HERSHEY, Pa. -- The director of the PIAA hopes that something good will come out of playing two football championships in a snowstorm Saturday.
In the 22-year history of the PIAA championships, this was the latest the games were ever scheduled (Dec. 18-19). The decision to stage the games so late was made by the PIAA Board of Directors, which consists of 31 individuals representing the 12 districts around the state.
"I think this storm will definitely open some people's eyes," PIAA executive director Brad Cashman said. "I don't know if enough eyes will be opened to do what we need to do because it's entirely the board's decision on the schedule. But this bad weather may force the board to re-visit the whole thing on how late we're playing."
Cashman and his staff have advocated starting the football season earlier but don't have a vote on the board.
Pennsylvania was one of only five states in the country still playing high school football this past weekend. The other four states were in much different climates -- Texas, Florida, California and Arkansas.
The length of the football season has been a controversial topic. This summer, a number of board members suggested the season should end earlier than a week before Christmas. But the board voted down any proposals to change the schedule.
Next year won't be much better, as the championships are scheduled for Dec. 17-18.
It's not too late for the board to change next year's schedule. The board meets again Jan. 28-29. Cashman and many other coaches and athletic directors would like to see the start of football season moved up a week, putting finals Dec. 10-11.
"If we're going to stay with four classes, maintain the 16-week schedule and start a week earlier next year," Cashman said, "that could be done a lot faster than adding classes and changing from 16 weeks to 15 weeks."
PIAA associate executive director Bob Lombardi said, "I'm sorry, but when you have three-quarters of southern states starting football seasons earlier than us and finishing earlier than us, I think something should be done."
The PIAA considered postponing Saturday's two title games (Class AA and AAAA), but decided against it early in the morning. One of the main reasons the games went on was because the teams were in Hershey by Friday night. Also, postponing the games to yesterday would have meant more expenses for the teams involved. The PIAA does not pay lodging and food expenses for the teams. Lastly, forecasts said the snow would last through yesterday morning.
"We realized the crowd wasn't going to be as great," Cashman said, "but we were of the understanding that conditions were only going to get worse by [Saturday night]. So we decided to try and get them here and get them home because the next day might not be any better.
"Plus, we just thought that expense-wise, it made more sense for the teams to get them in. But it's not like we didn't consult the schools. We would not have done this had we not asked the schools' opinion."
The PIAA moved up the starting times of Saturday's games from 1 and 7 p.m., to 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Lancaster Catholic coach Bruce Harbach believed Saturday's games should have been postponed a day.
"You risk injury of fans getting here," he said. "When we were coming here to the game, they closed [state Route] 283 in the opposite direction. But the PIAA made the decision and you have to play it."
The crowd for the Class AA game between Greensburg Central Catholic and Lancaster Catholic was 2,245. Attendance for the Class AAAA final between LaSalle College and State College was 3,018.
For the weekend, attendance was 15,145, much better than last year's 12,418. The Class AAA final Friday night between Manheim Central and Selinsgrove attracted one of the largest crowds in PIAA championship history as 8,155 attended.
The WPIAL was 1-1 in championship games. Greensburg Central Catholic lost to Lancaster Catholic, 21-14, but Clairton won the Class A championship Friday with a 15-3 victory against Bishop McCort.
In 22 seasons of PIAA championships, this was the 15th time the WPIAL won one championship. The WPIAL won two championships three times, and three titles three times. The only time the WPIAL didn't win a championship was 1992.
• All four champions this weekend won titles for the first time in school history. Besides Lancaster Catholic and Clairton, the other winners were Selinsgrove (AAA) and LaSalle College (AAAA).
• Clairton running back Deontae Howard finished his career with 4,452 yards. Greensburg Central Catholic running back David Miller went over 4,000 yards and finished his career with 4,030.
• Lancaster Catholic quarterback Kyle Smith, the state's all-time leader in passing yardage, finished his career with 8,544 yards.
Mike White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1975.