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The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) will break tradition with a new state football playoff format that will go into effect in the fall.
After 16 years of a strictly east vs. west football championship format, the PIAA has mixed three of its four brackets in order to create more equal opportunity.
Not guaranteeing a team from each geographic half of the state in the final is a break from the norm in the vast majority of PIAA championships. The organization has, however, concentrated efforts in recent years on making sure teams have equal chances of advancing.
The PIAA Board of Control passed the new football playoff proposal in May.
The Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic League, the suburban Pittsburgh organization that makes up District 7 of the PIAA, loses some of its advantage in the new format. The state's largest league used to have a spot in the state semifinals for all of its champions, but the new format calls for the WPIAL champion to be placed in the state quarterfinals.
With the bulk of the state's population in the east - and the addition of 22 schools from the city of Philadelphia, which has joined the PIAA for the first time - 193 of Pennsylvania's large schools in football are in the east while only 89 are in the west. The city of Philadelphia is now known as District 12.
The new format moves one of the eastern districts into the traditional western half of the bracket in both Class AAAA and AAA.
In Class A, the smallest of the four classes, a western district has been moved to the eastern half of the bracket. There are 95 Class A schools in the west and just 45 in the east.
The only class that remains in an east-west setup is AA, which includes Montrose and Susquehanna. The addition of players from Blue Ridge last season in a cooperative sponsorship led to the Sabers moving up to Class AA when the new enrollment figures were calculated.
The PIAA places schools in classifications for two-year cycles based on boys' enrollment for the top three grades.
Schools with more than 534 boys in the three grades are Class AAAA in football. Class AAA features enrollments of 324-533. Class AA is for schools with enrollment of 195-323. Class A is for schools with enrollment of 1-194.
In Class AA, all the eastern districts get separate champions.
District 2 will have a four-team tournament with qualifiers on a point system among Montrose, Susquehanna, Bishop Hoban, Carbondale, Dallas, Dunmore, Hanover Area, Lakeland, Lake-Lehman, Nanticoke, Riverside, Scranton Prep, Valley View, Wilkes-Barre GAR, Wilkes-Barre Meyers and Western Wayne.
The inclusion of borderline Class AA/AAA teams Dallas, Scranton Prep and Valley View as well as borderline Class A/AA teams Lakeland and Riverside means the District 2 Class AA field will likely be particularly strong the next two years.
Districts 1 and 11, the smallest eastern fields, send their champions against each other for a shot at the District 2 champion. The District 3 and 4 champions play in the other state quarterfinal.
Districts 7, 9 and 10 all get their own tournaments in the west. The winner of a combined District 6-8 tournament plays the District 7 champion in one state quarterfinal while the District 9 and 10 champions meet in the other.
In Class AAAA, District 1, the suburban Philadelphia area, has 40 schools. For the first time, it will have its own tournament and send its champion to the state semifinals.
The winner of the District 2 tournament, which includes Williamsport, the only AAAA from District 4, will advance to play the District 11 champion for a shot at the District 1 champ in the state semifinal.
The other half of the bracket has the 23 schools from District 3 move to the west and join the three teams from District 6 in a playoff for a state semifinal berth.
District 7 (WPIAL) has a quarterfinal berth. Its champion will play the best team from Districts 6, 9 and 10.
In Class AAA, the eight teams from District 4 get their own championship game in the western half of the bracket. The winner plays the District 6 champion for a shot at the District 7 champion in the state quarterfinals.
The champions from Districts 8 and 9 play for the right to face the District 10 champion in the state quarterfinal.
District 3, with 40 schools, has a spot in the state semifinal.
Its champion will face a team from Districts 1, 2, 11 or 12. The District 2 and 11 champions will meet for a shot at the survivor of a combined District 1-12 tournament. The District 1-12 tournament could start a new rivalry, featuring competition between schools from Philadelphia and its suburbs.
In Class A, the survivor among the 24 teams from District 6 gets placed in the state quarterfinal against the District 3 champion in the eastern half of the bracket.
