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Pa. power Southern Columbia to appeal ruling that could move Tigers to 3-A in football

TODD HUMMEL
(Sunbury) Daily Item (TNS)
Southern Columbia running back Gavin Garcia, left, puts a move on Richland linebacker Jacob Sabol, center, and defensive back Allen Mangus before scoring a touchdown during a PIAA Class AA football playoffs semifinal in Selingrove, Pa., Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. (John Rucosky/The Tribune-Democrat via AP)

CATAWISSA — The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association released the schools that have to play up a class in football starting with the 2020-2021 school year due to its new competition formula.

Southern Columbia, with its back-to-back state championships, accrued enough points to be moved up to Class 3-A. The PIAA informed the school on Tuesday. 

However, it’s not quite that simple for the program that has become a Pennsylvania small-school football power, collecting 10 state championships. The school plans to appeal the move.

The formula to get moved up: The PIAA website (piaa.org) states that schools will earn one point for a district champion contest, two points for a quarterfinal appearance in the state playoffs, three points for an appearance in the semifinals and four points for making a state championship team.

If a school achieves six points or greater in the a two-year cycle, the team will be forced to move up a class if it also accumulates three transfers in that span. (The same formula is being used in basketball, but accepting just one transfer plus the six points triggers a move).

In Class 2-A, Southern Columbia and Wilmington both met the success factor. They are among the 11 schools that reached the requirement in the states’ six classifications — Farrell, Lackawanna Trail, Cathedral Prep, Imhotep Charter, Archbishop Wood, Central Dauphin, St. Joseph’s and Harrisburg.

The transfer issue: The PIAA informed all 11 schools that they will move up — though there is not currently a “Super Class” for the 6-A schools to move up to — because the schools have all topped the three transfers allowed. The PIAA counts all the players that appear on a varsity roster for the first time in a season as a transfer.

“They bumped up everybody that hit the success points, then sent us an eligibility sheet for those two years,” Southern Columbia coach and athletic director Jim Roth said. “Every kid that was new on the eligibility list shows up as a transfer. Like we show 37 transfers right now.

“Every kid that didn’t appear on our roster last year — like all of the sophomores – are listed as transfers.”

Will need to go to meeting: The schools can appeal to the PIAA at their next board of directors meeting on Jan. 22.

“We have to go to the meeting and go through the list and show them each kid isn’t a transfer,” Roth said. “Then the bottom line is how many transfers to you have?”

When he found out the Tigers were moving up, Roth was a little surprised. The Tigers had just two transfers in this two-year span — Seth Pletcher from Mifflinburg last season and Ian Huntingdon from Central Columbia this season.

Roth said he was disappointed from the standpoint that the PIAA didn’t inform schools they were being automatically moved up if they hit the success points.

“They did a poor job of explaining exactly what was going to happen,” Roth said.