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Lions, Tigers need new home

Commentary

October 28, 2012
By Charlie Weston (charlie@wfbg.com) , The Altoona Mirror

See if this makes any sense to you: Altoona and Hollidaysburg are located right next to each other.

The football conference they are in doesn't allow them to play each other. In fact, neither Altoona nor Hollidaysburg can play any team that actually could be considered local.

State College is a member of the Mid-Penn Conference. Their closest league rival is now nearby Mifflin County. Mifflin is closer to the Harrisburg area, and the rest of its league schedule is little more than an hour away.

DuBois isn't in a league. They've been playing a series of smaller schools because they just can't find enough Quad-A schools to schedule. Friday they played Warren. Central Mountain is in a similar position. Friday, they played Tyrone, a class AA school.

So in order to secure an appropriate football schedule, most of the central PA bigger schools have joined conferences that they don't belong in geographically - and gas isn't getting any cheaper.

In some cases, they don't belong in these conferences competitively, either.

Nothing against the kids from central PA, but outside of State College and on occasion Altoona and Hollidaysburg, these programs rarely produce NCAA Division I talent in football.

Well, Central Mountain does boast of its NFL kicker, Robbie Gould, but some of the opposition's benches are filled with players who'll continue to play football after high school and perhaps get paid to play some day.

I've been asked numerous times this season, "Why does Altoona play in the WPIAL?"

The answers are complicated. There was a day when Altoona could have competed well with the best in the WPIAL. There was a day when Altoona graduated twice what they do now.

Those days are gone.

The WPIAL and Mid-Penn are not great from top to bottom. But the top teams are very good - good to the point that they would beat our teams 10 out of 10 times.

I am not being critical of the local players. They're overachieving in some cases and holding their own against all odds in others. With the increasing field of Quad-A schools in the region, it's time to gather everyone together and start playing a central PA schedule.

Altoona, Hollidaysburg, State College, Central Mountain, Mifflin County and DuBois make six schools that could play every year. I've heard Williamsport and perhaps an Erie team may be willing to join a Central PA league as well.

My answer to the inquisitive is that Altoona and the others play out of the area for scheduling security. And I make sure I tell them it's time to get a Central PA league together.

Last Friday night (Oct. 19), Altoona played Central Catholic at Woodland Hills High School. State College played Carlisle, and Hollidaysburg played Mars (not the planet).

How silly.

Charlie Weston is in his 31st season as radio voice of the Mountain Lions. He can be reached at charlie@wfbg.com.

 
 

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