District One AAAA Football Playoffs Preview 2015
by Dave Ferris
District 1 Friday, November 13 at 7:00 unless otherwise noted
(16) Plymouth Whitemarsh 8-2 at (1) Downingtown East 10-0
DE has beaten three of this year’s playoff teams (North Penn, Unionville, and Downingtown West) plus Coatesville. Last year DE went to the district semi-finals losing to Coatesville. PW has played two good teams in a weak schedule and lost to both. PW is in the playoffs because of a fifth tie-breaker over Pennridge. East should move on easily.
(9) North Penn 7-3 at (8) Unionville 8-2
North Penn is in their typical playoff mode with lots of momentum winning seven in a row after a difficult preseason. They play in a tough league and will be a tough out. Unionville will be hard pressed to pull off the upset. But, last year NP was in a similar situation and was easily upset by West Chester Henderson in the first round. So, you never know. Unionville last made the playoffs in 2013.
(12) Quakertown 8-2 at (5) Central Bucks East 7-3 (Saturday, 1:00)
These two met last week with East winning by a point. So, obviously this is anybody’s game. Last year Quakertown won their first round playoff game against Pennridge before losing to Downingtown East in the second round. East is making its first playoff appearance under coach John Donnelly who took over in 2010.
(13) Neshaminy 7-3 at (4) Spring-Ford 10-0
Neshaminy is coming on strong after a slow start under new head coach Steve Wilmot. They beat archrival Pennsbury last week 16-14 to put them back in the playoffs after missing out last year. Until last year under one-year coach Mike Frederick, Neshaminy has been a District One playoff juggernaut. Spring-Ford has been a respectable playoff team in recent years going to the district finals 2012. Last week they had an impressive 28-14 win over then undefeated Perk Valley to win their league championship. Neshaminy plays in the very tough Suburban One National Conference while SF plays in the not as tough Pioneer League. Spring-Ford could be favored but this is a tough game to call. Neither team made last year’s playoffs.
(14) Garnet Valley 7-3 at (3) Upper Dublin 10-0
UD has had 10 blow-out wins by a combined score of 460-52 (including three straight shut-outs) behind high-powered QB Ryan Stover. They have made the playoffs for three consecutive years losing only two regular season games over that span. However, their schedule is weak. Last year they made it to the semi-finals but lost a hard-fought game to eventual champ, Pennsbury. In a mostly 3A league, Garnet Valley lost to the only two good teams. They have now made the playoffs seven times since they moved up to 4A in 2008 missing out only once. UD may be this year’s wildcard should they improve upon last year.
(11) Council Rock North 7-3 at (6) Upper Darby 9-1
CR North is as good as Brandon McIlwaine, their South Carolina-bound QB, plays. If he stays hot, they could win this one. They have made the playoffs in three consecutive years under his guidance. Upper Darby is the fourth largest school in the state, but they have never run deep into the playoffs. They play a weak schedule last appearing in the playoffs in 2013. Last year CR North lost in the first round to Upper Dublin.
(10) Perkiomen Valley 9-1 at (7) Haverford 9-1
Perk Valley has been very strong in their league for several years. But the weakness of that league, which is half AAA teams, has given them somewhat overrated status. With back-to-back 9-1 seasons, they had nine consecutive lopsided wins this year until they lost to Spring-Ford 28-14 for the league title. Haverford also plays a weak schedule in a mostly 3A league. PV should take this one. Last year Haverford lost in the first round to Coatesville while Perk Valley was losing to Downingtown East.
(15) Pennsbury 7-3 at (2) Downingtown West 9-1 (Saturday, 7:00)
Pennsbury is last year’s District One champ who eventually lost to St. Joe’s Prep in the Eastern final. This year they have been less dominating with the loss of their outstanding stable of running backs, but QB Mike Alley continues to shine. Last week, Downingtown West gave number one seed Downingtown East all they could handle in a 21-14 loss in the Ches-Mont National title game.
