Week 6: Clearfield (4-1) at Bellefonte (1-4)…PIAA Expands to Six Classifications

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Due to the big news out of Mechanicsburg yesterday, this preview will focus mostly on the PIAA’s sweeping change regarding football classifications.  Plenty of information on Friday’s game at Bellefonte can be found in the Notes section, but first, a look at the implications of a six-class football classification system.

It’s not hyperbole to say that yesterday may have been the biggest day in the PIAA’s 102-year history.  Classifications were expanded for a number of sports, but the vote to bump football from four classes to six garnered the majority of the headlines.  All of these changes will go into effect next school year, meaning schools (including Clearfield) will learn their new classification sometime around mid-November.

Sweeping changes like this always take time to sort out and draw plenty of praise and criticism.  However, the vote’s wide margin was somewhat unexpected; the only districts to vote “No” on classification expansion were the WPIAL (District 7) and the Pittsburgh City League (District 8).  Supporters say it allows for more teams to compete for state championships by dropping the number of schools per class from about 145 to around 95 to 98.  Some also laud the shortening of the season from 16 weeks to 15, ending the season earlier in December and overlapping less with winter sports.  Those against the expansion say it waters down the state championship and increases travel between teams.

What does it mean for Clearfield?

The overall impact of the six classification system won’t be known until it is actually put into practice beginning next year.  However, it appears as if Clearfield will go from a small 3A school to…a small 4A school.  This designation is based on enrollment estimates, as the PIAA considers the number of male students in grades 9-11.  These enrollment numbers are due to the PIAA this month, meaning the initial determination of classifications should be made in the next month or so.  Currently, Clearfield has an enrollment of 319 males, putting them just 20 students above the cutoff for 2A.  Based on the most common estimate, the new classification cutoffs will be:

6A: 608 and above

5A: 410 to 607

4A: 301 to 409

3A: 210 to 300

2A: 148-209

1A: 1 to 147

The PIAA tries to divide classifications as evenly as possible to put the same number of schools in each class.  If the Allentown Morning Call’s estimates shown above are accurate, the Bison would be near the bottom end of 4A.  These cutoffs could still change, but it seems fairly likely that this will be the case.  Teams will have until December to decide to play up a classification if they’d wish.

One other potential impact to the Bison would be their route through the playoff bracket.  It’s possible that Clearfield would be moved back into the western half depending on how the bracket is configured.  The final drafts of the statewide brackets will be released later this winter.

What does it mean for Clearfield’s opponents?

(Note: all of the following estimates can be heavily influenced by changes in the reporting of this year’s enrollments to the PIAA.  Districts must report current enrollments by the middle of this month.)

According to D9Sports.com, Clearfield will probably now compete for the District 9 4A championship against Bradford and Punxsutawney.  In terms of the Mountain League, the breakdown (using the past cycle’s enrollment figures) could look like this:

Bald Eagle Area: 2A

Bellefonte: 4A

Central: 3A

Huntingdon: 3A

Penns Valley: 2A

Philipsburg-Osceola: 3A

Tyrone: 3A

Another point of the classification change is the optional replacement of a team’s second scrimmage for its first official game.  Teams can elect to play two scrimmages and then nine regular season games, or one scrimmage and ten regular season games.  It’s unclear what Clearfield would choose to do or who they would add to the schedule as a tenth game should they choose that route.

Many details remain unclear regarding the enormous change enacted by the PIAA Wednesday.  The details will be sorted out in the coming months, but it is certain that the landscape of Pennsylvania high school football has been permanently altered.  The change has been divisive, leading to groups of fans who think the move was unnecessary and damages the prestige of a Pennsylvania state title and those who think it levels the playing field for teams who were outnumbered by hundreds of students in some games.  It remains to be seen how the change will work in practice, but the state’s football structure that had been in place since the start of state playoffs in 1988 is about to be history.

NOTES

  • Friday night will be the 58th meeting between Clearfield and Bellefonte, making it the fifth-longest series in Bison program history.  DuBois (103 games), Punxsutawney (90), Curwensville (87), and Tyrone (67 following this year’s game) are the only teams Clearfield has faced more often than the Red Raiders.  The Bison hold a 31-25-1 advantage in the series.
  • Check out D9Sports.com’s predictions for this week’s games here.
  • First played in 1913, the Clearfield-Bellefonte series is the oldest of all of the Bison’s 2015 opponents.
  • Clearfield is on a five-game winning streak over the Red Raiders.  The Bison have outscored Bellefonte 217-33 over those five games.  Clearfield’s last loss in the series came in 2007 by a score of 41-31.
  • Career yardage list updates:
    • QB Cody Spaid: Currently has 1,679 career passing yards, putting him 167 yards behind Mike Merritt (1986-88) for 15th place.
    • RB Seth Caldwell: Currently has 2,413 career rushing yards, 80 yards behind Stu Wiggins (1950-52) for 7th place.
    • WR Ryan Lezzer: Currently has 1,086 career receiving yards, 79 yards behind Matt Solomon (1990-92) for 12th place.
  • Linebackers Matt Collins and Christian Rumery continue to rack up tackles this season – Collins leads the team with 79 and Rumery has 71.  Collins lost his spot as the state leader, but still ranks 3rd.  Rumery checks in at 9th.
  • Bellefonte has struggled in recent years, going 7-38 since the start of the 2011 season.  However, the Red Raiders have played more competitively this season.  Their 2015 results so far:
    • Week 1: lost to Jersey Shore, 14-6
    • Week 2: lost to Huntingdon, 27-6
    • Week 3: beat Philipsburg-Osceola, 44-3
    • Week 4: lost to John Marshall (WV), 28-17
    • Week 5: lost to Tyrone, 42-0
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