The high school football season in Pennsylvania came to an official conclusion last weekend with six title games at HersheyPark Stadium.

With the crowning of the state champions — Pine Richland (Class 6A), Archbishop Wood (Class 5A), Erie Cathedral Prep (Class 4A), Quaker Valley (Class 3A), Southern Columbia (Class 2A) and Jeannette (Class 1A).

If you are keeping score at home, Dunmore lost to a state champion in Southern Columbia in Class 2A and there could be a strong argument in saying their semifinal was the actual state title game. Valley View (Class 4A) and Scranton Prep (Class 3A) each lost to teams that played in the championship game in Imhotep Charter (4A) and Middletown (3A). So that is a pretty good 2017 season for teams from the Lackawanna Football Conference.

So, like everything else in this fast-paced world, as the old season goes dark, the new one lights. The Lackawanna Interscholastic Athletic Association began working feverishly on an alignment of its 20 member schools even without the official release of the new classification parameters and eventual placed schools in their respective groups.

And like all great plans, there were some red flags when the PIAA announced where teams were going to be playing in 2018 and 2019. There were two glaring changes that officials had to know would impact the LFC moving forward.

 

  • Abington Heights, the 2016 District 2 Class 5A champion, slid down into Class 4A
    • Male enrollment for grades 9 through 11 dropped from 421 to 372

 

  • Lakeland, which played in the 2016 District 2 Class 2A final, moved up into Class 3A.
    • Male renrollment for grades 9 through 11 increased from 190 to 211

 

The remaining 18 LFC schools fell into place where they were classified during the just completed two-year cycle. The questions then were raised about how to structure the LFC and maintain a league, which has always been an important part of the sport?

In this last two-year run, the LFC maintained a three-division format. It wasn’t ideal, but it was practical. Division I had too few teams and earning a championship for having won only three games did seem a bit awkward. Division III had 9 games in the league season, which left little room for crossovers games — and admittedly seemed like too many. However, in a perfect world, the LFC would have a two-division format, broken right down the middle with 10 teams in each and 9 league games. But that would require a fair and even distribution of Big Schools (Class 6A, Class 5A, Class 4A) and Small Schools (Class 3A, Class 2A, Class 1A). That hasn’t been the case and it’s not in this next cycle.

 

The old LFC looked like this: 

 

Division I

Delaware Valley (Class 6A), Scranton (Class 6A)

Abington Heights (Class 5A) and Wallenpaupack (Class 5A)

Division II

Honesdale (Class 4A), North Pocono (Class 4A), Valley View (Class 4A), West Scranton (Class 4A)

Scranton Prep (Class 3A), Western Wayne (Class 3A)

Division III

Carbondale Area (Class 2A), Dunmore (Class 2A), Lakeland (Class 2A), Mid Valley (Class 2A), Montrose (Class 2A), , Riverside (Class 2A) and Susquehanna (Class 2A)

Holy Cross (Class 1A), Lackawanna Trail (Class 1A), Old Forge (Class 1A)

 

LFC may look like this for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. … Or it may not.

Division I

Classification

Enrollment

2016-17

Two-year Record

 

Scranton Knights

6A

691

11-12

 

Delaware Valley Warriors

6A

593

21-4

 

Wallenpaupack Buckhorns

5A

411

8-14

 

North Pocono Trojans

4A

374

17-9

 

Abington Heights Comets

4A

372

9-15

 

Division II

Classification

Enrollment

2016-17

Two-year Record

 

Honesdale Hornets

4A

340

2-18

 

West Scranton Invaders

4A

338

6-15

 

Valley View Cougars

4A

302

17-9

 

Scranton Prep Cavaliers

3A

241

25-3

 

Western Wayne Wildcats

3A

237

13-9

 

Division III

 Classification

 Enrollment

2016-17

Two-year Record

 

Lakeland Chiefs

3A

211

15-8

 

Riverside Vikings

2A

192

9-12

 

Mid Valley Spartans

2A

190

10-12

 

Dunmore Bucks

2A

189

27-2

 

Carbondale Area Chargers

2A

183

10-13

 

Division IV

Classification

 Enrollment

2016-17

Two-year Record

 

Montrose Meteors

4A*

155*

2-18

 

Susquehanna Sabers

2A

171

9-12

 

Holy Cross Crusaders

1A

121

0-20

 

Lackawanna Trail Lions

1A

115

17-7

 

Old Forge Blue Devils

1A

104

15-9

 

NOTE: Montrose will move to a Class 4A school when the paperwork is finalized for its co-operative agreement to sponsor football with Elk Lake and Mountain View.

 

 


 

WHAT’S Next?

 

 

Creating a 10-game schedule will be the next task that faces the LIAA once an alignment is ratified. With the creation of four divisions, it does give scheduling guru Mike Ognosky more options for crossover games both within the LFC and with the Wyoming Valley Conference.

