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STROHECKER: Kinks to work out in re-classification

Patrick Strohecker
505-5402/@P_Strohecker
  • Four Y-A League teams will make the jump to 6-A under the PIAA's new classification system.
  • Dover will be the smallest 5-A school in the state.
  • Despite a small turnout of athletes, York Tech competes at the 6-A level.

If there was one topic that dominated the talk during the 2016 high school football preseason, it had to do with the PIAA expanding to six classes.

Dallastown is one of four York-Adams League schools which will make the jump up to 6-A this season under the PIAA's new classification system. The Wildcats pictured are Steven Dunczyk, left, and Brice Register.

When the organization approved the move back in October, it was met with mixed reviews from several area coaches. At the time, nobody was quite sure exactly how it would work. There were rumblings that it would actually expand the playoffs and create a more equal playing field among the teams. One thing that was set in stone was that one state champion would be crowned in each of six classes. Previously the 578 PIAA schools were divided over four classes.

Now that the season is right around the corner, it's obvious there will be some kinks to work out.

During Monday's York-Adams League Football Media Day, several coaches spoke about the changes their teams will face.

Fewer playoff teams: The major difference that will await football teams in District 3 this year will come with the playoffs.

The playoffs won't be expanded and they won't stay the same, either. Instead, the number of playoff-bound teams in District 3 will diminish by 12, from 44 teams under four classes to just 32 in the new six-class system. That obviously puts more of an emphasis on winning during the regular season. Very few coaches have a problem with that. The postseason should be a reward for a successful regular season, one that includes winning at least seven out of 10 games. There will no longer be .500 and below-.500 teams making the postseason.

However, with no more than eight teams making the playoffs at any level, and as few as two teams making it at the lower classes, the reduced number of teams making the postseason, overall, is rubbing some coaches the wrong way, because now there are fewer opportunities for players to make the playoffs.

"This is high school kids and you're giving high school kids the opportunity (to play in playoffs)," Red Lion head coach Jesse Shay said. "When they talked about this, they talked about how they were going to expand the playoffs. No they didn't. ... You've contracted the playoffs. You've taken away opportunities for 12 different teams. I don't think that's good for high school athletics."

There is also a disparity problem in District 3. In 6-A, Red Lion, Central York, Dallastown or York Tech only have to battle 13 other teams for the eight playoff spots. However, at the 5-A and 3-A level, the teams in those classes will battle for the same eight playoff berths as in 6-A and 4-A, but have to do it against more than 30 other schools.

"They're the ones who should say, 'Hey, wait a minute,'" Dallastown head coach Kevin Myers said. "Something's gotta be done and taken a look at by the district."

In the case of Dover, that could prove difficult. It's the smallest 5-A school in the state, just missing out on being the largest 4-A school by about a dozen male students. By just missing out on being a 4-A school, Dover now sits as the only 5-A member in York-Adams Division II and will be forced to play six division games against 3-A and 4-A teams, drastically hurting its power ratings come playoff time.

"Is that going to affect us come playoff time?" Eagles head coach Wayne Snelbaker asked. "Is that not going to affect us? That's the great unknown for us right now."

York Tech coach Charlie Troxell went 2-28 in his first stint as the Spartans' head coach from 2002-04. He returns for his second stint as the Spartans' head coach on Friday, when his team travels to Harford Tech in the "Battle for the Mason-Dixon Line." A rotating trophy will be awarded after the game.

No chance at playoffs: Perhaps the biggest disappointment with the new system comes with York Tech.

The Spartans, by way of their large male enrollment are a 6-A program. As York County's only tech school, they draw players from all over the county. However, they play in Division III, the "small-school" division in the Y-A League, because a small percentage of its male students actually play football. The PIAA, however, bases classifications off of male enrollment, meaning that, despite having a small-school turnout in players, Tech is forced to play in the sport's highest class.

First-year head coach Charlie Troxell realizes that and is resigned to the fact that he knows his team can't compete on a 6-A level, meaning the playoffs are out of the question for his Spartans.

"We're playing A and AA football, so we don't belong at the 6-A level," Troxell said. "We're never going to get to the district playoffs. ... But, that's not what we worry about. We worry about getting better as a football team."

While Troxell doesn't think the PIAA should readjust its classification criteria for tech schools such as York Tech, it raises an interesting question about how the PIAA does classify teams.

There's no doubt this season will shine a light on some potential problems with the new classification system. The only question that remains is, how will the PIAA work to solve them and make this thing work on all levels?

— Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com