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A look back at the 2018 State Championship games

Written by: on Monday, December 17th, 2018. Follow KMac on Twitter.


Another State Championship series is history and its time to enter some stats in the records books.  It was certainly not unfamiliar territory for teams and viewers as only Lackawanna Trail was new to the dance.  Fully 11 of 12 teams had been there before, and 6 of those just last year.

     Both the 2A and 4A championships were rematches, with the 4A the fourth consecutive rematch.  I believe many of the teams were ‘penciled in’ from the season’s start by fans and polls which took some suspense and mystery from the season, but Coatesville not being there, and “everyone having the Lions of Lackawanna Trail as a pre-season favorite in 1A” did add a couple of turns. 

     The first thing I noticed in my records was the similarity of scoring between last year and this year.  The winning teams scored 259 points in 2017, and this year 253. The losing teams scored the exact same 92 points both years.  As a result the average margin of victory (MOV) was just under last year at 26.8 to 2017’s 27.8.  That’s a 4 TD spread either way.

     Neither MOV matched the 2004 blowouts resulting in a MOV of 32.3 in four championship games; still the record MOV for the championships. Despite the games being lopsided for the most part, there was still a lot of skill, speed, power, and grittiness to witness in watching the six games; and I saw EVERY play of EVERY game down to the wire.  

     Due to the bracket realignments for this season, the West gained five of six games with the 6A winner that’s about 50 city blocks from the Delaware River and New Jersey State Line in the east winning it for the West; being of course the Hawks of St. Joe’s Prep.  With the West winning 5 to 1 this season, the East still has 69 wins to West 61, but it is close, and good for football around the state.

     With the fact that in any given two-year cycle the brackets may put any district (almost) in either the west or east, we probably shouldn’t make the east-west rivalry a big deal anymore, but I have tracked it from the first, so I continue to do so.  I also consider it an *asterisk win and hold a silent “REAL” east and west total, but when you consider in 1A Bishop Guilfoyle’s three wins 2014-2016 were “East” the totals are not all that much skewed. 

     For class 6A winner St. Joe’s it was there 5thappearance in the last 6 years, and they are 2-0 in 4A and 2-1 in 6A being the only 6A team on one side of the bracket all three years of 6A so far.  But it was twice for the East and once for the West.  

     Their opponent, fast and scrappy Harrisburg; it was their first 6A appearance after running into another D12 opponent in Archbishop Wood 5A in 2016.  The Cougars ended on the short end both times, in 5A for the West and 6A for the East.  

     Class 5A winner Penn Hills of D7 last appeared in the finals in the 1995 4A finals and won that one over Lower Dauphin of D3.  They kept a rather unique streak alive by beating D12 Archbishop Wood in the playoffs and the streak is that Wood has either won or lost their class championship; or has been eliminated by the team that did win that class championship ever since 2008.  The super-fast Indians won 5A over a deserving Manheim Central team of 3A in what was the best game of the championship, or at least the closest, a 5-point margin of victory.

     Manheim Central of D3 is 1-3 in finals, winning it all in 2003 in 3A; 39-38 in double OT, in what has to be one of the best championship games in the PIAA history of on-field battles.  They were on the short end of this 5A duel 31-36 for 2018. 

     The Class 4A was a fourth consecutive rematch and D10’s Erie Cathedral Prep won for the third consecutive time.  The Ramblers are no strangers to the finals and began in 1991 with a loss to then power Central Bucks West.   They met again in 1999, same result, and in 2000 the Ramblers stopped the Bucks 59-game win skein and three consecutive state titles with a 41-35 OT win.  The Ramblers couldn’t seem to escape Bucks County foes and next met D12 Archbishop Wood in 2012 and won 24-14.  Then the 4-game 4A set with Imhotep started in 2015.  The Ramblers are 5-3 for their 8 championship appearances.

     Imhotep of D12 plays a national schedule as we say, and also plays up in classification, and has appeared in 2A, 3A, and 4A championships. The Panthers and Pine-Richland of D7 share the honors of being the only teams to have appeared in three different state championship classes.  Imhotep is also the only Charter School to have played in the finals, although classified as a public school officially.  They sport a 1-4 record in finals, 0-1 in 2A; 1-0 in 3A, and 0-3 in 4A.  

     The Quips of Aliquippa won the 3A class this season. Seven times they have been to finals and sport a 3-4 record, 2-3 in 2A, and 1-1 in 3A.  With a male enrollment of only 110 (PIAA) they are a 1A school in classification playing up two classes.  There are only 15 smaller schools in D7 than the Quips. But they show they deserve to be playing in 3A with  fine skill sets and speed to burn.  All over the field on defense, they provided the only shutout of the tournament.  

