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The District 10 football playoffs aren’t expected to begin until early November.
Bill McNally of Girard, like all the other coaches of his Class 3A teams, is aware of this.
The YellowJackets, however, are one of 15 teams in that class for the district’s new two-year registration cycle.
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Of those 15, a maximum of eight are likely to advance to the next two playoffs.
Adding to the stress, a notable number of these teams are traditional playoff contenders, either for 3A or in larger classes.
There is also the return of the rivalry factor for 3A schools in Erie County. Girard, Fairview, Fort LeBoeuf, General McLane, Harbor Creek and North East are guaranteed to face each other at some point as members of Region 5.
They will also face Corry, the region’s only Class 4A program.
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“We’re not going to have a (opponent) cupcake at all,” McNally said. “We can complain and complain about it, but at the end of the day, that’s what we have to do. We need to play these games and make these kids strong so they are ready for the long haul.
Outside of the county, Conneaut, Franklin, Oil City, Titusville and Warren make up Region 4’s 3A teams. Meadville will be the only 4A team.
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Not done there, Region 3 includes Grove City, Hickory, Sharon, and Slippery Rock as 3A teams for the new cycle. They also have to face Class 2A Farrell and Wilmington, each knowing the runs deep in PIAA action.
Given the quantity and quality of these 3A teams, there’s a good chance that one or two of them won’t make the playoffs. It is highly doubtful whether it will be extended beyond a quarter-final, District 10 President Pete Iacino said.
“I don’t think we could go to a four-week playoff,” he said. “There is not enough time in the calendar.”
Considering all of these factors, it’s no wonder McNally said the “Jackets have to be in winning mode or else from the opening kickoff on August 26th. This is when they will host the Class 2A Northwestern Wildcats.
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then and now
The number of 3A teams is due to lower enrollment at six of the seven district schools that competed at the 4A level in 2020 and 2021.
McLane, Harbor Creek, Conneaut, Warren, Franklin and Oil City tumbled one ranking. These six, plus Meadville, made up the old District 4 Region roster.
Corry, who was 3A last cycle, was pushed back to 4A. The Beavers and Meadville are already guaranteed to face each other in the 2022 and 2023 District 4A Finals if they intend to participate.
Mercyhurst Prep was also a 3A team for the past two seasons. The Lakers fell to 2A.
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The 15 3A teams are also more than double the current number of major school programs in the district.
Corry and Meadville are at 4A, while Cathedral Prep is the only Class 5A representative in the district. Class 6A consists of Erie High, McDowell and Butler, who only compete in the district for the regular season.
McNally wasn’t the only 3A coach who said he was blindsided by the number of teams in that class.
“I was shocked,” Fairview’s Mark Soboleski said, “but I also think that’s the state we’re at in this (county). Fairview (registrations) is growing rapidly, but it’s certainly not not the case elsewhere when you see some of the teams that were playing at tier 6A and tier 5A (tiers) a year ago. It’s scary.
McLane’s football team was the PIAA’s 3A title list in 2006. However, that was back when there were only four classes. The state increased to six for football in 2016.
The Lancers had been a 4A or 5A program for the past few years. They will return to Level 3A with a new coach in Marshall McCormick, who has been hired as Jim Wells’ successor.
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McCormick, a 2019 Slippery Rock graduate, is ready for the weekly challenge McLane faces.
“I’m thrilled to have that kind of feeling where a playoff spot isn’t guaranteed and you’ll have to be one of the best teams to make them,” he said. “Just the (southern 3A teams) alone, you have Sharon, Hickory, Grove City and Slippery Rock. I could see eight to 10 teams pleading for (spots). »
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That the growth of 3A teams has occurred in the northern half of the district was evident amid Sam Mowrey’s comments. The Grove City coach was unaware there were 15 until he was told by an Erie Times-News reporter.
“Having so many Erie schools close by like that will create a lot of natural rivalries, like they are here,” Mowrey said. “It will be fun on Friday nights. That’s a lot of good games for fans.
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“Bottom line, it’s been an exciting season.”
ECL’s near return
The Erie County League was a staple of college football on Fridays until 2004, when the district transitioned from geographically aligned opponents to regional competition.
The District’s regional ranking for its current cycle, particularly in Region 5, is as close as fans of the old ECL format are likely to find and appreciate.
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Iroquois, Northwestern, and Seneca are the only former ECL schools missing. The Braves (Class 1A), Wildcats (2A) and Bobcats (2A) are in Region 2.
Northwestern, however, has scheduled road games in Girard and Fairview (October 28) as non-regional opponents.
The backyard rivalries don’t end there.
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McLane will make the 12-mile trip to Waterford to take on Fort LeBoeuf on September 2.
Fairview welcomes Girard on October 7.
Harbor Creek turns northeast on October 14.
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The Huskies will end their regular season against Greenville on October 28. That game will take place at Paul J. Weitz Stadium, where they will also host Hickory on August 26.
It’s matches like this that could serve as tiebreakers if they end up with identical records.
“So even your (out-of-region) games become important,” Harbor Creek coach Troy Budziszewski said. “We are almost at the point where we would like to be back at 4A. In some ways, we’re happy to be back to playing so many[county teams]but the flip side is that there are so many good 3A teams. It’s going to be brutal.
McCormick, whose Lancers host Harbor Creek on Sept. 30, agreed with Budziszewski.
“Every game, every game, will count,” McCormick said. “We can’t say, ‘Oh, this one won’t count as much.’ No, this year they will all count.
McNally used one of the oldest clichés in the sport to describe how 3A teams have to deal with the drudgery they’re about to endure: one day at a time.
“Look, at the end of the day, you can only put 11 (players) at a time,” he said. “That’s how we’re going to try to see it.”
Contact Mike Copper at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ETNcopper.
District 10 region and classes for the 2020/21 football seasons:
(Class 1A): Mercer, Reynolds, Catholic Kennedy
(Class 2A): Farrell, Lakeview, Greenville, Wilmington
(Class 3A): Sharpville
(Class 1A): Cambridge Springs, Eisenhower, Iroquois, Maplewood, Saegertown, Union City, Cochranton
(Class 2A): Northwest, Seneca
(Class 2A): Conneault, Ohio
(Class 3A): Grove City, Hickory, Sharon, Slippery Rock, Titusville
(Class 3A): Fairview, Fort LeBoeuf, Girard, Mercyhurst Prep, North East, Corry
(Class 4A): Warren, General McLane, Harbor Creek, Conneaut (Pennsylvania), Franklin, Meadville, Oil City
(Class 5A): Cathedral preparation
(Class 6A): Erie High, McDowell, butler
District 10 region and classes for 2022/23:
(Class 1A): Mercer, Reynolds, Catholic Kennedy, Cochranton, Cambridge Springs, Maplewood, Saegertown, Lakeview
(Class 1A): Union City, Eisenhower, Iroquois
(Class 2A): Northwest, Seneca, Mercyhurst Prep
(Class 2A): Sharpsville, Wilmington, Farrel, Greenville
(Class 3A): Hickory, Sharon, Slippery Rock, Grove City
(Class 3A): Conneaut, Franklin, Titusville, Oil City, Warren
(Class 4A): Meadville
(Class 3A): Fairview, Fort LeBoeuf, Girard, Northeast, General McLane, Harbor Creek
(Class 4A): corry
(Class 5A): Cathedral preparation
(Class 6A): Erie High, McDowell, butler