 

Some notes to ponder: 

 

  • EVEN STEVEN: With North Pocono and Abington Heights being Class 4A teams in Division I, where both teams will have to play two-time Division I and District 2 Class 6A champion Delaware Valley and Scranton as part of their conference slate, there should be an effort to balance that with crossovers against Delaware Valley and Scranton for the Class 4A schools from Division II.
    • That’s just the first caveat for the LFC’s Class 4A teams. The WVC has Pittston Area, Coughlin, Crestwood, Dallas, Nanticoke (up from Class 3A), Berwick and Tunkhannock vying for playoff spots in the class. The dilemma schedule makers will face is how to give those teams opponents of equal size to Delaware Valley and Scranton. That would mean facing Hazleton Area and Williamsport, and how many of them would be willing to do that? That will be a big headache for officials from both conferences.

 

North Poconos Matt Slagus, Tyler Musgrave and Ben Dial hoist the 2016 District 2 Class 4A championship plaque.

 

 

  • Lakelands Michael Lowry was one of the MVPs of last seasons RailRiders Bowl.

    HIGH AND LOW: With Lakeland now being a Class 3A program and housed in Division III with all Class 2A schools, the LIAA must find a matrix that allows for Scranton Prep and Western Wayne, the two Class 3A programs in Division II, to first play the Chiefs head-to-head, and then add crossover games against LFC Division II teams and WVC Class 3A teams that Lakeland will be forced to play in its six open dates outside of its division schedule to balance with those for Scranton Prep and Western Wayne. That won’t be easy, especially because, teams are vying for only four playoff spots and with unlike schedules, there is always an argument. In addition, both Scranton Prep and Western Wayne will have more opportunities to build strong playoff resumes and build points because three of their division opponents are Class 4A and are worth more points. Lakeland will play four Class 2A opponents in Division III, worth less points.

 

 

 

 

  • Scranton Preps Leo O’Boyle.

    BETTER GAMES. This won’t be easy, either. But, with only 4 dates “Locked” in by the division schedules, there are more open weeks to create some let’s “intriguing” crossover games within the LFC. Delaware Valley, Scranton Prep and Dunmore each won back-to-back championships in the LFC during this cycle. None lost a game within its division. And each one  did so convincingly. What is causing this trend? Clearly, the “Big 3” are really strong programs right now.

    • There is another force at work and the elephant in the room is participation, or lack thereof. Small rural schools like Montrose, which will be entering into a co-operative agreement with Elk Lake and Mountain View in an attempt to boost roster numbers, Susquehanna, which is in an agreement with Blue Ridge, and Lackawanna Trail are always fighting an uphill battle when it comes to fielding a lot of players. This will be a real challenge for the LIAA committee and Ognosky.
    • The cries for a balanced schedule are loudest. Would fans love to see Dunmore play North Pocono and Valley View and West Scranton every year, like the old Big 11? Sure, but at what cost to Dunmore? That program is so strong having dominated for a decade, is its reward playing a more challenging schedule that won’t compare to those of teams they are competing against for playoff spots in Class 2A? Furthermore, what do those Class 4A teams gain by playing Dunmore, which is two classifications below, other than a real physical battle that likely could be a loss on the ledger? The same theory applies to Scranton Prep. Sure the fans want a private school to play the highest level of competition, and it probably should, but it doesn’t and again, while a Delaware Valley vs. Scranton Prep or a Scranton vs. Scranton Prep would be some of the best games in our area, the playoff format in the PIAA  just doesn’t allow for it when trying to contend for the postseason. One could argue, though, that the top LFC teams need to create more competitive schedules to better prepare for the “elite” teams in the state. It’s true LFC champions had three teams win state playoff games, again, all five teams were eliminated from the postseason by an average of 27.4 points.

 

LFC BY THE NUMBERS (2016 and 2017)

IN THE DIVISION

Delaware Valley

(6-0)

Scranton Prep

(10-0)

Dunmore

(18-0)

Average points per game

44.5

36.5

40.7

Average margin of victory

37.3

27.5

35.11

Closest win

Abington Heights 26-8 (2016)

Valley View,   35-34 (2017)

Lakeland, 32-21 (2016)

 

 


 

RESULTS

 

Overall the three-division format, for all of its faults, worked and the architect, the late Mark Rinaldi should have been proud. LIAA teams had enormous success in the PIAA’s six-classification format in the district and state playoffs.

 

11 

LFC teams that won District 2 Championships in two seasons. Wyoming Valley West had the only title for the WVC, this season in Class 5A.

7

PIAA wins by LFC schools. Dunmore (3-2), Scranton Prep (2-2), Lackawanna Trail (1-1) and Old Forge (1-1) advanced past the District 2 final level the past two seasons.

3

LFC teams with at least 20 wins. Dunmore (27), Scranton Prep (25) and Delaware Valley (21).

 

Delaware Valley’s Nick Reilly.