Football leagues announce cooperative schedule agreement
Officials from the Colonial and Schuylkill leagues held a press conference Thursday announcing their new cooperative football scheduling model, which will take affect in the 2020 season.
The 12 Colonial League football teams and 16 from the Schuylkill League will form four divisions based on enrollments and PIAA Classifications. While Colonial League president Bryan Geist insisted the move was not a merger, the cooperative in effect creates a new 28-team league.
“It’s not a perfect system, but we’re getting closer,” said Northwestern Lehigh athletic director Jason Zimmerman.
The Gold Division will feature seven Class 4A schools and one in 5A and includes five Colonial League schools along with three from the CL. (See division alignments below)
The Red Division has eight Class 3A teams with five from the CL and three from the SL.
The White Division features five Class 2A teams and one in 3A and has four Schuylkill teams and two from the CL.
The Blue Division has on 2A school and four class A teams.
The cooperative allows more schools to match up with opponents of similar size, which should result in more competitive games and could produce district brackets that better reflect teams performance throughout the season.
Schedules for division games for the first two years of the cooperative were handed out at the press conference.
In the Gold Division, Class 4A Northwestern will pick up games against Tamaqua, Lehighton, Blue Mountain and Pottsville in the first two years of the cooperative. However, the Tigers will not face some of the smaller Colonial League schools that have been on their schedule since the league formed.
Northwestern will continue to play rival Northern Lehigh, but that game will be in the second week of the season.
Catasauqua could have the largest travel burden in 2020 as it will go on the road to face Mahanoy Area, Marian Catholic, Pine Grove and Schuylkill Haven. The Class 2A Rough Riders will only face one 4A team under the new schedule rather than the 4-5 big schools it had to take on each year under the Colonial League schedule.
Catty will stay local for the first week of the next two seasons with games against Salisbury. The Class 3A Falcons picked up SL opponents Jim Thorpe, Tamaqua and North Schuylkill over the first two seasons of the cooperative agreement. Like all of the smaller CL teams, Salisbury will not have to face as many of the Class 4A teams it had in the past, however it will keep it’s rivalry game against Class 5A Southern Lehigh (the largest school in the cooperative) in the final week of the season.
Most of the Colonial League teams will continue playing closed schedules with all of their games against teams within the new cooperative. Geist made it clear that several schools wanted it that way because of the difficulty of finding football opponents for independent games.
The Colonial League’s two largest schools, Bangor (Week 2) and Southern Lehigh (Week 5), are the only two from their league with an open week on their schedules to pick up an independent game. Those schools are now free to seek large-school opponents, which they were unable to do in the past.
Several Schuylkill League teams had one, two or up to four open dates in 2020 and 2021.
Four schools that were members of the Schuylkill League in all sports except for football will also be part of the cooperative in Nativity, Williams Valley, Tri-Valley and Pine Grove. All four are Class A schools.
The cooperative will not crown a league champ, but will crown champions in each division.
Teams in the Gold and Red Division will play division rivals in Weeks 3-9, while the White and Blue face their division opponents during Weeks 5-9.
Bangor (4A), Blue Mountain (4A), Lehighton (4A), Northwestern Lehigh (4A), Pottsville (4A), Saucon Valley (4A), Southern Lehigh (5A), Wilson (4A).
RED DIVISION (All Class 3A)
Jim Thorpe, North Schuylkill, Northern Lehigh, Notre Dame (Green Pond), Palisades, Pen Argyl, Salisbury, Tamaqua.
Pine Grove (3A), Schuylkill Have (2A), Mahanoy Area (2A), Catasauqua (2A), Palmerton (2A), Minersville (2A).
Panther Valley (2A), Shenandoah (A), Marian Catholic (A), Tri-Valley (A), Nativity (A), Williams Valley (A).