A move up in classification by Carmichaels High School from Class A to Class AA in football threatens one of the most-played rivalries in the WPIAL.
According to enrollment figures and a PIAA classification report released Friday morning, the Mikes will be moving out of the Class A Tri-County South Conference and leaving some longtime foes behind.
Carmichaels is also facing the possibility of seeing its series with Jefferson-Morgan, which dates back to 1925, end for at least two years. The only time the Mikes and Rockets did not play in that span was in 1974 when a teachers’ strike forced the game to be cancelled.
“We weren’t surprised this has happened,” said John Krajnak, Carmichaels’ athletic director. “We had one large class of (males) and we knew we would be close.”
Carmichaels was only one boy over the the limit to play in Class A, reporting 132 males in grades 9 through 11 last month. The Mikes will be the smallest Class AA football team in the state, according to enrollment.
Fort Cherry joins Carmichaels in moving up in football classification from Class A to Class AA while Bentworth and Chartiers-Houston will be moving down to Class A.
McGuffey also could move down from Class AAA to Class AA.
Krajnak said the potential loss of its rivalry game with Jefferson-Morgan stings.
“We’re hoping there are some (nonconference), crossover games scheduled and they (the WPIAL) will consider us and Jefferson-Morgan,” he added.
“You build up a lot of relationships and friendships. The only things that separates Carmichaels and Jefferson-Morgan is Crucible Road. And we’re right beside Mapletown. West Greene is getting stronger and those are all games for which we draw good crowds.”
Adding to the probability of the Carmichaels-Jefferson-Morgan series going on hiatus is the Mikes’ belief that playing a Week Zero game can be detrimental to the development of the team. The Mikes have chosen not to play in Week Zero each of the past two seasons, opting instead for scrimmages. In addition, Jefferson-Morgan has an agreement in place to play Waynesburg to open its season the next two years.
“We have a good, solid program,” Krajnak said. “We get 40-plus kids out for varsity football and 25 to 30 for middle school. We run a good program. The kids and the coaches work hard.
“This could give us more exposure and, in some regards, it’s exciting. But we’d hate to lose the Jefferson-Morgan game. The kids look forward to it.”
Scot Moore, athletic director at Jefferson-Morgan, said he’s crossing his fingers the WPIAL will schedule a game between the Rockets and Mikes, in a crossover contest.
“We’re glad to have the Waynesburg game back but it would be awful, a shame if Jefferson-Morgan and Carmichaels did not play,” Moore said.
Ed Dalton, athletic director and football coach at McGuffey, said it is too early to “make an educated decision” on whether McGuffey will choose to play in Class AA.
“We’ll take a good look at it,” Dalton said. “Geography means lot. I really don’t care who we play but I have been in leagues where we drive right past a school to play somewhere else farther away. That’s horrific travel.”
Interestingly, the WPIAL has only nine Class 6-A schools in football, including Canon-McMillan.
In addition to the Big Macs, the other Class 6-A teams are North Allegheny, Seneca Valley, Butler, Hempfield, Mt. Lebanon, Central Catholic, Norwin and Pine-Richland.
Tim O’Malley, the executive director of the WPIAL said in a text message Friday afternoon.
“(I have) no idea what we will do,” wrote O’Malley. “(We) will look at (things) after (the) final list of those (districts) playing up comes out.”
Frank Vulcano, Canon-McMillan athletic director, said each district has to live with the numbers.
“They are what they are,” he added. “If we’re stuck at nine, we’ll live with that. Is it ideal? No.”
Peters Township is moving down to Class 5-A in football, as is Bethel Park. Both were members of the Class 6A Southeastern Conference, along with Canon-McMillan, this season.
The Indians and Big Macs are potential opening-season opponents, according to Vulcano.
Trinity remains in Class 4A but will lose two opponents as Uniontown is dropping one classification and Albert Gallatin is moving up one. McKeesport will drop to Class 4A next year.
In another significant move, California will return to Class A in baseball.
In local wrestling, South Fayette – which has been an upper echelon Class AA team – will be going up to Class AAA. The Lions also move upward in baseball to Class 5A.
Jefferson-Morgan, which played last season and will again this season as the smallest Class AA boys basketball team in the PIAA, will return to Class A next school year.
The Charleroi and McGuffey girls soccer teams will be dropping in classification to Single-A.
Districts must inform the PIAA by Dec. 6 if they voluntarily want to “play-up” in classification in a specific sport or sports for the two-year cycle.
PIAA Classification Reports are available at www.piaa.org for the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 athletic cycle.