Staff Writer

Luke Campbell has been handling a multitude of tasks since joining the Observer-Reporter in 2015, following his graduation from Waynesburg University. He graduated from Waynesburg with a bachelor’s degree in sports broadcasting and information.

SF celebrations

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

South Fayette football players celebrate after a comeback victory over Thomas Jefferson, 31-24, to win the WPIAL Class 4A championship at Heinz Field in 2018. The two perennial powerhouses will play each other in nonconference games each of the next two seasons.

The WPIAL can channel its inner Russell Crowe from the movie “Gladiator.”

After the opening few weeks of nonconference play in high school football, which now will be played at the beginning of the season, board members who helped handpick the schedule can stand up on the table in a board room and loudly scream, “Are you not entertained?”

When the district released the high school football schedules for the regular season Thursday morning, I must admit, I was already entertained.

Seven months from the season and I’m already channeling my inner Bart Scott, a former NFL linebacker who famously gave a two-word signing off after an on-field interview following a playoff victory.

“Can’t wait,” Scott said about coming to play the Pittsburgh Steelers the following week.

Well, I can’t wait.

With the slate of nonconfence games the WPIAL released at the beginning of the season, you can’t blame me. The hardest part isn’t finding a good game anymore but rather choosing which one to go to.

Let’s just look at Week 1 for local high school teams. Remember, these aren’t the Week Zero games chosen by the schools.

Canon-McMillan and Peters Township continue their rivalry. West Greene travels to northern Washington County to play Burgettstown. Those might be the best two games, at least locally.

The second week is where it gets really interesting. South Fayette hosts Thomas Jefferson. Washington travels to play Clairton. Peters Township plays Mt. Lebanon. Belle Vernon takes on Penn-Trafford.

Yes, all that is packed into one Friday night. It’s Sept. 11 for those who just want to mark it on their calendar now.

In Week 3, teams that have met each of the last two postseasons, Peters Township and Penn-Trafford, play one another.

Even look outside of the area teams and must-see matchups are everywhere every week. Thomas Jefferson opens with Gateway. Pine-Richland also takes on the defending Class 5A WPIAL champion Gators then the Class 6A Pittsburgh Central Catholic.

The WPIAL focused on minimizing two things: blowouts and travel.

Mismatched games have became more and more frequent, especially in this day and age of the haves and have nots. In 2018, of the 166 regular-season games played by the 22 local high school football teams, 66 of those games were won by 35 points or more. Sixty-eight games in 2019 were won at or above the 35-point Mercy Rule. In each of the last two seasons, the average margin of victory has been around 30 points.

The WPIAL, in most cases, matched the haves with the haves and the have nots with the have nots.

Some local teams also have open weeks. In Class 2A, one local team each week will have an open date from Week 5 until the end of the regular season. McGuffey is off in Week 5, Washington in Week 6, Waynesburg in Week 7, Charleroi in Week 8 and Chartiers-Houston in Week 9. Each of those teams can find an opponent if they choose.

Releasing the schedules was the second part of the realignment process. The first was categorizing the new conferences, which were released Jan. 20, and the final step will be deciding the number of playoff qualifiers and which classifications will hold their championships at Heinz Field.

Even though we don’t know how he season will end, it certainly looks like it will be off to a promising start.

Staff writer Luke Campbell can be reached at lcampbell@observer-reporter.com.

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