     D3’s Middletown suffered the frustration of a third fruitless trip to Hershey, but they must remember, only two teams per class deserve to be there at finals time.  They are not the only team to have suffered such trials, two fine D7 teams have suffered 0-3 records as well, perhaps not consecutively, however. And the 3A bracket seems to be especially tough on District 3, they are only 1-9 for ten tries. 

     Southern Columbia, what can you say.  There has to be a record setter in every endeavor, and 17 championship appearances and 9 state championships is certainly a record. Everyone who reads this reads the other articles and I therefore am not getting into names and team stats, even scores; only a general overall report and some non-published district stats are what I am after.  

     Wilmington of D10 was here a second year in a row and for the 4thtime overall, now sporting a 1-3 record.  That they were good for a long time can be seen in they were in the very first class 2A championship in 1988, losing to Bethlehem Catholic 11-26, and in 2008 they beat D12 West Catholic 35-34 in two OT’s; one heck of a game.  

     Farrell of D10 has covered a vast stretch of the championships, first appearing in 1990, and they appeared a total of five times including 2018, going 3-2.  They are also so far one of only two teams to appear in two different districts, three times in D7 and twice in D10.  The other team is Mount Carmel who had appeared in D11 and D4.  The Steelers were most impressive at the one-A level with the talent they possessed this season.    

     The Tigers of Lackawanna Trail of D2 have to be the so-termed Cinderella team of 2018, simply because they were the only team there for the first time this year, and they were not on the radar in any pre-season discussion, at least that I had seen. This is certainly a credit to the team, staff and coaches, and all the supporters, parents, and backers in the fact they did appear.  The first time is always tough.  Whether this was just one of those ‘exceptional’ teams, or a program is brewing at Trail remains to be seen.  They did have a nice 8-3 season in 2017, losing only to Dunmore and Old Forge twice, and that was the usual blocking agents for their progress.  They were 9-4 and three rounds into the playoffs in 2016, so maybe we will see the Lions again.

     A little unusual, the teams this year from districts were D10 three, D3 three, D7 two, D12 two, D2 one, and D4 one.  The rarity was that a ‘true’ western district (10) had more teams entered then D7; but only by one.  In itself it means nothing, but I like to account for any unusual activity.  At least 6 districts had at least one entry; half of the total districts.

      As far as the last appearance from this years non-participating districts, D6 was just one year since its last; D11 three years; D1 six years; D8 twenty-one years since an appearance; D9 twenty-six years; and D5 has not appeared.  

     There were no new champions, all six 2018 winners hold other year championships. In fact, the six 2018 champions represent 26 state championships in total.  

     The fact is that only 69 teams have won a championship of the 130 titles available through 2018.  It almost averages two titles per team.  

     As the PIAA has 567 schools playing football, it is about 13% of the schools that have titled.  Of course the number of schools changes almost every year, and a true average would need to be performed annually and then all 31 added together and divided by 31 for perhaps a closer average; but for general purposes I think 13% is a fair number to go with.

     A few examples of the numbers of football-playing schools total are in 1990 (3rdyear of championships) there were 595; and in 2000, 590.  In 1963 there were 631 schools playing football.  Both consolidations and schools dropping football have caused the decline.      

     As far as the districts go in championships, D7 leads with 46 titles; D4 has 14; D12 with 12; Districts 3, 10, and 11 all have 11 each; Districts 1 and 2 each have 10; D6 has 4, and D8 has 1.  District 9 has none for two tries, and D5 has not been to a final.  

     Obviously, with so many more titles, District 7 leads the list in all but classes 6A and 5A.  These classes being new with 3 champions each, D12 leads both categories 2-1 over D7.  The only other class, the 2A class, is close with D7 having 9 and D4 having 7. If the Southern Columbia crusade continues and the Tigers stay 2A, this may possibly get closer.  

     The winning percentage per district is a different line up.  Leading is D12 at 12-9 .572.  Second is D11 at 11-9 .550; third is D4 at 14-12 .539; fourth is D2 10-9 .527; fifth is D7 46-44 .512; the D7 two wins this season finally getting D7 over the .500 mark.  At .500 is D1 at 10-10 and D8 at 1-1.  In 8thplace is D10 at 11-12 .479; 9thplace is D3 at 11-15 .423; and 10this D6 at 4-7 .394.  District 9 at 0-2 is .000; and D 5 at no appearances is ‘not applicable’.  