D1 Insights and Future Changes
The PIAA has four size classifications for football because bigger schools have a definite advantage over smaller schools. Some would say that there should be more classifications to make it even fairer. In 2016 that will happen. The PIAA will be going to a six classification set-up for football, baseball, basketball and softball. The length of the football season will be reduced by one week. All football programs will have the opportunity to move up a classification after they have been classified by the PIAA.
AAAA District One schools range in size (males for football) from 1861 at North Penn to 502 at Oxford. Size matters. Since the CB West era ended (2000), District One has been won by North Penn, Neshaminy or Pennsbury in 11 of 14 years. Only Coatesville and Ridley have broken through. This year’s D1 playoff schools size ranking of 44 schools in D1 (males for football in parenthesis):
1 North Penn (1861)
2 Pennsbury (1384)
3 Upper Darby (1354)
4 Neshaminy (1225)
7 Spring-Ford (935)
14 Downingtown East (828)
15 CB East (828)
22 Downingtown West (743)
23 Perk Valley (740)
25 Haverford (706)
26 Quakertown (703)
27 CR North (688)
35 Upper Dublin (569)
37 Garnet Valley (566)
33 Plymouth Whitemarsh (597)
43 Unionville (513)
As an example, North Penn is almost 3.5 times the size of Unionville. They will play each other in round one of the playoffs. The smaller teams on this list face an uphill battle to move through their brackets.
Sixteen seeds have done surprisingly well against ones in recent years. In ’06, Abington beat Council Rock North 21-20. In ’10 West Chester Henderson beat Ridley 14-13. In ‘12 Wissahickon beat the state’s third ranked team, Downingtown East, 38-35. But, in those games the school size differences were not that great. In fact, Abington was bigger than CR North. Due to the D1 playoff ranking system, smaller schools can rack up large point totals playing weaker schedules. That results in deceiving pairings for the playoffs such as 9th seeded North Penn vs 8th seeded Unionville. But in a similar situation last year, tiny West Chester Henderson beat North Penn 40-13. Sometimes David slays Goliath.
Only Pennsbury and Garnet Valley have made the playoffs in each of the last five years.
Suburban One to Realign
The league will have a new look in all three conferences for 2016-17 as they go back to a geography-based alignment. That means the power conference (National) will be broken up again, but many neighborhood rivalries will be renewed. At the same time, Norristown and Upper Merion will be leaving the SOL for the Pioneer Athletic Conference. Norristown was a charter member of the SOL when it was formed in 1922. The conferences will now look like this:
Continental National American
North Penn CR North Cheltenham
CB South CR South Hatboro-Horsham
Pennridge Truman Plymouth Whitemarsh
Souderton Pennsbury Upper Dublin
CB West Neshaminy Upper Moreland
CB East Abington Springfield
William Tennent Bensalem Quakertown
The Rest of the East AAAA
The winner of District 1 will play the District 12 vs. Districts 2/4/11 winner for the Eastern PA title.
District 12 Catholic League winner plays Public League winner for District 12 title.
Philadelphia Catholic League AAAA Playoffs
(1) St. Joseph’s Prep 6-2 vs (4) Roman Catholic 0-8 – Friday, November 13, 7:30 at Plymouth Whitemarsh
(2) LaSalle 5-3 vs (3) Father Judge 5-4 – Saturday, November 14, 7:00 at Plymouth Whitemarsh
Philadelphia Public League AAAA Playoffs
Northeast vs Frankford – Friday, November 13, 6:30 at Northeast
Central vs Simon Gratz – Friday, November 13, 6:30 at Simon Gratz
District 2/4/11 Sub-regional, all games are Friday, November 13, 7:00 unless noted
(8) Nazareth Area at (1) Wyoming Valley West
(5) Stroudsburg at (4) Bethlehem Liberty Saturday, 7PM
(6) Easton Area at (3) Bethlehem Freedom
(7) Delaware Valley at (2) Parkland
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