The other quarterfinal will be filled by a game between the District 2 and 4 champions and another between the District 1 and 11 champions.
There are four district tournaments in the west, each producing a state quarterfinalist. Champions of Districts 5 and 7 play each other while the champions from Districts 9 and 10 meet.
The PIAA districts break down as follows: District 1, Philadelphia suburbs; District 2, Susquehanna and Wayne counties, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, northern Poconos; District 3, Harrisburg, York, Reading, Lancaster; District 4, Northcentral counties in eastern half of the state; District 5, rural southcentral counties; District 6, Altoona, State College, Johnstown; District 7, Pittsburgh suburbs; District 8, Pittsburgh; District 9, Northcentral counties in western half of the state; District 10, Erie, rest of northwest; District 11, Lehigh Valley, southern Poconos, Schuylkill County; District 12, Philadelphia.
The PGA Tour makes its closest regional stop next week when the 32nd annual B.C. Open is played at En-Joie Golf Club in Endicott, NY.
Craig Stadler made history last season in the B.C. Open, which once again will go head-to-head with the British Open.
Eight days after winning for the Ford Senior Players Championship, Stadler won the B.C. Open by shooting 63 on the last day for a 21-under-par, 267 and one-stroke victory. Stadler, 50, became the first player to win on both tours in the same year by getting the second victory at age 50.
Ray Floyd had won at 49 on the regular tour before winning on the PGA Senior Tour following his 50th birthday the same year.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at RobbyTR@aol.com.
STEWART Gets First Win At Chicago
Joliet, IL Tony Stewart finally won his first Nextel Cup race of the season as he led 160 of the 267-lap Tropicana 400, Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.
Stewart pulled away from Jimmie Johnson after the final restart with only 11 laps to go. The victory was his first win of the season and the first since Oct. 11, 2003 at Charlotte.
Jimmie Johnson, who led briefly during the middle stages of the race was second, followed by Dale Jarrett, pole sitter Jeff Gordon, and Jeremy Mayfield.
But Stewarts win was clouded by yet another on-track incident.
During a restart on lap 127, Stewart, who had stopped for four fresh tires got into the back of Kasey Kahne, sending Kahnes No. 9 Dodge into the outside wall.
The result was a pileup of other cars behind Kahne, which included Dale Earnhardt Jr., John Andretti, Scott Riggs, Jeff Burton, and Dave Blaney.
"He (Kasey Kahne) checked up and I dont know if someone pinched him where he had to get out of it or what," said Stewart. "I was right on him, and it was a bad deal. We could have gotten taken out just as easily."
Stewart got through the accident OK and moved back into the lead.
Immediately after the incident, Kahnes crew chief, Tommy Baldwin Jr. ran to Stewarts pit area to express his views, and a fight broke out between the crew members of the two teams.
NASCAR did not issue any penalty for the incident, leaving fans and members of Kahne's team shocked.
"That one segment where we took the lead was the best we were," said Johnson. "Thats all I had. The 20 car was the strongest all day and won the race."
Last weeks winner and pole-sitter, Jeff Gordon had handling problems midway of the race, but his team was able to make adjustments that allowed him to finish fourth.
"I cant tell you what was wrong with our car," said Gordon. "It was an amazing display of team work. We were in really big trouble. I think one of the jackscrews undid itself, and that caused us to get really, far, far behind."
Top ten finishing Order: 1. Tony Stewart, 2. Jimmie Johnson, 3. Dale Jarrett, 4. Jeff Gordon, 5. Jeremy Mayfield, 6. Terry Labonte, 7. Sterling Marlin, 8. Joe Nemechek, 9. Michael Waltrip, 10. Kevin Harvick.
NEXTEL Chase For The Championship Contenders 1. Johnson-2720, 2. Earnhardt Jr.-2615, 3. J. Gordon-2478, 4. Stewart-2393, 5. Kenseth-2321, 6. B. Labonte-2278, 7. Sadler-2252, 8. Harvick-2229, 9. Busch-2211, 10. Newman-2173.
