Skip to main content

District 3 prepares to change football calendar

This week the District 3 committee voted unanimously to consider moving the start of the district football playoffs up one week. The proposal states that District 3 schools must prepare to start their football playoffs in Week 10, starting in the 2018-2019 season.

This change would require teams to either drop one regular season game to play a nine-week schedule, or limit the preseason to one scrimmage instead of two so they could fit 10 games into the schedule. This would mean the regular season would start in what the PIAA calls "Week 0" of the football calendar.

This change could alter the makeup of the 2018-19 season schedule, as teams will potentially have one less week of contact practice, one less live-action scrimmage or one less regular season contest to gather all-important power ranking points, but could also expand district playoff brackets.

Below is the official statement from PIAA District 3:

The PIAA District III Committee voted unanimously to prepare its member schools for a possible change in football playoff starting dates for the 2018-2019 school year.

The Committee moved that member schools with football must be prepared to start their football playoffs in Week 10 of the PIAA football calendar. District III began its football playoffs in Week 11 of the 2016-2017 football calendar and will do the same next year, the 2017-2018 season. The district committee stresses that there will be many factors that can affect District III’s eventual decision on when to begin its 2018-2019 football playoffs. This motion paves the way for any future changes.

District III schools that wish to play 10 regular-season games starting in 2018-2019 may only participate in one scrimmage and begin their regular-season schedules in what PIAA currently refers to as Week 0 on the football calendar.  Schools that wish to participate in two scrimmages may do so, but may only play 9 regular-season games should they choose to enter the District III Football Championships.

In recent years, the PIAA has taken steps to shorten the season by one week. But the classification realignment that went into effect this season altered the number of District 3 teams that advance to the postseason.

For example, in Class 3A, which is made up of 15 teams, just four squads make it to the postseason (26 percent), whereas 6A, made up of 16 schools, allows eight teams into the district tournament (50 percent). Class 5A, the largest in District 3, also allows eight teams into the postseason — just 27 percent of the 29 schools in the newly aligned classification.

Matt Gingrich, coach at 3A school Annville-Cleona, said moving the district playoffs up to week 10 is the first step at getting each classification back on level playing field by making it possible for other classifications to add larger brackets. Gingrich also said a more equal percentage of teams making the playoffs across high school athletics would be a long-term benefit of the change.

"Currently we play 12 weeks of football (with two scrimmages), but starting playoffs on week 10 allows them to re-expand playoffs," Gingrich said. "If you look at the number of (basketball teams) in the PIAA playoffs, it's literally 48 percent of teams make it to states, and only 25 percent of football teams make it to districts — that just doesn't make sense. If you ever get a team that makes states in football, that's an accomplishment like none other compared to other sports.

"What I'd love to see is everyone gets the same approximate percentage, even if it's 10 percent, I don't care. It has to be fair for all sports. It's already tough to get kids to come out, but when you see the rewards from other sports, it's not good for the sport of football."

For some District 3 schools, the race to find a Week 0 game is already in full swing. The Mid Penn Colonial Division was sent through a loop when James Buchanan was permitted to leave the conference to play an independent schedule in an attempt to help the program. The Shippensburg Greyhounds, who played deep into the District 3 Class 4A playoffs last year, have already begun the process of looking for a Week 0 opponent.

"The good thing is we have an extra week with heat acclimation, but the lack of contact or effective scrimmage without a doubt will be a big change," Shippensburg coach Eric Foust said. "As time goes this could affect the health of the athletes to not have as much contact before the first game."

Although Shippensburg could opt for two scrimmages and nine regular season games, Foust said not playing 10 contests would change too much.

"It's tough to not look at 10 regular season games because it's what our numbers are all based on," Foust said. "The last 15 season's I've been a coach we've played 10 games. If you start to change that it changes how many games kids get to play in their career, and these kids want that experience."

But unlike some teams around District 3 do not have the option to opt for a shorter regular season.

"In the YAIAA there's no way we could play nine games," said Josh Oswalt, coach at Central York, one of the few 6A schools in the York-Adams league. "We are scraping points together to just earn a district playoff bid with only two 6A schools in our area for power-ranking points. The large schools are at a disadvantage in our league.

"I think it's going to be more difficult for us big schools to have our depth charts set so quickly," Oswalt added. "You can do a lot in the summer, and all 6A schools do a lot all summer long, but I don't really know who we have until later. We honestly didn't have some position groups decided until after the second scrimmage this year, so it's going to be difficult (without a second scrimmage). We could still be making some pretty crucial decisions after Week 1."