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The PIAA will throw its annual state championship holiday football party this weekend at nearby Hersheypark Stadium.

The storied facility is located smack dab in the middle of District 3, but no teams from the local district earned an invitation to the gathering.

Unfortunately for area football fans, that's becoming a bit of a trend.

District 3 didn't have a single team in the finals in 2014, either, and had just one finalist in both 2013 and 2012

It's probably a trend that the PIAA money-crunchers are not all that thrilled about, although they'd never admit it. The lack of any regional teams in Hershey is almost certain to hurt ticket sales.

To be honest, however, District 3 has never been a true power when it comes to state football, especially in the big-school classes.

Since the PIAA football playoffs started in 1988, the area district has earned just two PIAA titles in the AAAA class – Central Dauphin in 2011 and Cumberland Valley in 1992.

The district's track record is even worse in AAA, with the only regional champion being Manheim Central in 2003.

In the AA and A classes, District 3 has fared better, winning four championships in each class. The area AA champs were Wyomissing (2012), Lancaster Catholic (2011 and 2009) and Bishop McDevitt (1995). The regional A champs were Steel-High (2008 and 2007), Scotland (1992) and Camp Hill (1988).

York-Adams League left out in cold, again: Not surprisingly, every major league in District 3 is represented on that state championship list but one – the York-Adams League. The Mid-Penn Conference owns seven state crowns, while the Lancaster-Lebanon League has three and the Berks League has one.

In fact, no York-Adams League team has even reached a state final.

Of course, when you struggle to win District 3 titles it's nearly impossible to contend for state championships. The local league's difficulties in district competition in the big-school divisions are well documented. No York-Adams team has ever won a AAAA title and only one (West York, 2008) has won a AAA crown.

District 7 is state football king: In case you were wondering, the undisputed king of state football remains District 7 (also known as the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association), which owns a whopping 38 PIAA crowns. That number may increase this weekend with two more WPIAL teams in the state finals (Aliquippa in AA and Pittsburgh Central Catholic in AAAA).

Other than District 7, the state titles have been fairly evenly distributed across the state. District 3, District 4 and District 11 have 11 crowns apiece, followed by District 1 and District 2, which have 10 each. District 10 and District 12 have seven championships apiece. No other district has more than two championships.

Still worth watching: The lack of regional teams doesn't mean that this weekend's games aren't worth watching. Far from it. Each of the classes offer intriguing match-ups and there will be loads of NCAA Division I talent on display, especially in the big-school divisions.

Still, from a parochial standpoint, the lack of regional representation does take something away from the weekend for area fans.

Change is coming: That may change next year. The odds say it will. After all, the PIAA will increase the number of playoff classifications to six next year, meaning 12 teams will make the state finals, instead of just eight.

Hopefully, at least one or two, or more, will come from District. 3. Maybe even the York-Adams League will have a finalist, although history tells us that is extremely unlikely.

Enjoy the party:

In the meantime, enjoy the championship weekend. If you can't make it to Hershey, watch the games on the Pennsylvania Cable Network. PCN's coverage is always excellent and the games are always entertaining.

Even with District 3 teams conspicuously absent, it still promises to be a great holiday football party.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.

STATE FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS AT A GLANCE

Following is a list of this weekend's PIAA state championship football games. All of the games will be held at Hersheypark Stadium and be telecast by the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN). On Comcast cable in the York area, PCN is channel 186.

CLASS AAAA

District 11 champion Parkland (14-1) vs. District 7 champion Pittsburgh Central Catholic (14-1), 6 p.m. Saturday.

Notes: Both of these teams have state championship pedigrees. Central Catholic owns three previous AAAA crowns, while Parkland has one. … Central Catholic is a defensive-oriented, run-first team that has outscored its state playoff foes by average of 22.3-9.0. Parkland is outscoring its state foes, 36.3-16.0. … Both teams feature a number of NCAA Division I recruits.

CLASS AAA

District 12 champion Imhotep Charter (14-0) vs. District 10 champion Erie Cathedral Prep (14-1), 7 p.m. Friday.

Notes: Imhotep Charter is looking for its first-ever state title, although it did make the state finals in 2013, while Cathedral Prep is after its third state crown. … After squeezing out a 20-14 win over previously unbeaten Archbishop Wood (the defending AAA state champion) in the PIAA first round, Imhotep has rolled in its last two state playoff games, winning by a combined score of 118-43. Cathedral Prep, meanwhile, won its last two PIAA games by seven points and four points. Overall, Prep is outscoring its state foes by an average of 36.0-25.3. Look for a high-scoring affair.

CLASS AA
District 4 champion Southern Columbia (15-0) vs. District 7 champion Aliquippa (15-0), noon Saturday.

Notes: This is the only state finals match-up of unbeaten teams. … Both are traditional state powers. Southern Columbia is tied with Berwick for the most PIAA crowns with six. Aliquippa owns two state championships. … This could be an entertaining score fest. Both teams have excelled on offense, while struggling on defense in the state playoffs. Southern Columbia has outscored its state foes by an average of 41.3-30.0. Aliquippa's average state playoff score has been 32.7-25.3.

CLASS A
District 6 champion Bishop Guilfoyle (15-0) vs. District 10 champion Farrell (14-1), 1 p.m. Friday.

Notes: Bishop Guilfoyle is the defending Class A state champion. It was the school's first-ever PIAA football crown. Farrell, which has a storied athletic tradition, owns two previous state championships. … In the state playoffs, Guilfoyle has steamrolled the opposition, winning by an average score of 43.7-5.3. Farrell has had a rougher go, outscoring its foes, 26.3-15.7. That includes a six-point overtime win and and a five-point win.

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