Top-10 Busch Series leaders: 1. Truex-2863, 2. Busch-2811, 3. Keller-2504, 4. Hornaday-2495, 5. D. Green-2495, 6. Biffle-2487, 7. Leffler-2444, 8. Hamilton Jr.-2393, 9. Waltrip-2293, 10. Bliss-2232.
Top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders: 1. Setzer-1662, 2. Hamilton-1656, 3. Edwards-1562, 4. Crawford-1510, 5. Crafton-1501, 6. Chaffin-1485, 7. Sprague-1463, 8. Wood-1454, 9. Musgrave-1445, 10. Kvapil-1418.
Should There Be Guaranteed Green Flag Finishes?
By Chip Williams
For racing fans there seems to be nothing more disappointing than a race ending under caution. But a late caution flag ends that possibility.
NASCAR has worked hard recently to set up green flag finishes when it can, announcing at each event at what point it will red flag a race in order to avoid a yellow flag finish, but its not always possible.
This past weekend, NASCAR CEO Mike Helton said that within a few weeks, the sanctioning body would begin utilizing green/white/checkered finishes in Nextel Cup.
Helton said the change could come as early as the July 25, New England 500.
KEN SCHRADER, Driver, No. 49 Schwans Home Service Dodge:
"They tell us 500 miles, or 400 miles or 500 laps or whatever. That ought to be the deal. It sounds more like a pickup game or something Hey, I know we said wed play to 20 points but lets go to 25 or something like that. The football game not that exciting? Play a fifth quarter.
"We base everything we do on that race distance. Thats our base. I can see the fans wanting green flag finishes and I dont blame them for wanting that and I dont blame NASCAR for wanting to give it to them. But its like changing the rules in the middle of the race not even the middle, the end of the race. It makes it difficult for the race teams to figure, and it can easily change the outcome in a way that is probably not going to be fair in the long run.
"Nobody is bigger believer in giving the fans what they want than me. But we need to make sure were doing it in a way that is not only good for them, but good for everybody else."
KYLE PETTY, Driver, No. 45 Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge:
"I dont think NASCAR needs to make a rule so that all races finish under the green flag. There are no guarantees in racing. There is no guarantee that when you buy a ticket to a race that you are going to see a green flag finish. Its like the weather. There is no controlling the weather on race day, and there is no controlling the outcome of a race.
"A fan buys a ticket to a baseball game, but is he guaranteed to see nine innings played? If it rains the game could be stopped after six, but the game is over. The deal behind sports is you never know what is going to happen. It might rain after six innings, or the game might go 20 innings. It might be decided by a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, and it might be decided by a 20-run first inning.
"Thats the same thing we have in racing. If the caution flag comes out at the end of the race, whether it be for a wreck or whatever, the race should finish under the yellow flag. Thats the way it is. There are no promises from NASCAR or the tracks that you are going to see a green flag finish, and there shouldnt be."
Racing will be on the slim side this weekend. The only major NASCAR event will be the Craftsman Truck Series race at Madison, IL. The Nextel Cup and Busch Series have the weekend off.
Saturday, July 17, Dodge Dealers Ram Tough 200, race 12 of 25, 160 laps/200 miles, 8 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Racing Trivia Question: Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. have both won seven NASCAR Winston Cup titles. How many does Jeff Gordon have?
Last Weeks Question: Fox Broadcast Analyst Larry McReynolds has served as crew chief for several NASCAR teams. Name the most celebrated driver McReynolds worked with. Answer. Dale Earnhardt was the most celebrated driver Larry McReynolds worked for.
If you would like to read additional racing stories by Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter, go to www.race500.com.
Brittany Welch was responsible for keeping herself ready.
The Blue Ridge sophomore outfielder could not run.
Doctors would not clear Welch to play because of the broken bone that was causing problems with her heel and ankle. That meant no formal practice.
For nearly six weeks, Welch went into the make-shift batting cage that her father, Tim Welch, had built at their New Milford home. Welch went to work just in case there was a chance to continue her high school softball season.
"I didn't actually have a cast," Welch said, "so I could go out to the room my dad built me.
