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District 3 football calendar may be changing soon

Patrick Strohecker
  • The District 3 committee passed a motion to potentially change the football calendar, beginning in the 2018-19 school year.
  • The proposal would expand the playoffs by eliminating one scrimmage or one regular-season game so the postseason would begin in Week 10.
  • Currently, District 3 only takes 32 football teams for its playoffs over six classes, far less than most major sports.

Last week, the District 3 Committee unanimously approved a motion to possibly change the football calendar, beginning in the 2018-19 school year.

District 3 has passed a motion that will potentially change the football calendar, beginning in 2018-19. It would shorten the season and allow the district an opportunity to expand the playoffs. That could be good news for 5-A teams such as Northeastern, above.

The proposal states that all District 3 member schools must prepare to start the postseason in Week 10 as a way to shorten the season. In order to do so, the proposed change would require all teams to either drop one preseason scrimmage in order to keep a 10-game regular season schedule, or teams can keep two scrimmages but be limited to a nine-game regular season. Teams opting to drop a scrimmage and play 10 regular-season games would start in what the PIAA refers to as "Week 0."

The official statement from District 3 reads: "The PIAA District 3 Committee voted unanimously at its March 8, 2017, meeting to prepare its member schools for a possible change in football playoff starting dates for the 2018-2019 school year.

"The Committee moved that member schools with football must be prepared to start their football playoffs in Week 10 of the PIAA football calendar. District 3 began its football playoffs in Week 11 of the 2016-2017 football calendar and will do the same next year, the 2017-2018 season. The district committee stresses that there will be many factors that can affect District 3’s eventual decision on when to begin its 2018-2019 football playoffs. This motion paves the way for any future changes.

"Should the district begin football playoffs in Week 10 in 2018, District 3 schools that wish to play 10 regular-season games starting in 2018-2019 may only participate in one scrimmage and begin their regular-season schedules in what PIAA currently refers to as Week 0 on the football calendar. Schools that wish to participate in two scrimmages may do so, but may only play nine regular-season games should they choose to enter the District 3 Football Championships."

Expanding the playoffs: Among the biggest reasons for the potential change is the possible expansion of the football playoffs for certain classes. The PIAA has tried in past seasons to shorten the season, but, when the state went to six classes back in July, it affected the number of playoff teams that would participate in the District 3 postseason, making the number of teams participating wildly uneven throughout the classes.

In the largest class, 6-A, exactly half of the 16 member schools made the playoffs. However, in 5-A, the largest class in terms of number of schools, only eight of 29 schools (27 percent) made the postseason. In 3-A, only four schools made it out of the 15 that participated in the class, or 26 percent.

"I'm kind of indifferent about it," said Northeastern head coach Jon Scepanski, whose Bobcats were one of the select 5-A schools to make the postseason this past fall. "I'm fine with the two scrimmages and the way that it is. In the end, do you get more teams in playoffs? Yeah, but it's going back to, sometimes it won't be 16, but when we had 16 teams in there, that first round, not all the match-ups were very even."

Red Lion is a team that could be impacted by the potential calendar change. As a 6-A program, the Lions will have to decide whether or not to give up one of their scrimages to fulfill a 10-game regular season, which would limit the amount of preaseason practice time that they use to establish a depth chart. Amanda J. Cain photo

Difficult decision for coaches: The biggest concern for coaches with this potential change is wrestling with the idea of whether to get rid of one scrimmage or one regular-season game.

While the scrimmage may not seem vital, in terms of competitive meaning, it's valuable to coaches because it provides more live practice and player evaluation leading up to the season. On the other hand, if you value the two scrimmages, then you play only nine regular-season games, taking away meaningful Friday nights for high schoolers and the communities that appreciate high school football.

"I think there's something special about high school football, not just in this area, but especially in this area," Red Lion head coach Jesse Shay said. "If you take away a Friday night, that affects an entire community."

While the proposal that passed last week sets the potential calendar change in motion, it still has to undergo one more vote to become official. According to an email from Rod Frisco, the District 3 webmaster and director of corporate sponsorships, the motion last week was to give coaches a notice that this change could be happening. District 3 has to wait until the PIAA collects official enrollment figures in October and then releases classifications for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 sports cycle in December.

Ultimately, the change would help more schools qualify for the postseason, particularly in the smaller classes. Right now, football is among the lowest in total playoff teams that make the playoffs compared to other sports. Only 32 football teams make the District 3 playoffs, while that figure is significantly higher in most other sports, with nearly 50 percent of the schools making the postseason at the district level.

For Jeff Mesich, head coach of Eastern York, he sees it as a simple decision: "Whatever allows more kids to experience the playoffs, the better it is for the sport. Anything like this, that is an opportunity to get more kids the opportunity to take part in the playoffs, I'm for ... The stuff that I've seen would add one or two playoff teams to our classification (3-A) and two playoff teams to 5-A, which I think is great for those schools and those kids."

Eastern York is a team that could benefit from the proposed calendar change. The Golden Knights are a 3-A program, a class that currently gets only 26 percent of its teams into the District 3 tournament, the lowest of the six classes. John A. Pavoncello photo



Other District 3 changes: The potential change to the football calendar wasn't the only news District 3 announced recently.

The district also decided to have higher seeds in district baseball, softball and volleyball host playoff games through the quarterfinal rounds, effective this spring. Before the change, higher seeds in baseball and softball only hosted home games in the opening rounds, then moved to neutral sites for the quarterfinals, semifinals and title games. Now, only semifinal, consolation and championship games will be held at neutral locations. In smaller classifications, if a team enters the bracket in the semifinals, it will play at a neutral site.

In volleyball, before the adjustment, all postseason games were played at neutral sites from the start of the playoffs. Now, neutral-site matches won't begin until the semifinals.

Also new for this spring will be the separation of lacrosse into two classifications.

Since the sport became an official PIAA-sanctioned sport, lacrosse has always had one classification. Now, teams will be divided into two classes. During the two-week playoff period, the boys' competition will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while the girls' action will take part on Mondays and Wednesdays. Hersheypark Stadium will still host all four district title games.

Central York pre-selling tickets: Central York is holding an advance ticket sale for the Panthers' second-round state girls' basketball game on Thursday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. in the high school atrium.

Tickets will cost $6 for adults and $3 for students. It's recommended that tickets be purchased ahead of time. Reading's Santander Arena is expecting a sellout with the highly-popular Reading boys' team playing afterwards. Central York will face Cardinal O'Hara at 6:30 p.m.

— Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com