000. The Falcons had a strong team at the turn of the century, reaching the AAA WPIAL final in 1997 and the AA semifinals in 1998 and 1999 before a first round exit in 2000. Since then, Brownsville has not even had a winning season and have not won more than 2 games in a season since 2005. Carlynton has gone through similar struggles, not making the playoffs since 2001, though the Cougars did have a .500 season in 2011. Uniontown is the only other WPIAL program that did not reach the postseason at least once in the past decade.
Teams with playoff droughts dating beyond the six-classification era but less than a decade include:
8 years (2011): Ellwood City
7 years (2012): Burrell, Hopewell, Jefferson-Morgan, South Allegheny
6 years (2013): Valley, Yough
5 years (2014): Connellsville, Indiana, Knoch, Waynesburg
Other schools that reached the playoffs in 2015 but have not made the postseason during the six-classification era include: Ambridge, Bentworth, Chartiers Valley, Deer Lakes, Hampton, Highlands, Laurel Highlands, and Plum.
Playoff Victory Droughts
While only four schools have playoff qualification droughts lasting longer than a decade, many more schools have been waiting a long time to taste postseason success. Five WPIAL schools have never won a postseason game. Laurel Highlands has the most playoff appearances (10) without a victory, followed by Mapletown‘s 0-7 postseason record. Southmoreland just snapped a 40-year playoff drought but has lost both of their postseason appearances. Summit Academy, the school for adjudicated youth, is also 0-2 in the playoffs all-time. Armstrong was formed in 2015 by the merger of Kittanning and Ford City and has lost all 3 of their playoff games since the merger. Before the merger, Ford City last won a playoff game in 2010 and Kittanning had lost 12 in a row since their last playoff victory in 1975.
There are 28 other schools that have not won a playoff game in over a decade. They are listed in the table below:
|School||Last Playoff Win||Years||Playoff Record Since Last Victory|
Which WPIAL streaks will continue this season? Which will be broken? With a contracted playoff field (likely either 4 or 8 in every classification), it is highly probable that some of the lengthy playoff streaks will come to an end. In 5A Upper St Clair (20 year streak), Bethel Park (19 years), and South Fayette (11 years) are all in the same conference with a Peters Twp team that reached the WPIAL final last year. With McKeesport (22 years) moving down to 4A, they join a conference with Thomas Jefferson (25 years), Belle Vernon (11 years) and West Mifflin (10 years). With Uniontown opting out and Butler joining D10, the two longest active losing streaks are with Northgate and Fort Cherry, who will play together in the 1A Big Seven Conference – this means at least one of their streaks will come to an end this season.
Header Image Source: Beaver County Times