     As far as the records of the districts in specific classes in total record there is not much in the way of domination.  I have not, and don’t expect to break down specific district versus specific district as it is too much to take on manually.  

     A few 2-0 and 1-0 records exist for certain districts in certain classes, but still outstanding are the two 4-0 records of D3 in both 2A and 1A.  They were three teams sent in each class, one twice obviously, and they won all four games. On the other hand D3 also has the most frustrating record at 1-9 in class 3A.  

     And still standing is the 6-1 record of D2 in the 3A bracket when the Dawgs of Berwick ruled the roost.  

     But it is apparent by the win-loss averages that the more activity you have, and time wears on, the closer it gets to .500.  Generally you win as many as you lose long term.  Eight of the 12 districts are between .479 and .572 winning averages.

     The 69 championship teams are (wins).  All teams also have at least one loss unless indicated:

     Southern Columbia (9); Berwick (6); Mount Carmel (5); Archbishop Wood (5); Erie Cathedral Prep (5); St Joe’s Prep (4); Central Bucks West (4); Pittsburgh Central Catholic (4); Clairton (4); Farrell (3); Rochester (3); Aliquippa (3); North Allegheny (3-0); Allentown Central Catholic (3-0); Thomas Jefferson (3-0); Bishop Guilfoyle (3-0); McKeesport (2-0); Bethlehem Catholic (2-0); South Park (2-0); Lancaster Catholic (2-0); Steelton-Highspire (2-0); Penn Hills (2-0); South Fayette (2); Jeannette (2); Upper St. Clair (2); Strath Haven (2).

     The next 23 teams all have a record of 1-0: Cumberland Valley; North Hills; Central Dauphin; Erie Strong Vincent; Hopewell; Franklin Regional; Selinsgrove; General McLane; Beaver Falls; Hickory; Valley View; Dallas; Lansdale Catholic; Wyomissing; Steel Valley; Camp Hill; Marian Catholic; Schuylkill Haven; Scotland School; Sharpsville; South Side Beaver; Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic; Quaker Valley.  

     Ten teams had 1-1 records in championship play: Downingtown; Neshaminy; North Penn; LaSalle; Perry Traditional Academy; Hanover Area; Washington; Wilson Area; West Catholic; Duquesne.  

     Ten teams had 1 win and from 2 to 4 losses in state championships: Bethlehem Liberty; Parkland; Pine-Richland; West Allegheny; Tyrone; Bishop McDevitt (D3); Dunmore; Manheim Central; Wilmington; and Imhotep Charter. 

     Thirty-four schools entered and went 0-1.  There were also six schools going 0-2 and three schools at 0-3.  

     Added together that totals the 112 schools that have participated in the championships for the first 31 years 1988 through 2018. That is about 20% of the 567 schools the PIAA report as playing football in 2018.

     A little more analysis on the 69 schools is at the end of the narrative.

     As to district random meanderings and various figures, they all have some for sure.  

     District 7, the WPIAL, is the largest district and the only district with a significant number of teams in every class, although 9 in 6A is less than four other districts. But it is the only district with over 100 schools at 121 according to PIAA figures.  It would somewhat stand to reason that it would lead all districts in participation (90 appearances); different teams vying (40); number of teams titling (25); and titles won (46).  Still, it took the two wins this season to give the district a 46-44 record and get over .500 at .512 winning average.  Although four districts have better W-L averages, it doesn’t match the body of work by mighty D7.  They are 1-1 in both 6A and 5A; 13-10 in both 4A and 1A; and are 9-10 in 3A and 9-12 in 2A.  Nothing overly dramatic in any of the class brackets.  They boast 5 teams unbeaten in championship play (over 2 wins), and 8 more that have visited the finals and come away 1-0.  But their best long-term visitors Pittsburgh Central Catholic and Clairton are but 4-3 each. 

     District 12 must be mentioned next for the activity they have brought to Hershey since the admittance of the district in stages in 2004 and 2008.  It is a sort of opposite of D7 (in countless ways), but here I mean numbers. Even though they have just been eligible for 15 seasons, almost half the 31 total now; D12 has already succeeded to third place in titles won (12), and the very opposite part from D7 is that only FIVE teams have competed from D12 in the 15 years they have been eligible. All five have at least one title, and four are from the Philadelphia Catholic League and one from the public sector.  With 12 wins in 21 appearances the district leads the win-loss percentage race at .572.  Not a huge district (schools, not population) with 41 schools, it is in a range of size with D6 and D11 (46 schools each), and D10 with 38.  It has quickly become the “Beast of the East.”

