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Realigning WPIAL Football Conferences a Snap
By Rich Emert
Nauticom Sports Staff

The Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League's Football Steering Committee will meet Wednesday to establish the league's conferences for the next two seasons. It should be a short meeting.

When the steering committee met two years ago, it had a major problem. There were not enough teams in Class AAA for four conferences. That shouldn't be a problem this time around and not that many schools are moving up or down in classifications.

So, don't be surprised if the football conference alignment is similar to the way the WPIAL looked in 1997.

Just to see how tough it would be to piece together a conference structure for the 2000 and 2001 seasons, we sat down with paper and pencil and came up with our own alignment. For lack of a better term, let's call it the "Nauticom Alignment." Teams dropped into conferences much easier than we expected.

First a little history. Because our alignment went together so nicely means it probably will not be close to the one the WPIAL football steering committee sends to the league's board of control for approval. We were logical in our approach and, as everybody knows, there are times when the WPIAL is anything but logical.

Next, it helps to understand which schools moved up or down in classification for football. Moving down from Class AAAA to AAA are Greensburg Salem, New Castle and Uniontown. Moving up from Class AAA to Quad-A is Peters Township.

Moving down from Class AAA to AA are Southmoreland and Burrell. Moving up from Class AA to Class AAA is Deer Lakes. Moving down from Class AA to Class A are Burgettstown, Canevin and Sto-Rox. Moving up from Class A to AA are Summit Academy, Laurel and Brentwood.

There is the possibility a school or two we don't know about has decided to play up in classification. Even if that's true, it shouldn't throw the "Nauticom Alignment" off much. The WPIAL also said it will talk to officials from Altoona and Hollidaysburg to see if those schools are interested in joining the league in Quad-A for football. That probably will not happen.

The Nauticom Alignment has two conferences with eight schools and two with seven in Quad-A. In Class AAA, there are two conferences with eight and two with seven schools. In Class AA, there are two conferences with nine schools and two with eight. In Class A, all four conferences have eight schools.

Here is how the conferences look in the Nauticom Alignment followed by our reasoning for any changes.

Class AAAA

Quad South: Albert Gallatin, Connellsville, Hempfield, Indiana, Latrobe, Laurel Highlands, Norwin, Penn-Trafford.

Quad West: Baldwin, Bethel Park, Canon-McMillan, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Twp., Ringgold, Trinity, Upper St. Clair.

Quad East: Franklin Regional, Gateway, Kiski Area, Penn Hills, Plum, McKeesport, Woodland Hills.

Quad North: Butler, Central Catholic, Fox Chapel, North Allegheny, North Hills, Seneca Valley and Shaler.

Peters Township replaces Uniontown in the Quad West. Indiana moves over from the Quad East to the Quad South because it's closer to those school geographically. The Quad North and Quad East go to seven teams, which makes it easier for cross scheduling purposes. Besides, many of the teams in those two conferences have played each other for years.

Class AAA

Greater Allegheny: Johnstown, Deer Lakes, Hampton, Highlands, Kittanning, Knoch, Valley.

Parkway: Ambridge, Blackhawk, Ellwood City, Hopewell, Moon Area, New Castle, Pine-Richland.

Big Seven: Chartiers Valley, Keystone Oaks, McGuffey, Montour, Thomas Jefferson, West Allegheny, West Mifflin.

Keystone: Belle Vernon, Derry Area, Greensburg Salem, Elizabeth Forward, Mt. Pleasant, Uniontown, Yough.

It all just makes sense geographically. Greensburg Salem and Uniontown join former members of the Keystone Conference. New Castle drops into the Parkway. Deer Lakes goes into the Greater Allegheny and Pine-Richland moves from that conference into the Parkway. Chartiers Valley and Keystone Oaks, which have struggled in the rugged Parkway, find themselves in the old Big Nine, which has just seven teams, along with Montour and West Allegheny.

Class AA

Midwestern: Aliquippa, Beaver, Beaver Falls, Freedom, Laurel, Mohawk, New Brighton, Riverside, Shenango.

Allegheny: Apollo-Ridge, Burrell, Ford City, Freeport, Mars, North Catholic, Shady Side Academy, Summit Academy.

Century: Beth-Center, Brownsville, Charleroi, Southmoreland, South Allegheny, South Park, Steel Valley, Washington, Waynesburg.

Three Rivers: Brentwood, Carlynton, Center, East Allegheny, Jeannette, Northgate, Quaker Valley, Seton-La Salle.

Center is the odd-school out in Beaver County, but not every team there could fit in the Midwestern Conference because Mohawk, Laurel and Neshannock from Lawrnece County had to go somewhere. Burrell and Summit Academy plug right into the Allegheny Conference. Schools south of Pittsburgh and in Washington and Greene counties are in the Century.

Class A

Eastern: Clairton, Duquesne, Greensburg Central Catholic, Leechburg, Riverview, Serra, Springdale, Wilkinsburg.

Big Eight: Cornell, Farrell, Monaca, Neshannock, Rochester, South Side Beaver, Union, Western Beaver.

Ohio Valley: Avella, Avonworth, Bentworth, Canevin, Chartiers-Houston, Fort Cherry, South Fayette, Sto-Rox.

Tri-County South: California, Carmichaels, Frazier, Geibel, Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown, Monessen, West Greene.

Cornell moves over to the Big Eight from the Ohio Valley. It has close ties to teams in the Beaver County and was a natural fit. Canevin and Sto-Rox worked in nicely in the Ohio Valley. The other two conferences are unchanged.

There it is, the Nauticom Alignment. It took us less than one hour to come up with the plan. Football steering committee members should be home early.