D-11 opts out of state football playoffs
District 11 schools had a decision to make on Wednesday - play out their own district championship schedule in football or cut it short to allow classification winners to compete for a state championship.
The member schools voted unanimously to opt-out of the PIAA battle and play a full district championship schedule with an expanded field that would allow 36 of the 46 District 11 schools to compete for a championship.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused headaches in scheduling contests for the fall season, and the PIAA voted to begin its football championship schedule the weekend of Nov. 6, which left no viable options to crown a district champion.
Whitehall High School athletic director Bob Hartman, who serves as both the District 11 chairman and the vice president of the PIAA’s board of directors, noted that the scheduling just didn’t allow any feasible options to declare true district champions on the schedule put out by the PIAA.
Jason Zimmerman, the District 11 chairman for football who also serves as the athletic director at Northwestern Lehigh High School, stressed that as soon as the PIAA schedule was released, support among schools in District 11 grew for not participating at the state level.
“The overwhelming support was to pull out of the state playoffs,” said Zimmerman, who stressed that opting out of the PIAA playoffs was a one-time thing and would not carry over to other seasons.
The inclusion of more teams will allow for more games to be played by District 11 teams. Zimmerman said that teams who do not make the District 11 playoffs would be allowed to schedule other games, and when teams are eliminated from the district brackets, they would also be allowed to add extra games.
In the end, Zimmerman believes that the decision to not participate at the state level came down to what he had heard expressed by one media member who stated “we need to think less about playoffs and more about playing.”
District competition for football will begin Nov. 6, with the district champion being crowned Nov. 20. Brackets in 1A, 3A and 5A will have four teams competing, while class 2A, 4A and 6A brackets will have eight schools competing for the district championship. Quarterfinal and semifinal games will be played at the site of the higher seeded team, but District 11 is looking to hold championship games at a neutral site.
The district continues to work on plans for how many fans would be allowed to attend the playoff games, and how ticketing would be handled.
Zimmerman added that extra precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of players, coaches and officials. Face “spit shields” have been added to the face masks in football, and the sideline box where players and coaches can stand has been lengthened to stretch from one 10-yard line to the other 10-yard line. The use of electronic whistles has also been enabled to allow for referees to wear masks.
States still in play for other sports
In sports other than football, the schedule will allow District 11 to send representatives in both team and individual competitions to the PIAA playoffs. In fact, football is the only fall sport that will not compete at states.
There are some changes from previous years, however:
• In most team sports, only the District 11 champion will advance to the state playoffs, though the district runner-up will still advance in a few classes in some sports.
• In cross country, teams will be comprised of six participants rather than the usual seven for the district and state tournament.
• In girls tennis, both the District 11 singles and doubles brackets will be cut from 32 participants to 16.
• In golf, the class 2A and 3A tournaments have been capped at 36 participants, and there will be no regional golf championships before states.