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Adding the 2016 Championships to History

Written by: on Monday, January 16th, 2017. Follow KMac on Twitter.


Historic were the high school football championships in Pennsylvania for the 2016 season. We crowned the first-ever class 6A and 5A champions. In addition, we saw the first-ever team that has competed in THREE different classes, being District 12’s Imhotep Charter School (2A, 3A, & 4A). Naturally, all statistics in the 6A and 5A games are records for that class until next year’s games, and possibly for a while, who knows?

A major win for the 6-class system was that four “new” teams, never before at state finals appeared in 2016. These were Harrisburg (5A), Steel Valley (2A), and the entire 3A field – Beaver Falls and Middletown.

That said; eight of the teams entered were no strangers to the finals; in fact 3 times is the MINIMUM number of times any of them have appeared including their 2016 appearance. The 4A match was a rematch of the 2015 3A final, Imhotep (D12) versus Erie Cathedral Prep (D10). And all four of last year’s champions in 4 classes returned to either defend their title, or play in a different class this season.

Two of the six games went to “mercy rule” (6A and 2A) and only one game provided a comeback win after being behind 9-20; when Erie Cathedral Prep stormed to a 27-20 victory over Imhotep Charter. It was also the closest game of the six. Total points scored by winners and losing teams is irrelevant as it was the first 6-game finals to all the past being 4-game finals. But no scoring records were cracked per game, and the average margin of victory was 24.2.

For those that track such things there were 6 open enrollment entries and 6 public school entries in this year’s final. In actual count it was 5 Catholic schools and 7 public schools, but Imhotep Charter is both public and open enrollment so a dual distinction. We were bound to have a minimum of two open enrollment champions as two classes (6A and 4A) were open against open matches. Additionally, Bishop Guilfoyle three-peated in 1A; and Archbishop Wood won yet again; both against public schools, to make the final count – open enrollment champions 4, public school 2. The two public championships were also guaranteed as two classes (2A & 3A) were all public school participation.

The total entries for 29 championship years grew to 236 teams (118 games, 2 teams per game). The 236 slots have been filled with Catholic schools 50, other private 2, charter 3, and 181 public schools. Although charter is a public class, I like to differentiate because of the open enrollment issue. Broadly, you could also say private 52, public 184.

Now, the actual teams that filled these slots above have been Catholic 20, private 2, charter 1, and public 85. The four “new” teams this season were all public; and all of the Catholic and charter schools were repeats; nobody new. A total of 108 different teams out of PIAA’s count of 570 in football for 2016-17 yield 19% that have been to finals. This is one percent better than 2015 by virtue of 4 “new” schools in finals, and 7 less playing football than the 577 in 2015.  This is another win for 6 classes, more schools with gold, although detractors view it as, “watered down”, or “everyone gets a trophy” philosophies. But 81% of schools playing football have not even been to finals, so I do not see such philosophies. Even a lesser percentage have won the gold, we have not gone there yet.

So let’s go there. Only two new schools won championships – Beaver Falls D7 3A, and Steel Valley D7 2A. All four other champions have won before. The two new wins make 67 teams that have won at least one state championship. When compared to the total of 570 football-playing schools that makes 12% our total of teams that have won gold; hardly a “trophy for everyone”.

The regional east-west battle was officially a 3-3 even split this season. While realists can say 4-2 for the west, as western Bishop Guilfoyle D6 won the 1A title (three-peat)for the east; we are bound by official results and the brackets that each team plays through.

The new classification breakdown for wins:

East       West

6A                     1           0

5A                 1           0

4A               13         16

3A                     18         11

2A               17         12

1A               16         13

Totals           66         52

The even 3-3 east-west split this season maintains the east 14-game win lead gap.

The results by districts. Six different districts added to their team participation totals, while four different districts added to their win percentages.

While there are 236 slots to be filled in the 29 years of games so far, teams playing in west brackets can only fill 118 spots, and teams from the east 118 spots. Although some districts send their various class teams to the “other” bracket it doesn’t matter, the percentage we use is for any slot that a district has filled divided by the common divisor (118). Only District 12 differs as they have only participated since the 2004 championships, giving them a divisor of 54 (12 seasons of 4 slots plus this season of 6). Our results for the district participation percentages: D7- 71%; D12-30%; D4- 20%; D3- 19%; D1 & D11 – 17% each; D2 & D10 – 15% each; D6- 9%; D8 & D9 – 2% each, and tiny D5 (12 schools) has never reached the finals.

Adding the percentages equals 200%, which is correct as it indicates 100% of both eastern and western slots filled. Remember, this is just how many times the district filled available slots, the second part is how many different teams did the filling. This really gets intricate with the same team filling several different classes, and two teams playing in two different districts. I will try my best.

District 7’s 71% equals 84 slots filled for finals and that has been accomplished by 38 teams; far exceeding any other district in teams sent to finals. Despite the short length of District 12’s participation, they are in second place at 30%; but only 5 different teams have filled the 16 slots at finals. Going on down the list the districts and teams sent are D3 – 15: D10 & D11 – 11; D1 – 9; D2 – 7; D6 – 6; D4 – 5; D9 – 2; D8 – 1; and D5 no one yet to finals. Seeing how few teams have come out of each district further attests to the difficulty entailed in making finals.

Of most interest regarding districts is the district’s individual winning percentage. It is obvious as the years roll along it seems that each and every active district blends towards a .500 average with wins and losses balancing. D12 leads now at 10-6 and a .625 winning average. They are one of only three districts over .500. Next are D2 at 10-8 and .556 followed by D11 at 11-9 and .550. Four districts sit at an even .500 with D4 12-12; D3 11-11; D1 10-10; and D8 1-1. District 7 sits at 41-43 and a .488 average. D10 is at 8-10, .445 and D6 at 4-6 .400. D9 is .000 at 0-2, and D5 is not-applicable as no D5 teams have played for a state championship.