     The second largest district at 93 schools is D3.  It is the largest district for class 5A (28) and class 4A (22) in the state.  It’s 18 schools in 6A is second only to D1 (33).  District 3 has been a puzzle at times, and sort of a “swing” district, I think the first PIAA switching was for class 4A and 3A for D3 to play for the “West” when the PIAA began trying to even the teams between east and west in each class bracket.  No matter what side of the state you are aligned with, a win is a win and a loss a loss in the district record.  District 3 is the second most active district in sending teams at 15 (D7 40), and the second most winning teams at 9 (D7 25).  And the district holds the two best record brackets in the state at 4-0 in 2A and 4-0 in 1A.  But the 3A class has been a challenge at a 1-9 record and pulls the district’s win-loss percentage down to .423 for 9thplace among the 12 districts.  

     District 4 has second place in wins at finals at 14 to the 46 of D7.  It is the fourth smallest district at 33 schools.  As with D12, only 5 teams have competed from the smaller district.  There is only 1 6A school, no 5A, five 4A, and six 1A schools in the district.  Double A at 10 and triple-A at 11 are the more numerous classes.  But the district leader, now in 2A, Southern Columbia has accounted for 9 of the district’s 14 titles, and once-mighty Mount Carmel has 4 in this district with Selinsgrove once winning a 3A for the 14 championships accorded D4.  In the win-loss percentages, D12 is in third place at .539.  The Red Tornadoes won 10 games this year. 

     District 10 is the third biggest district in the West behind D6, but of course D6 is another swing district with at least the 18 class 1A schools (second only to D7 with 24) playing for the East.  It has won 11 titles, tie with D3 and D11.  It has had 11 teams vying; tie with D11.

     D10 has had 8 teams win titles which is third place behind D7 (25) and D3 (9).  Across the four brackets it has competed for, 4A through 1A, it hovers around .500 at a total win-loss record of 11-12 for an average of .479. That’s 8thplace among the W-L percentage placement.  The obvious D10 standout is Erie Cathedral Prep that has won in 4A and 3A to the tune of 5-3 for 8 appearances.  The Ramblers have appeared more than any other team in the state at 8, except the leading Southern Columbia at 17 appearances. 

     District 2 still holds 4thplace in win-loss average at .527.  And with an entry again this season it continues to be one of the active participating districts despite numbers problems in size.  With 36 schools it is three bigger than D4, but its 13 class 4A schools is its largest class.  It is single digits in all other classes with only three 6A and two 5A.  The district’s shining moment in history so far was the Berwick Dawgs dynasty past and the 6-1 title record in 3A, the best single bracket percentage that includes a loss at .858.  Activity has been slow with single entries from D2 in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2018.  They are a strong bracket in 1A particularly in the East.  They have ten titles the same as much bigger D1.  They have had 8 teams in the finals and 5 have come out winners.  

     District 11 has 11 titles, tied with D3 and D10 in 4thplace in that category.  They have had 11 teams vie, the same as D10.  This is the third most teams from a district behind D7 (40) and D3 (15).  And D11 has had 8 different champions, third best behind D7 (25) and D3 (9).  District 11 is in second place in win-loss average at .550. Allentown Central Catholic is the leading light at 3-0 in championship play for the district.  Bethlehem Catholic is also 2-0 with a win in two different classes.  The district has some powerful teams, but I have to mention the best eastern big school team that has never been to a championship in Easton.  Now a class 6A school and formerly 4A under the four class system, the Red Rovers are the second winningest high school in the state with 831 wins behind Mount Carmel’s 856.  It has been three years since a D11 team has appeared in Hershey, and prior to that a 4-year span.  

     District 6 missed this year for the first time in a while. D6 is tie for the fourth largest district in the state with D11 with 46 schools.  But they are heavily weighed to the smallest classes 1A (18) and 2A (11) with single digits in the balance including only two 5A and three in both 4A and 6A.  They have sent 7 teams to the finals and two have produced 4 titles for the district.  The Bishop Guilfoyle Marauders are 3-0 winning in 2014, 2015, and 2016, dispatching Farrell and Clairton twice in the process.  But they are one of three districts to boast a 3-0 team in finals, along with D7 (2) and D11.  The .364 success rate is the lowest of districts with a rate at all, but it is a record of 4-7, not all that bad in reality.    

