By EMMETT MCCALL
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association's new enrollment classifications will be in effect for the fall sports season. The PIAA updates its enrollment figures and classification guidelines every two years and this year six of the 47 teams that have football programs in District 11 have changed classes. Enrollment for football is based on the male students in grades 9-11
There was a definite downward trend in the district as five of the six schools that switched classes dropped down while just one moved up a class.
Lehighton was the lone school to go up a class, moving from AA to AAA.
Two of the schools that dropped classes were also from the TIMES NEWS coverage area as Panther Valley went from AA to A and Northwestern moved from AAA to AA.
Other schools that will play a class lower this year are East Stroudsburg North (AAAA to AAA), Notre Dame (AAA to AA), and Saucon (AAA to AA).
The greatest impact from the changes occured in the Colonial League where three schools will be playing at a lower class this year. A year ago, the 12-team league featured six Class AAA schools and six Class AA schools. Over the next two years, that breakdown will be decidedly different with Bangor, Southern Lehigh and Wilson left as the only Class AAA teams in the league.
That switch could have an impact on playoff qualifying and seeding.
Since the different between beating a AA team as compared to a AAA team is 20 points, the drop in enrollment classifications for the three league teams could mean a difference of up to 60 points in the ratings. With only four teams qualify for the District 11 playoffs in Class A, AA and AAA, those points could mean the difference between a home game or an away game in the playoffs. Even worse, it could mean the difference between qualifying as the fourth place team in the district or finishing fifth and missing the postseason.
While those possibilities are certainly real, it's nothing Northern Lehigh head coach Joe Tout is even thinking about.
"I could absolutely care less about it," said Tout. "We're aren't worrying about the [enrollment] size of our opponents, or the points we would get for beating them, or anything like that.
"All we care about is taking care of our business. Those other things we have no control over. What we do have control over is how we prepare for each opponent and how we play."
Tout, whose Bulldogs were viewed as one of the league favorites heading into the season, said looking too far ahead and worrying about the playoffs in the second week of the season is a recipe for disaster.
"We haven't discussed anything at all about district rankings or points," said Tout. "All we are worried about is getting our next win. If we take care of business on the field, then things will work out for us."
With Northern Lehigh's rich postseason history it has qualified for the D-11 playoffs in 11 or the last 12 years Tout obviously knows what he is talking about.
Three of the four District 11 classes will have the same playoff format as a year ago.
In Class AAAA, it will be an eight-team field that also incorporates teams from District 2 and District 4. District 11 is guaranteed five of the eight spots and could get a sixth.
In Class AAA and Class A, the district playoffs will remain unchanged. That means four teams qualify for an all-District 11 field.
The only change will be in Class AA where District 11 will be back to a four-team playoff field after having eight last season. Next year, that will change again with District 11 returning to an eight-team playoff format.
Class AAAA has more schools than any other class in the district with 15. Class AAA has nine, Class AA has 13 and Class A has 10.
The Class AAAA schools in descending enrollment order are: Allen (1,382), Parkland (1304), Liberty (1,165), Easton (1,155), Emmaus (1,016), Pleasant Valley (870), Pocono Mountain West (809), Dieruff (807), Stroudsburg (785), Northampton (761) Freedom 748), Pocono Mountain East (689), Nazareth (635), East Stroudsburg South (611), Whitehall (552).
Class AAA schools are: East Stroudsburg North (500), Bangor (492), Pottsville (462), Southern Lehigh (416), Blue Mountain (383), Lehighton (326), Wilson (321), Bethlehem Catholic (305), Allentown Central Catholic (301). NOTE - Both Bethlehem Catholic and Allentown Central Catholic requested to play up in class.
Class AA schools are: Saucon Valley (308), Northwestern Lehigh (307), Jim Thorpe (305), Palisades High School (304), Palmerton (292), North Schuylkill (284), Tamaqua (266), Pen Argyl (258), Northern Lehigh (256), Salisbury (242), Pine Grove (242), Catasauqua (212), Notre Dame (196).
Class A schools are: Panther Valley (182), Minersville (162), Shenandoah (157), Williams Valley (155), Schuylkill Haven (154), Marian (127), Tri-Valley (112), Mahanoy Area (105), Nativity (82), Pius X (63).