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District 1 finalizes postseason structure; 4-team field in 6A/5A football

District 1 on Wednesday finalized the structure of its COVID-19 pandemic-altered postseason.

The District 1 playoffs in team sports (excluding football) will begin Monday, Nov. 2, while championship games are scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 12, in the largest-school classifications. 

In football, only four teams will qualify for the District 1 tournament in Classes 6A and 5A. District 1 is afforded only two weeks to conduct its tournaments in football due to the starting date of the PIAA tournament and the District 1 champion’s entry into the tournament, in the semifinals on Nov. 20..

The District 1 football playoffs will begin Nov. 6 with the finals on Nov. 13. In classes 4A to 1A, the district’s representative will begin PIAA play on Nov. 6.

In soccer, field hockey and girls’ volleyball, 16 teams will qualify for the largest-classification tournament (4A in soccer/volleyball; 3A in field hockey).

The PIAA Championships will only feature district champions this fall, a move finalized on Sept. 23 by the state’s high school sports governing body.

Playoff qualification will be determined based on the district’s existing Power Rankings system.

“We decided as a district committee that we are going to utilize the established point system we have in place. Most importantly it’s an objective formula,” said District 1 Assistant Executive Director Sean Kelly in an interview with PA Prep Live Wednesday. “I think as we get a larger sample size – in football, Ches-Mont has only played one game, PAC has played three, Suburban One two – as teams start to play each other the records will start to balance out. It’s an objective system, which is the most important thing.”

The Power Rankings for each sport can be found on the District 1 website.

District 1 playoff structure

Unlike a normal year where teams are playing a full regular season of 10 games in football or 18 games in soccer, the fall’s delayed start has schools playing approximately half or fewer the normal allotted games.

In football, Pioneer Athletic Conference schools have six games scheduled ahead of the final regular season weekend (Oct. 30-31), the Suburban One League has five, while the Ches-Mont League began its four-game regular season last weekend.

Teams must play a minimum of 33 percent of the maximum allowable games to be postseason eligible. The PIAA by-laws require a team to play 50 percent of maximum allowable games to be eligible for postseason competition but a provision was enacted by the PIAA at its Sept. 16 meeting to relax the requirement to 33 percent of games played (if 50 percent of the allowable games have been scheduled).

Football teams must play four games to qualify, which would require an Oct. 9 start or before. 

Teams in the region have already seen their postseason prospects likely ended with COVID-19 precautionary postponements. Defending District 1 Class 6A champion Downingtown West has only three games scheduled before the deadline after being forced to cancel its opener; in Class 4A, Pottsgrove and Pope John Paul II were forced to cancel their Oct. 9 meeting after a PJP coach tested positive while Bishop Shanahan faced a shutdown late in preseason.

Other team sports will require a minimum of six games played before the competition deadline of Wednesday, Oct. 28.

“The fact that the state bracket is different this year … that gave us a couple extra play days,” Kelly said. “We were able to push back our last play day to Oct. 28. Normally would have had our seed meeting on the 24th or 25th. We were able to push that date to the 28th which gives teams like in the Catholic Academies, the Ches-Mont, and others who started late, the opportunity to play the minimum number of contests in a safe manner.”

With the possibility of some teams just meeting the minimum of games played, it presents a small sample size for the power rankings to take effect. With most leagues not playing non-league contests, the formulas are further challenged with very few crossover matchups to consider.

“Our hope is that more and more schools will be able to get more contests which will help with the averages that are factored into the power ranking system with the wins, losses and opponent’s winning percentages,” Kelly said. “We certainly understand that the power ranking system is not going to be quite as true as it is after playing 18 games but we hope that we have a larger sample size (by Oct. 28).”

While the football field is unquestionably strained with only four qualifiers, soccer, field hockey and volleyball will be afforded a more traditional-sized bracket: in 2019, 24 teams qualified for the 4A boys soccer field; this year 16 will qualify.

“Our policy is generally half the number of teams sponsoring the sport or four times the number of state qualifiers. Obviously with only one state qualifier in 4A we certainly wanted more than four teams to qualify,” Kelly said. “With the projections including the Central League not participating in the playoffs, our numbers are down in 4A soccer to the mid-30s, with 16 teams in the tournament we thought that was a fair number.”

More than any other region in the state, Districts 1 and 12 faced the greatest difficulty with postponements and late-starting schools. 

District 11 voted to opt out of the PIAA football playoffs to allow greater time to conduct its own postseason. District 1 could have pursued a similar course of action, but Kelly said it was discussed by never heavily considered with District 1 leadership not wanting to take away the chance of PIAA play to its schools and prioritizing a uniform stance across all sports.

“We’ve always looked at the district championships in two factors: you look at it as an opportunity to win a district championship which is obviously important, but also the opportunity to advance your team to the state tournament,” Kelly said. “We didn’t look individually at specific sports, we looked at the overall picture. Also, the fact that schools are allowed to play after the playoffs was a big factor for us.”

 

A breakdown of the District 1 playoffs with number of qualifying teams and competition dates:

 

Football

Class 6A: 4 teams (11/6, 11/13); 5A: 4 teams (11/6, 11/13); 4A: 1 team (PIAA opener Nov. 6); 3A: 1 team between Districts 1 & 12; 2A: 0; 1A: 1 team between Districts 1 & 2.

Field Hockey

Class 3A: 16 teams (11/2, 11/5, 11/10, 11/12); 2A: 8 teams (11/2, 11/5, 11/10); 1A: 4 teams (11/2, 11/5)

Boys Soccer

Class 4A: 16 teams (11/2, 11/5, 11/10, 11/12); 3A: 4 teams (11/2, 11/5), 2A: 1 team (District 1 & 11 regional on 11/10); 1A: 4 teams (11/2, 11/5).

Girls Soccer

 Class 4A: 16 teams (11/2, 11/5, 11/10, 11/12); 3A: 8 teams (11/2, 11/5, 11/10), 2A: 2 teams (11/4); 1A: 4 teams (11/2, 11/5).

Girls Volleyball

Class 4A: 16 teams (11/2, 11/5, 11/10, 11/12); 3A: 4 teams (11/2, 11/5); 2A: 2 teams (11/4); 1A: 2 teams (11/4).

 

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