By EMMETT MCCALL
Here are some things I would do if they put me in charge of high school sports in the area:
SIX PACK IS PERFECT … Instead of District 2 and District 11 alternating between four-team and eight-team playoffs in Class AA every year, I would give them both six-team brackets. The top two teams would receives bye and seeds three through six would play.
It would create the need to make a slight change in the first round of the state, but that could be worked out. I think it's been pretty obvious the last few seasons that with only around a dozen AA teams in each district that an eight-team bracket is watered down. On the hand, four teams probably aren't enough.
Right now, Jim Thorpe (7-2), Pine Grove (7-2) are both enjoying fine seasons and one of them won't make the D-11 AA playoffs. In addition, Northwestern (5-4) and Catasauqua (5-4) are playing tonight for an Eastern Conference berth, but in a six-team field it would be for a spot in districts.
THREE IS A MUST … I would return three PIAA State Tournament berths to District 11 in the girls Class A field.
Okay, I know the PIAA goes strictly by enrollment numbers and the amount of teams each district has in a particular class when it divides up the berths for State Tournaments. But sometimes, common sense has to come into play.
After years of getting three berths in the PIAA Class A girls basketball tournament, District 11 was cut back to two teams a couple of years ago. That's crazy.
District 11 teams have dominated small school basketball in the East for decades. It wasn't unusual to have three of the final four teams in the East from District 11 and on numerous occasions the Eastern Final (now called the State semifinal) was a matchup between two District 11 teams at Martz Hall in Pottsville. Marian and Nativity are powerhouses every year and Mahanoy Area, Shenandoah, Tri-Valley and Williams Valley have all had outstanding teams during recent seasons.
The District 1, 2 and 4 champions would routinely lose to the District 11 third-place team in the state tournament, and the second and third place teams from those districts would get crushed by D-11 teams.
LOCAL LEAGUE … I would create a league that involves the eight small schools in the TIMES NEWS coverage area that field football teams.
I hear it when I go to the post office, when I'm at the grocery store and when I cover sporting events. Fans bring up the question all the time 'Why not have a league with just the local schools?' Why not?
Actually there are several reasons why it just isn't going to happen – the primary one being the three area schools in the Colonial League are very satisfied with the league they are in. But we can dream, can't we?
An eight-team football league that includes Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Marian, Northern Lehigh, Northwestern, Panther Valley, Palmerton and Tamaqua. How sweet would that be? There would be local rivalries in almost every game, every week; there would be short trips to games; and there would be three open dates to keep games with other rivals that aren't part of the league intact.
While that league will probably never happen, Northwestern Athletic Director Jason Zimmerman told me a couple of years ago that he foresees a time when District 11 will be one big league (similar to the WPIAL which comprises District 7) and will be separated into divisions based on size and location. It would be the next best thing to a TIMES NEWS area league.
COACH FOR A DAY … I would let every fan who complains and yells about a high school coach get a chance to be a coach themself. Because if they had that opportunity, I think there would be a lot less critics out there.
Second guessing is part of sports and hindsight will always be 20-20, so I'm not talking about fans who walk out of a sporting event talking to each other about whether a coach should have gone for it on fourth down or punted, should have played man-to-man defense instead of zone; or should have bunted instead of hitting away.
I'm talking about Joe Fan sitting in the bleachers screaming to a coach about his play calls, his knowledge of the sport, his substitution pattern, or one of hundred other things he finds fault with. Don't get me wrong, I'm not claiming every coach is created equal, that coaches don't make mistakes, or that coaches never deserve to be replaced. But I'd be willing to bet that 99 percent of time the fans yelling the loudest and the most often have about 1/10 of the knowledge that the coach does in his particular sport.