WPIAL Reveals Conference Realignments for 2022 & 2023

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Fridley Field renovated by VEBH Architects

Garrett Gess, Writer

Every two years, the PIAA restructures the classifications of hundreds of high school athletic programs across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The classes range from 1A through 6A with 1A being smaller/less talented schools and 6A being bigger/more talented schools. Hampton is represented by the WPIAL which is one of the PIAA’s twelve districts.

What made recent news is the realignments of the fall sports for 2022 & 2023, with winter and spring sports to be released later in the year. Hampton football is coming off a year in which they went 7-0 in conference play and the Talbots are looking to continue their dominance. Hampton’s football program is unchanged by the conference realignments, but they will have some new competition in 4A.

Recent History of Realignments Involving Hampton

2016: The PIAA moved from a 4A to a 6A scale to even out the competition statewide. Hampton was moved up from 3A to 5A and had to compete with teams that were much larger in enrollment size. Hampton had a combined record of 6-34 in the four seasons in 5A and never qualified for the playoffs.

2020: After Hampton’s struggles in 5A, they were moved down to 4A and competed against teams that were more suitable for their size. Hampton went 16-4 in their two seasons combined, including two playoff appearances and a 2021 Section Title. Hampton will remain in 4A, at least for the next two years.

While Hampton will stay in 4A, the Talbots will see some change coming to Section 2. The Plum Mustangs moved to 5A and the Greensburg-Salem Golden Lions moved to 3A. Their replacements include the Kiski Area Cavaliers and the North Catholic Trojans. The move that brings Kiski and North Catholic in will make Section 2 much more competitive. Section 2 which includes Pittsburgh’s Northern suburbs’ has generally been viewed as having weaker programs than Section 1 in Northwestern Pennsylvania and Section 3 in the Laurel Highlands. Kiski is coming off a season in the 5A class in which they started 5-0. North Catholic had an undefeated regular season and were the WPIAL Runner-Up in 3A. Both Kiski and North Catholic will pose a tough matchup for Hampton in the next two years.

The rest of 4A is experiencing some changes as well. Aliquippa has been a part of high school football royalty and the PIAA is looking to move them out of 4A into 5A. Hampton lost to Aliquippa in the 2020 WPIAL Quarterfinals 31-0. There will be a hearing with the PIAA on Jan. 26, where Aliquippa will contest their move to 5A under the competitive-balance rule. The competitive-balance rule was introduced by the PIAA very recently and formulates a program’s number of transfers combined with team success. It then determines if programs should be automatically elevated up a classification level. The rule shifted the basis of classifications from school enrollment to program talent. From a talent standpoint, Aliquippa moving to 5A should be no issue. The only problem is that Aliquippa has a student enrollment around 1/4 the size of Hampton and 1/6 the size of populated 5A schools. With all the conference changes to enter 2022, Hampton is looking to continue their successes and become a formidable force in 4A for the next two years.

Class 4A for 2022 & 2023

Section 1: Ambridge, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Chartiers Valley, Montour, New Castle, West Allegheny, (possibly Aliquippa)

Section 2: Armstrong, Hampton, Highlands, Indiana, Kiski Area, Mars, North Catholic

Section 3: Connellsville, Latrobe, Laurel Highlands, McKeesport, Ringgold, Thomas Jefferson, Trinity

The discussion of “Should sports classifications get determined by school enrollment or program talent?” remains one of the most controversial topics in high school sports.