     District 1 is where I live, and in the early years of the finals seems to have had its day.  It has 71 schools, the third largest district and the most 6A schools at 33 and second most 5A at 25, one more than D7.  It is a big-school dominated district with only 13 schools out of 6A and 5A.  It has seven 4A; only two 3A; currently no 2A; and four 1A schools.  It has 10 titles tie with D2 for fourth place and has sent 9 teams to the finals with 6 teams winning the 10 titles.  With 14 entries in the old 4A class it is the highest single participation class outside of the D7 big numbers, 23 in class 4A.  The district sits at an even .500 win loss average at 10-10.  The shining star was the once powerful C B West Bucks with a 4-2 state title record.  

     It has been six years since a District 1 team has tasted Hershey.  Many observers thought that the Coatesville Red Raiders would end the drought this year, but it was not to be.  Maybe next year……?  

     District 8 also has a .500 win loss average, but it is a bit misleading.  Only one team ever from D8 has made finals and that was Perry Traditional Academy in the old 3A twice.  In the second championship in 1989 Perry gave Berwick its one title loss, 20-8.  Eight years later in 1997 Berwick returned the favor 17-14.  Ironically it was the last time both schools were ever seen in the finals.  It has been 21 years in 2018 since Berwick or District 8 has made a final.  Of course, D8 is the City of Pittsburgh and the smallest district with 6 schools, two 3A and 4A, and one each 5A and 6A.  

     District 9 is in the most rural of the northern tier of districts nestled up against the NY State line and between more populous D10 west, and similar D4 east.  Void of any large schools, 6A or 5A, it only has three 4A, and two 3A schools, being mostly 1A (11) and 2A (8).  It is third smallest district in the state with only D5 (12) and D8 (6) smaller.  It was able to get 1A Keystone to the 1989 (2nd) championship; and 1A Smethport to the 1992 (5th) finals, and both lost.  So it has a .000 percentage win-loss and it has been 26 years since an appearance.  

     District 5 is in the most rural of the southern tier of districts nestled down against the Maryland boarder between more populous D7 west and D3 east.  It has only 12 schools, five in 1A; five in 2A; and two in 3A.  Just as in any other district, D5 has its stronger teams and enters the playoffs, in 1A and 2A particularly, with a 4-team slate in 2018.  But inevitably, at least to date, whoever the representative is eventually meets a usually stronger-still D10 or D7 team in the western side brackets.  Directly opposite D10 this year in 1A, Shade of D5 ran into Farrell, the eventual state champion.  In 2A the same matchups Chestnut Ridge of D5 met Wilmington of D10, who played in the state final.  And so it goes year to year when in general you face the numbers problem.

     As best as I can determine the teams attending the 31 years of finals so far have been 112 different schools which include 90 public (including one charter), 20 Catholic, and 2 Private. 

     Of these school classifications one of the private schools accounts for one championship.  Fourteen Catholic schools account for 33 championships, and 96 titles have been won by public schools including the one charter we have seen so far.  

     For the 96 public titles, 54 teams have won a title. The 54 plus 14 Catholic that won titles, plus the one private equals our 69 number of schools winning championships; which is correct.  

     I still think our favorite sport is in trouble at the high school level in Pennsylvania.  I do not get to as many games as I used to, but saw 43 on various media, and in general, the games I did attend and those I saw via media showed mostly very meagre crowds. 

     And with this I also noticed teams that used to be 70 to 80 players, generally around 45 to 50, and these were Class 6A schools.  Coaches are not staying around as they used to do mostly due to the around-the-calendar nature of the game today.  I see on EasternPAfootball just recently a host of schools posting for coaches needed for the next season.  They included head coaches and almost every category of specialty coaches as well.  

     Today’s game is wide open, spread and speed football and offense generally rules and games seem more lopsided than ever before.  But its still football, and I have enjoyed it for 68 seasons so far and still do.  I said I saw every play of every championship game and I did. Despite the game being over long before in a sense, every play might just bring something great to see. And, for me, as the season deepens, I get more into it as I dread the thought of 8 months until I can see it again.  

     Nothing today is without problems, hitches, and pitfalls, but you have to go with the flow and do the best you can.  I only hope for the sport to continue as a major high school attraction in the staging, participation, and allure that I have always found in it for a long time now.  

     A happy and healthy holiday season to all; and Dave, when’s the 2019 schedules going to be posted?  {lol, kidding of course}.  J      

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