Looking at the PIAA playoff brackets, I can't help but to paraphrase the late President Ronald Reagan: "Weahl, there you go again."
In the semifinals this weekend, in Class AAA, Archbishop Wood takes on Allentown Central Catholic while Bishop McDevitt takes on, well, surprisingly, Montour. In Class AA, the top bracket gives us Lancaster Catholic versus West (Philadelphia) Catholic while a pair of public schools (Tyrone and Aliquippa) square off for the right to meet the winner of the two Catholic schools.
Classes A and AAAA somehow managed to qualify mostly public schools, the exception being La Salle College in AAAA. And last week, Southern Columbia had to get by Pius X to get to the semis.
The subject of what to do about this situation is more controversial than a school superintendent's pay raise. When all three Valley teams had to play Catholic schools in last week's state quarterfinal round, you could hear at the games, on the streets and in stores and restaurants that the natives were getting restless.
It didn't make things any easier when, on Friday night, Allentown Central blasted the red-hot Indians, with their South Carolina University-bound quarterback, Brendon Nosovitch, leading the Vikings to a 35-0 first-quarter lead. The final could have been whatever ACC wanted, but it ended at 56-14. Then on Saturday, although the game was closer than the score indicated, Mount Carmel fell 21-0 to Lancaster Catholic.
Several suggestions as to how to remedy the situation have been bandied about, and I have proposed one or two in this column over the years. But PIAA officials continue to contend that any of those plans would threaten the agency with a lawsuit.
Yet, it boggles the mind why, if a private school entitled to legally accept athletes from numerous school districts is not required to play up in classification, then why do some small public schools have to do so because they have brought in a handful of students from a neighboring district which does not offer their sport. For example, if Newport takes in just one football player from neighboring Greenwood (which does not have football), it must count the male enrollment (grades 9-11) of both schools in determining its classification. Therefore, tiny Newport is a Class AA football team. It works that way in other sports, too. Upper Dauphin must compete in Class AAA in track and field because it allows some Line Mountain (where track is not offered) athletes to join the team. That makes it nearly impossible for anyone, boys or girls, to meet the qualifying standards to get a spot in the state championship meet. Look at that team, and look at the AAA teams in Shippensburg. Tell me with a straight face that they are anywhere close to being equal.
Last week, the rumors were flying both in the Valley and in the Allentown area, about the possibility of some big-name stars switching schools next season (from one private school to another). You think anyone is going to fight it? No, a wink does not count. Just like in high school wrestling in the Lehigh Valley, such transfers are a way of life. It is done openly.
Keeping with a political theme, you may recall that then presidential candidate George H.W. Bush referred to a Reagan's budget proposal as "voodoo economics."
I wonder what he would call Pennsylvania's policies when it comes to dealing with private schools in athletics. Maybe simply hypocritical.
FIGHTING THROUGH: Southern Columbia, the lone Valley team to survive into the state semis, has overcome numerous setbacks (read injuries) to get to this point with its impressive 13-1 record.
Most people know that before the season began, the Tigers lost their leading rusher, senior Tyrell Thomas, for the season to a knee injury. But that was only part of the story.
Senior quarterback Brad Fegley, who played one of the best games of any quarterback in a long time to help beat Pius X last week, and also starred on defense, came back from a season-ending knee injury last season, and wears a sleeve on his arm because he broke his throwing elbow a couple of years ago.
Also, senior halfback/defensive end Matt Moore, who moved from wide receiver to replace Thomas this year, missed a few games last season with an ankle injury; and outstanding senior two-way lineman Tom Schetroma missed all of last season with a knee injury.
And it continues. Starting senior guard/inside linebacker Cameron Flore apparently sustained a season-ending knee injury in the Pius X game last week.
n Assistant sports editor Harold Raker covers high school football for The Daily Item. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.