"I just batted at balls the whole time."
Welch's teammates got Blue Ridge through the district tournament and the first round of state play, giving her a chance to return after missing half the season.
When Welch got back, she produced two hits in each of her three playoff appearances, batting .600 (6-for-10) in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament and driving in the winning run in the state final.
Welch's late contribution to Blue Ridge's state Class A championship makes her the Susquehanna County Transcript Athlete of the Month.
"Brittany's return was a plus," Blue Ridge coach Bob Pavelski said. "She hit the ball hard.
"She did a fantastic job after she came back."
The home batting practice kept Welch's swing in shape and Pavelski limited her duties to designated hitter for the last three games.
Blue Ridge was locked in a scoreless tie with Sto-Rox in the sixth inning of the state final when Welch came to the plate with Brooke Hinkley at second base and one out.
"Right in the huddle before the sixth inning, we all said 'right now, this is it,'" Welch said.
Welch made sure the Lady Raiders did not leave runners in scoring position for the sixth straight inning. She lined a shot to center field for the game-winning single and went to third on an error. A wild pitch allowed Welch to score the team's second run in a 2-0 victory.
The winning hit came after Welch fouled off one pitch with a full count.
"When I'm down in the count or even in the count, I focus more," Welch said. "I think to myself, 'you've got to hit it.'"
Brittany, the daughter of Tim and Jina Welch, is the third member of the state championship team to be honored as Athlete of the Month this school year. Brittany Pavelski was selected earlier in the season and Hinkley was chosen for her play in volleyball. Another team member, Heather Franks, was honored for her softball play last season.
Crazy George has dedicated his life to motivating young people with his basketball tricks, to never give up, respect parents and teachers, to live drug free, to keep smiling and to never forget you are Americans. He has performed his basketball wizardry show since 1975, with over 6,000 shows in front of live audiences of nine million people, in 49 states and 16 countries. His résumé includes performances at NBA All-Star games, sport arenas all over America, Disneyworld and colleges.
Needless to say, "Crazy George" was well received by the campers.
Following are lists of award winners at the Julius Prezelski
Basketball School, held at Montrose High School June 23, 24, 25, 2004.
ONE-ON-ONE AWARD WINNERS: 4 & 5 girls Dallas Ely; 4 & 5 boys Mike Hackett; 6 girls Samantha Abbott; 6 boys Kyle Custer; 7 girls Julia Koloski (left early); 7 boys William Mooers; 8 & 9 girls Barbara Borst; 8 & 9 boys David Corbin.
3-POINT SHOOTING AWARD WINNERS: 4 & 5 girls Dallas Ely; 4 & 5 boys Brad Owens; 6 girls Amelia DiPhillips; 6 boys Steve Squires; 7 girls Raina Upright; 7 boys Trent Wheeler; 8 & 9 girls Barbara Borst; 8 & 9 boys John Abbott.
COACHS AWARD went to Sarah Kimsey and Jake Hinkley (Blue Ridge).
Susquehanna Community High School will hold sports physicals for the 2004-2005 fall sports season on Wednesday, July 28, 2004. Physicals will be held in the high school health office beginning at 9:00 a.m. for boys and 10:00 a.m. for girls.
The Endless Summer Baseball Camp, located in Montrose PA, will hold a one-week training camp this summer, from July 26-30 for players ages 8-17. The session will be at the Montrose High School. Camp Hours are from 9:30 to 2:45, Monday through Friday.
The camp is taught in a noncompetitive learning atmosphere led by camp director David Culp, a former Division I college player at Kansas University. David has been a successful high school coach at Abington Friends School for twelve years and a coach at the Philadelphia Phillies camp in Philadelphia. He has coached players from ages 6-18 in leagues in Kansas City and Philadelphia.
All phases of the game will be covered at the camp, including throwing mechanics, hitting, drag and sacrifice bunting, base running, defense, pitching, catching and game situation. Drills are varied and break down the mechanics of the game into individual part. The camp provides each camper with an Endless Summer tee shirt and hat.
For information or a brochure, call (570) 278-4457.
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