Realignment shakes up football conferences
The WPIAL football realignment for the 2014-15 seasons will mean major changes are coming for high schools in Washington and Greene County, including the resurrection of some longtime rivalries.
McGuffey and Burgettstown were moved from the Class AA Century Conference to join Washington in the Interstate Conference. That reignites rivalries between the three high schools. The trio will be joined in the section by Brownsville, Charleroi, Derry (formerly in Class AAA), Mt. Pleasant, Southmoreland and Waynesburg.
Mike Bosnic, the head coach at Washington for the past five seasons, is not surprised by the changes. It’s a similar conference alignment to the one in place when he came to Washington.
“I’m pleased we are picking up two Washington County teams,” Bosnic said. “That will be nice to play some teams that are a lot closer and have a rivalry with. Since we haven’t played those two schools in recent years, I don’t think there is a big rivalry right now, but once we get into the season and get to playing them, the rivalry will pick up really fast.”
McGuffey head coach and athletic director Ed Dalton is excited about the Highlanders’ move to the Interstate Conference. Dalton sees the renewal of old rivalries as a perfect opportunity for McGuffey, which already competes against those schools in other sports.
“The kids are excited and tweeting like crazy,” Dalton said. “We didn’t have much in common geographically with the teams we played against last year. It was not as much fun. It’s more fun when the players know the kids they are facing. That will be nice. Plus, playing Wash High and Waynesburg, it’s one home game you are almost guaranteed to sell out.”
McGuffey’s departure from the Century Conference was trumped in intrigue by South Fayette remaining. The Class AA state champion Lions are joined in the Century by Carlynton, which moved up from Class A, East Allegheny, Keystone Oaks, Quaker Valley, Seton-La Salle, South Allegheny, South Park, Sto-Rox and Steel Valley.
It was thought South Fayette’s increasing enrollment might push it to Class AAA, but the Lions ended up six students below the 299 cutoff for Class AA.
South Fayette head coach Joe Rossi is excited about the addition of Sto-Rox, which reached the WPIAL Class A championship game last season under the direction of former South Fayette quarterbacks coach Dan Bradley.
“Sto-Rox will be competitive and has good athletes,” Rossi said. “You always like seeing teams with great players. I think it’s the toughest conference in Class AA in my opinion. Coach Bradley was on my staff in 2010; he was my quarterbacks coach for four years. He’s a great coach and playing them will be a nice challenge for us.”
Class A has been restructured with local rivalries coming together and others falling apart. The Tri-County South won’t have Geibel, which will not field a varsity football team this season, but California is returning. The Trojans will join holdovers Avella, Bentworth, Beth-Center, Carmichaels, Frazier, Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown and West Greene. Beth-Center and California have a rivalry that dates back 40 years.
“(California) is a real good rivalry for us,” Beth-Center head coach Ed Woods said. “That’s one we’ve had for a long, long time. There will be some good games in that conference, and I think adding California is definitely a plus.”
Many head coaches, including Monessen’s Andy Pacak, were surprised by the reshaped conferences in Class A. The Greyhounds, who shared the Black Hills Conference title last season, will have some long bus trips and will play some talented teams.
Jeannette and Greensburg Central Catholic dropped to Class A, and will join Monessen in the new Eastern Conference. Clairton, Leechburg, Riverview, Serra Catholic, Springdale and Wilkinsburg will form arguably Class A’s toughest conference.
“Wow,” Pacak said. “Oh, well. We’ll just do a little traveling, I guess. It is what it is. It sounds like a nice conference, and there are some elements from the old Eastern Eight conference. It sounds like it will be fun, and it will be great for the fans.”
Last year’s Black Hills Conference has undergone a makeover and two local schools will now have defending state champion North Catholic on the schedule. Fort Cherry and Chartiers-Houston have been moved to the new Ohio Valley Conference that includes North Catholic, Avonworth, Bishop Canevin, Brentwood, Northgate and Our Lady of Sacred Heart.
Fort Cherry, which scrimmages Avonworth and Northgate each preseason, will need to find new practice partners for head coach Jim Shiel’s squad.
“It wasn’t what I expected, that’s for sure,” Shiel said. “That’s going to be quite a haul to some of those schools, but we are used to it with our trips to Serra Catholic over the years. You have to play who they tell you to play. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”
North Catholic, which will start the 2014-15 school year at a new facility in Cranberry Township, will have Chartiers-Houston and Fort Cherry traveling an hour north.
“It looks like there are two conferences in Class A that are pretty dominant,” Chartiers-Houston head coach Terry Fetsko said. “It seems that we are stuck playing the state champions pretty much every year. There are going to be some great rivalries, but it is what it is. You can’t worry about things you can’t control and that will definitely be a strong conference.”