In so many ways, it was a season of change for football teams in the Post-Gazette's North Xtra coverage area.
For the first time in four years, a team other than North Allegheny won the WPIAL Class AAAA championship after the Tigers finished 7-4 with a largely rebuilt roster. Seneca Valley, after losing some of its top players from its 2012 team, emerged as a surprise team, going 9-2.
Then, of course, there was Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic. The team that many expected to be among the top teams in Class A far surpassed those predictions, going undefeated despite an injury to one of its top players and, eventually, winning the first WPIAL and PIAA championships in school history.
This sort of change is reflected and taken into serious consideration when selecting the top 22 players in the coverage area.
A Fab 22 list that has recently been dominated by players from North Allegheny and other powerhouse schools features a little more balance in a year when it was hard to separate many area teams in the larger classifications from one another.
There are the major college prospects such as North Allegheny's Elijah Zeise (Pitt). There are those who put up some double-take-worthy statistics such as Seneca Valley's T.J. Holl and Mars' Joshua Schultheis.
There are also the players who excelled on the line, in the less flashy and visible positions. And, of course, there are those such as North Catholic's P.J. Fulmore who emerged as champions by year's end.
Players on the Fabulous 22 are selected as the "best 22" regardless of their position or their school's classification from 20 schools in the North Xtra circulation area.
They were selected by the Post-Gazette's scholastic sports staff based on writers' observations, interviews with coaches, examination of statistics and balloting for all-conference teams. Players from Quaker Valley were considered for placement on the North Xtra Fab 22.
Although there are only 22 players who make the cut, the final team is the product of a long process that takes into account so many talented players at different positions. It's worth pointing out that this can be a very inexact science. Many players stood out this season in the WPIAL, a large number of whom did not make the team, but few did so more than the 22 who are featured.