Southeastern Pennsylvania will be represented in the traditionally biggest game of the high school football season, the PIAA Class 6A state final.
That was assured on Wednesday when updated brackets for the abbreviated PIAA state tournament set up a state-semifinal showdown between the District 12 champion and District 1 champion, scheduled for the weekend of Nov. 20-21.
The winner of that game, essentially a matchup between the top large-school team from Philadelphia and the top large-school team from the suburbs, will advance to the state final, set for Nov. 28 at HersheyPark Stadium.
The District 12, Class 6A champion this season will be a team from the Catholic League, since the Philadelphia Public League has opted out of fall sports. District 12 includes schools from both leagues, with a city title game in each classification usually determining the district champion and state-tournament qualifier.
The PCL Class 6A champion will be determined in round-robin competition during the regular season between two-time reigning state champion St. Joseph’s Prep, La Salle, Archbishop Wood, and Roman Catholic. Those teams will play each other in games scheduled between Oct. 17 and Nov. 7, with the squad with the best record in those common games — or edge in a tiebreaker system — emerging as the District 12 representative to the state tournament.
Archbishop Wood is the reigning PIAA Class 5A state champion, but the Vikings have been bumped up to Class 6A this year.
The District 1, Class 6A champion will be determined in a four-team playoff set for the weekends of Nov. 6-7 and Nov. 13-14, according to assistant executive director Sean Kelly.
Kelly said the district likely would seed the four qualifying teams using the existing power-point system, adding urgency to the abbreviated regular season that began last weekend for teams in the Suburban One League and will begin this weekend for teams in the Ches-Mont League.
Most teams will play just four games before the start of the District 1 tournament, although a handful of teams in the Pioneer Athletic Conference will have played five or six.
Currently, the top two teams in the District 1, Class 6 power rankings are Spring-Ford and Owen J. Roberts, both of which are 2-0 and have a 145 ranking. Six other teams — Abington, Council Rock North, Souderton, Central Bucks East, Neshaminy, and Pennridge — are 1-0 with 140 rankings.
Traditional powers Coatesville, Downingtown West, and Downingtown East have yet to play a game. Downingtown West, the reigning champion, has been temporarily shut down after a football player tested positive for the coronavirus and hopes to play its first game Oct. 17 vs. Coatesville, according to coach Mike Milano.
The power system ranks teams with a formula that gives weight to each victory based on an opponent’s classification and record.
The shortened regular season and smaller district playoff bracket will jack up the importance of every game, since teams could be eliminated from qualifying with just one loss. Typically, District 1 stages 16-team tournaments in Class 6A and 5A.
In Class 5A, there will be no District 12 representative, since Father Judge, the lone PCL school in that classification, has opted out of football in the fall. As a result, the winner of the four-team, District 1, Class 5A tournament will play in the state semifinals vs. the winner of the District 2 vs. District 10/District 6 game.