High school football notebook: School-day WPIAL finals offers challenge for administrators
With a victory Friday, some high school students will take an unofficial holiday at the end of next week.
For the first time in more than a decade, the WPIAL football championship games are scheduled on a school day. Typically held the weekend after Thanksgiving, this year’s four finals are a week earlier, on Nov. 21.
Not since 2002 have they fallen on a school day.
“It’s not optimal,” WPIAL executive director Tim O’Malley said. “We would very much like to play on a day where there’s no school. But the situation didn’t provide that opportunity this year.”
Two variables were at work. One was the calendar, with Labor Day (Sept. 1) and Thanksgiving (Nov. 27) falling on unfavorable dates. The other was Pitt’s football schedule. Syracuse visits Heinz Field on Nov. 22, making Saturday unavailable.
“The Steelers and the Rooney family are so gracious to offer us the opportunity (to use Heinz Field),” O’Malley said. “When that scheduling conflict occurs, and it hasn’t occurred often, it’s just something we have to deal with.”
Most affected will be the Class A and Class AAAA finalists. The Class A final starts at 11 a.m., followed by Class AAAA at 2 p.m., Class AA at 5 p.m. and Class AAA at 8 p.m.
School administrations already have started to plan, Pine-Richland athletic director Josh Shoop said.
“Everybody was tasked with thinking of a scenario,” Shoop said. “It’s definitely a challenge.”
The order of the four finals is the same as last season, when held on Saturday. The Class AAAA final is second to accommodate Root Sports, which will televise the first two games live.
Root Sports will televise tape-delayed the Class AAA semifinal between No. 2 Thomas Jefferson (11-0) and No. 3 West Allegheny (10-1) on Friday. The game will be shown after that night’s Penguins game.
The Class AA matchup of No. 1 North Catholic (11-0) and No. 5 Avonworth (10-1) will be available to Comcast Xfinity customers starting Saturday through its on-demand service.
Pine-Richland moved into the USA Today national rankings this week at No. 25.
The Rams (11-0), top-seeded in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs, are the only Pennsylvania team among the Super 25.