With the first regular season of six classifications now in the rearview mirror, the WPIAL decided to look ahead with a new playoff philosophy.
The WPIAL announced playoff pairings Monday night in Green Tree and for the first time, some games will match teams from the same conference.
It is a big change from the past. The WPIAL never has matched teams from the same conference in a first-round playoff game. But with the addition of two classifications to football in Pennsylvania this season, the WPIAL had four classes with only two conferences each. The top four teams from those conferences qualified for the playoffs.
With eight-team fields, the WPIAL football committee decided it would be appropriate to throw out the old thinking that teams from the same conference couldn’t play each other.
“When the meeting started, I said we have to decide,” said Tim O’Malley, executive director of the WPIAL. “We said we could truly seed teams one through eight, or we could avoid conferences eeeeeeeplaying each other like we did in the past. To a man, everyone on that committee felt it was best to truly seed teams 1 through 8.”
The WPIAL playoffs start Friday with 31 games and one will be played Saturday. Five of the games will match teams that played in the same conference. They are North Hills at West Allegheny, and Gateway at Armstrong in Class 5A; New Castle at South Fayette, and Belle Vernon at West Mifflin in 4A; and Apollo-Ridge at Keystone Oaks in 3A.
“Whether it was the right thing or wrong, we tried to seed and plug in,” O’Malley said. “For example, we could’ve flipped North Hills and Gateway. But we didn’t think it was fair because the committee thought North HIlls was the No. 8 seed and should play the No. 1 seed [West Allegheny].”
“The easiest way would’ve been to put 1 vs. 4, and 2 vs. 3 in different conferences,” said Randy Rovesti, chairman of the football committee. “But we felt if you want to be totally fair, you should seed the teams. The beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. The unfortunate part is that teams have played each other before. I tried to think of it as a coach and I was kind of 50-50 in my opinion.”
There was some big news Monday outside of the playoff meeting. Clairton star Lamont Wade will miss at least the Bears’ first playoff game after having surgery Monday for a torn meniscus in his right knee.
“I think I’ll be back in about a week,” Wade said.
Wade was injured Friday against Jeannette. He said Sunday he thought the knee was doing well and didn’t think it was serious, but things changed Monday after an MRI.
“[Doctors] said I could be out the rest of the season or I could be back soon,” Wade said. “I feel pretty good.”
Clairton coach Wayne Wade said: “It was apparently just a meniscus cleanup. It was kind of like what [Steelers quarterback] Ben Roethlisberger had.”
As for the playoffs, there was one strange seeding. Burgettstown was given the No. 6 seed in Class 2A and Chartiers-Houston the No. 8, even though Chariters-Houston beat Burgettstown and finished ahead of Burgettstown in the conference standings. Burgettstown will play Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic.
“The committee felt Cardinal Wuerl was the No. 6 seed, but they couldn’t be there because they had to play a road game,” O’Malley said. “The committee felt Burgettstown was the No. 11 seed, but we couldn’t put them there because they had to have a home game, so we put them No. 6.”
Here are the first-round matchups and the seeds (all games Friday unless noted otherwise):
(8) Norwin vs. (1) Central Catholic at Cupples Stadium; (5) Pine-Richland at (4) Bethel Park; (7) Hempfield at (2) North Allegheny; (6) Seneca Valley at (3) Mt. Lebanon.
(8) North Hills at (1) West Allegheny; (5) Franklin Regional at (4) Woodland Hills; (7) Gateway at (2) Armstrong; (6) Upper St. Clair at (3) McKeesport.
(8) Montour at (1) Thomas Jefferson; (5) Belle Vernon at (4) West Mifflin; (7) New Castle at (2) South Fayette; (6) Ringgold at (3) Mars.
(8) South Park vs. (1) Aliquippa at Ambridge; (5) Central Valley at (4) Derry; (7) Mount Pleasant at (2) Beaver Falls; (6) Apollo-Ridge at (3) Keystone Oaks.
(16) Beth-Center at (1) Steel Valley; (9) Laurel at (8) Chartiers-Houston; (13) Avonworth at (4) Riverside; (12) Freedom at (5) East Allegheny; (15) South Side Beaver at (2) Washington; (10) Frazier at (7) Brentwood; (14) Serra at (3) Neshannock; (11) Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic at (6) Burgettstown.
(16) Avella at (1) Clairton; (9) Sto-Rox at (8) Fort Cherry; (13) Mapletown at (4) Northgate; (12) California at (5) Bishop Canevin, Saturday; (15) Riverview at (2) Rochester; (10) Imani Christian at (7) Our Lady of the Sacred Heart; (14) Shenango at (3) Jeannette; (11) Springdale at (6) Carmichaels.
For more on high school sports, go to “Varsity Blog” at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: email@example.com and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.