There has been little doubt that as D7 has always dominated the west, since 2008 D12 has become the beast of the east. This years’ 12 slots were filled with four D7 teams and three D12 teams among two D3, one D4, one D6, and one D10.

Results for each district with this years’ championship wins & losses:

6A – D12 won the first-ever title, making the cell 1-0.     D7 lost and is thus 0-1.

5A – D12 won the first ever title, making the cell 1-0.     D3 lost and is 0-1.

4A – D10 won improving their cell to 2-2.                        D12 lost to make their cell 3-2.

3A – D7 won to make their cell 7-10.                                 D3 lost dropping to 1-7 in 3A.

2A – D7 won to get to 9-12.                                               D4 lost to make it 5-4 in 2A.

1A – D6 won to get to 3-2 in 1A.                                       D7 lost, making their cell 12-10.

By cell I mean the record per district per class from a matrix I developed to track these statistics.

The gold medal count now stands at D7 – 41; D4 – 12; D3 & D11 – 11; D12, D1, D2, – 10; D10 – 8; D6 – 4; D8 – 1; and D9 and D5 – 0. The movement here is heavy to D12, who has caught a 4-way tie for 4th in championships in 13 finals since joining the PIAA.

And so the first 6-class championship is history. I saw all 6 contests on PCN and enjoyed watching greatly. There was an abundance of football talent displayed in those six games. The three most impressive squads to me were St. Joe’s Prep D12, Wood D12, and Steel Valley D7.

I had not seen the Prep in person yet this season, and I thought they were the most prepared to meet their opponent in every phase of the game. They looked polished, big, tough, fast, and with formations on both offense and defense that I had not witnessed before. They truly deserve their lofty position.

I had seen Wood in person, but thought that the Harrisburg speed and, particularly Mr. Parsons, would be a lot for them to handle. Whether it is the black uniforms or not, the Vikings just didn’t look too physically big this season, but their skill sets, effort, speed, and coaching lacked for nothing. They may be D12, but they are nestled right here in my Bucks County, so I liked their win and another title.

Steel Valley looked like they were from another planet. They executed perhaps the best run I have ever seen; a twisting, almost tripped down, field reversing, some 50+ yard run in which the runner broke attempts by at least 10 opponents that were close to getting him, but never did. That was truly an amazing run. And you don’t mercy rule Southern Columbia very often.

Erie Cathedral Prep came back from their deficit with about 18 points in about 7 minutes to get by Imhotep 27-20 in the gutsiest display of the finals. Once again, penalties shot down perhaps the most talented team to take the field this season in Hershey. If the Panthers would only add discipline to their talent, size, speed and depth; WOW!

Some random happenings to record: Pittsburgh Central Catholic appeared at their 7th final, which would have broken CB West’s 6 appearances (per class) if it was still 4 classes; but PCC is now in 6A. This is one example of fine tuning the history of the championships. PCC ties Berwick at 7 appearances, the second most in championships history to Southern Columbia’s 15 appearances; 13 in A and 2 in AA. Again, you have class records, and team records, and the melding of the two.

Clairton made their 7th appearance also, all in 1A; which ties the team with Berwick and PCC in second most appearances of a team.

St Joe’s Prep joined an elite group of undefeated 3-0 teams, the highest win category of undefeated champions. Bishop Guilfoyle in 1A also joined this elite bunch that already included North Allegheny, Allentown Central Catholic, and Thomas Jefferson.

I hope attendance overall at the finals was ok for the PIAA, it did not look that great for the most part on TV.

I also hope the PIAA is not finished tweaking the system. In general terms, the two 6A opponents, two 1A opponents, two 4A opponents, and one of the 2A and 5A opponents were consensus pre-season destined to be there. Only 3A provided two “surprises”.

Therefore, eight of the 12 teams were known (or predicted) to be in the finals before they were. All deserved to be there, but where’s the mystery and spirit of competition in that?

A true breath of fresh air was had in the 3A final, both teams never before appearing at finals. We need more of that.

And, the ever-present argument goes on regarding the advantage of the open enrollment schools over the confined (in comparison) talent available to the general public schools. No comment.

As a District One resident, I follow this district and the two Philadelphia Catholic League schools that lie in it – Archbishop Wood and Conwell-Egan. The District One playoffs need tweaking, especially in the 6A and 5A classes. Results seem to indicate that 16 teams making playoffs in both classes are excessive. But, in the case of 6A, 8 are too few.

I feel that the correct number may be 12 for 6A (top 4 get first round bye), and 8 for 5A; just one man’s opinion.

D1 is working on a sweeping change that would group class schools into regions and eliminate individual leagues; but as one might expect, that requires great change, something that many people have trouble grasping. I liked the 6A plan on paper, but as I said ——change.

I had a great season, 19 games in person and 23 more via radio, video steam, and TV. I got to see in person Archbishop Wood (5A state champs), Neshaminy (11-1), North Penn (14-1), CB East (8-3), CB South (8-3), Coatesville (11-2), Cardinal O’Hara (10-1), and Conwell-Egan 9-4). In addition LaSalle, Pennridge, and Penn Wood who had good, if less than stellar, years.

I hope the reader had a great season as well, and I wish all the teams for the following season – be the best you can be; there are many rewards of playing; grow, improve, and play as a “team”. Looking forward to Dave Mika posting the “xxx days to high school football” on this website!

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