WPIAL football playoffs: Top seeds may have to leave home

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When the WPIAL holds its annual meeting to announce football playoff pairings, the most talked about subject is usually who teams are playing.

But Monday night, the hot topic was where teams might be playing.

The WPIAL unveiled its playoff brackets at a meeting in Green Tree, and also announced that due to the rainy weather expected from Hurricane Sandy, some teams might have to move their games from their own stadium with a natural grass field to a neutral stadium with artificial turf.

Five WPIAL Class AA teams and seven in Class A are supposed to have home games in the first round on grass fields. The WPIAL is giving those 12 teams until 9 a.m. Thursday to decide whether to move the game. If the game is not moved, the WPIAL has reserved the right to move it to a school that has an artificial turf surface. All Class AAA and AAAA games already are scheduled on artificial turf.

"It's really in fairness to the game," said Tim O'Malley, executive director of the WPIAL. "The last thing we want to do is to tell people where to play. But to protect the integrity of the game, that's what we might have to do."

The 12 teams that are supposed to play a home game on natural grass are Aliquippa, Burrell, Jeannette, Freeport, Washington, Clairton, Springdale, Jefferson-Morgan, Monessen, Sto-Rox, Beth-Center and Rochester.

O'Malley said those schools are already looking into playing games at a neutral field with artificial turf.

"Bad weather can even things out with good teams," said Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac. "I know in 2005, we played a home game at our place in a mud bowl and we lost to Washington, 7-0."

Washington coach Mike Bosnic, whose team is undefeated, said his team is more than willing to play away from home.

"We're a team that relies on our speed," Bosnic said. "We're worried conditions might negate our speed."

Another big piece of news that came out of the meeting Monday is that the order of the championship games at Heinz Field Nov. 23 has been changed. The Class A game will be first at 11 a.m., followed by Class AAAA at 2 p.m., Class AA at 5 p.m. and AAA at 8 p.m. Class AAAA usually is played last, but the WPIAL moved the game at the request of Root Sports television.

The No. 1 seeds for the playoffs are North Allegheny (AAAA), Thomas Jefferson (AAA), Aliquippa (AA) and Clairton (A).

Another interesting item from the meeting was Central Valley held on to the No. 3 seed in Class AAA, despite losing its final regular season game to a AA team (Beaver Falls). Three Parkway Conference teams -- Central Valley, West Allegheny and Montour were seeded 3-4-5.

Also, the WPIAL used "creative seeding" to help a few highly touted teams (Neshannock and Central Catholic) that lost tiebreakers and thus can not play home games in the first round.


Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.


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