by Paula G.
(November 5, 2005)
(Aboard the Sea Chief off the southern coast of Papua New Guinea.) As soon as contacted me to ask if I′d write something for NeshaminyFootball.com – about the Pennsylvania high school football playoff system – I said yes. Who could resist? After all, I′m a dyed-in-the-wool ′Skins fan (class of uh, er, well, let′s leave that alone). Plus I do love schoolboy football and I can′t rave enough about Neshaminy′s site (it′s loaded with all the bells and whistles, and it′s got all the design, color, graphics and updates a gal could want – it′s absolutely fabulous). And this year′s team and their new uniforms – well, nuff said. (By the way, I am still on vacation but I′ll be back on Wednesday in time for the Plymouth-Whitemarsh game.)
Anyway, as to Bob′s task for me, and now that the playoffs are here, I know some of you fans are probably wondering how exactly this whole thing works (at least Bob said he′s wondering how it works). So rather than telling me he needs an explanation, he tells me Neshaminy′s friends and fans need the straight scoop. That′s Bob!
For starters you have to believe me; it′s simple (just kidding). But it′s not too complicated either – so here goes. Just one thing, though, I′m not gonna cover every last little detail and item but just provide the big picture.
First (and a little history), the PIAA decided only just a few years ago (actually the late ′80s when I was much too young to know of such things) that a statewide playoff system would be nice. So they worked out an arrangement with the WPIAL (how exactly do they put up with the cold out there) so there could be a unified championship. You know, the East and the West champs (make that the WPIAL champ – more or less) playing for all the marbles. Good idea. (Think about it – half the states in the country have been doing it forever so it was about time the Keystone state joined the party.)
And rather than worrying about how the West side of the state gets their team to Hershey, I′ll tell you how it works in the East (maybe I′ll give you a little bit of the dope on how they do it out West – but hold that thought for a moment).
All righty then, let′s start with the map below – take a look. The numbers are important as they represent the Districts while the shaded and colored areas around those numbers are the counties that make up each particular numbered District (I′m not looking up the names of all the counties either – just Google them).
Okay, now forget the map for a while and let me ask you the following question: What′s more important than the Redskins? Not too much. So I′ll begin with them (and the playoffs and how they get in – what else would I be writing about).
For starters, our dashing boys in red and blue are in District 1. They get themselves into the playoffs by earning a “seed” as one of the top 8 teams in the District (since you′ve checked the map you know that District 1 is made up of the 4 counties that surround Philly). Anyway, back to the top 8 – how do they determine what teams make it into the Elite Eight (there′s more than one league you know)? Actually, it′s some pretty simple math.
Using the ′Skins as an example, for every win Neshaminy picks up they′re awarded 100 points (that′s for beating a 4A team while it′s only 80 for a win over a 3A school). Ten more points are added for each win the school Neshaminy defeated picks up during the season (if the team the Redskins topped ends up 5 and 5 then our boys get 150 total points for that win). At the end of the season, you grab the calculator, pound away and the 8 teams in District 1with the most total points are in the fray (the team with the most is number 1, the second most is number 2 and so on). And it′s good to be number 1 because then all your District 1 playoff games are at home
So if you′re in the mix, you play up to three games (quarter, semi and final) and if you win them all – you′re the District 1 Champions.
Now look back at the map. You′ll see that the Northeastern corner of the state is made up of Districts 2, 4 and 11 (boy, it′s cold up there too – how do they handle it). Well since there aren′t as many people up there (maybe it′s the cold weather), they don′t have as many 4A schools. So they have to combine those three Districts to come up with their 4 top teams. And they play only two games (obviously) to crown their champion.
But then what? Remember Philly (District 12) – that′s right, the District 2/4/11 champion plays the champion from the Philadelphia public school system.
And how does Philadelphia come up with a winner? They take their top 8, they play three games and the last team standing is the District 12 Champion – and bear in mind they only play a 9 game regular season. See, then it all evens out (the number of games played) when their champ plays a game against the District 2/4/11 winner. The result? A District 2/4/11/12 champion who gets to plays for the Eastern Conference Championship against – duh – the District 1 champion (and I know we′re all looking forward to red and blue in that role, aren′t we).
So now you see how it works. That wasn′t tough at all, was it?
And real quickly – the Western half of the state, to make a long story endless, plays a lot of games which start with the District 7 teams in and around Pittsburgh (16 of them start the ball rolling). When they′re done, that winner plays the winner of the District 8/9/10 playoffs (sort of the Pittsburgh City/Erie playoff). The result is the District 7/8/9/10 Champion.
Then it gets a little weird because to make it all even out, there′s a District involved which takes up a big chunk of Eastern PA – including Harrisburg (that′s District 3 which ultimately plays District 6 which, at least, is closer to Pittsburgh). Course you have to remember, the PIAA is trying to make this whole system even out so that the same amount of teams are playing for the right to be called the Eastern champions as are playing for the right to be called the Western champions which is 16 teams per “side” (and don′t ask about District 5 – maybe they don′t have any AAAA schools).
So when those boys out West get through banging heads for five weeks or so in their playoff games (keep in mind most of them play only a 9 game regular season) they eventually do crown a champ of the Western side (in all four classes – same as in the East). Oh, one more thing, the District 3/6 champ plays the District 7/8/9/10 champ for the Western crown. Then it′s the two big December days in Hershey!
And in case you haven′t figured it out, all the Districts have point systems not too different from District 1. So as they say, all roads lead to Rome – or at least to a ranking that gets your school in the playoffs. And lastly, each class has a few twists and turns in its setup so I only concerned myself with AAAA (and there are a few other odd rules; however, as I stated earlier I′m only trying to provide an overview but you should be good to go at the next cocktail party if this topic comes up).
I′m not supposed to make a prediction about who I think will bring home the trophy (let′s just say their new uniforms have really caught my eye) but I′m allowed to mention some favorites.
With that said, in District 1 North Penn, Neshaminy, Downingtown East, Central Bucks East, Pennsbury, Conestoga, Coatesville and Plymouth-Whitemarsh all have played great. Hmm, on my radar screen? I′ll pass but I think you know who I like. And up in the Northeastern corner, Liberty and Easton are as scrappy and talented as they come but so are Delaware Valley and Hazelton – it′s awfully tough to call it up there.
In Philly – Northeast looks pretty darn good but Frankford, Germantown and George Washington make it a slugfest. Might as well flip a coin.
And out West, there′s PCC (again), Woodland Hills, McKeesport, Mt. Lebanon, Erie Cathedral and DuBois too. Let′s not forget Central Dauphin, Cumberland Valley, Hempfield, Carlisle, Central York, State College and Manheim Township. Then there′s Bishop McDevitt. You know something, all the Western teams are tough as nails (it′s the weather) so you decide. In fact, I′ll just wish the best of luck to all the boys and teams that are involved. And let me also extend a thank you to the coaches, administrators, school districts and all the rest of the people that make the playoffs so much fun for us to watch!
So there, I hope this has helped clear up the playoff setup. And I′m glad I could help out all the gang that works so hard on Neshaminy′s world-class football website. Our team, the school and the fans deserve nothing but the best and I know for a fact that that′s what the website crew aims to deliver – only the best for the best!