Lancaster-Lebanon League football chairperson Tommy Long on Wednesday said his work is just beginning, after the league’s Secondary Association voted 19-5 in favor of adding 13 Berks County gridiron teams as associate members at the start of the 2022 season for at least a four-year cycle.
Long’s task: Huddling with athletic directors, coaches and the like to map out section alignments for the new-look league, which will feature 37 teams.
His first proposal — which should go out shortly — will be for a five-section format, Long said, and based on PIAA classification, so teams will be playing head-to-head league games against comparable program sizes.
“We would like everyone to be in a section where you’re playing against your own classification only — other than maybe one or two other schools,” Long said. “But for the most part yes, we’d like our classifications to be our sections. And that’s a good thing. I think that’s the most fair system you can set up. So now we’re moving forward, and we’ll start putting all of this into action.”
In Long’s initial proposal, the seven teams in Sections 1, 2 and 3 would have four nonleague games: The first three weeks of the season, and then a fourth date later in the season.
Two teams in each section would be able to request a common date later in the season for Long to schedule them in a nonleague game, should any teams in the top three sections choose to play head-to-head in a nonleague clash; that’s not out of the question, since there will still be natural rivalry matchups there, and everyone in the top three sections will be Class 6A or Class 5A.
Teams can also choose to go out of the league for their fourth nonleague game, but they’d have to schedule it on their own after Week 3.
Meanwhile, Sections 4 and 5 would have eight teams apiece, meaning a more traditional schedule: Three nonleague games to open the season, and then seven head-to-head section games. L-L League schools are anxious to get back to this schedule; they’ll spend the next two years playing in a four-section format, with four nonleague games and a mandatory crossover game sprinkled in over the first five weeks, before they play a single section game.
After schools go through the proposals, Long is giving everyone a window of time to request a move up one section, which would entail finding a team to switch with and, ultimately, league approval.
“We’d like to have the schedules in everyone’s hands by August or September,” Long said, “and then they can start finding their nonleague games.”
“The classifications are likely to change (before 2022),” Berks League football chairperson Aaron Menapace, Hamburg’s athletic director, said Wednesday.
“But as of now, all of the 6A schools would be together in Section 1. Section 2 would be all 5A. Section 3 would be all 5A. Section 4 would be all 5A and 4A. And Section 5 would be all of the smaller schools. My gut tells me that there will be some schools asking to move up, and there’s a good chance of that happening. But overall, this fantastic.”
Using Long’s model — with PIAA classification numbers for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 cycle — the first proposal of L-L/Berks football section alignments could look something like this:
Reading (6A; 2,148 enrollment)
McCaskey (6A; 1,146 enrollment)
Hempfield (6A; 857 enrollment)
Wilson (6A; 766 enrollment)
Manheim Township (6A; 739 enrollment)
Penn Manor (6A; 654 enrollment)
Cedar Crest (6A; 588 enrollment)
Governor Mifflin (5A; 582 enrollment)
Lebanon (5A; 571 enrollment)
Exeter (5A; 564 enrollment)
Warwick (5A; 531 enrollment)
Muhlenberg (5A; 530 enrollment)
Conestoga Valley (5A; 528 enrollment)
Elizabethtown (5A; 521 enrollment)
Ephrata (5A; 499 enrollment)
Solanco (5A; 454 enrollment)
Daniel Boone (5A; 441 enrollment)
Twin Valley (5A; 424 enrollment)
Fleetwood (5A; 418 enrollment)
Manheim Central (5A; 402 enrollment)
Garden Spot (4A; 392 enrollment)
Cocalico (4A; 385 enrollment)
Lampeter-Strasburg (4A; 365 enrollment)
Donegal (4A; 352 enrollment)
Conrad Weiser (4A; 325 enrollment)
Octorara (4A; 315 enrollment)
Elco (4A; 292 enrollment)
Wyomissing (3A; 238 enrollment)
Kutztown (3A; 285 enrollment)
Northern Lebanon (3A; 272 enrollment)
Hamburg (3A; 264 enrollment)
Schuylkill Valley (3A; 243 enrollment)
Berks Catholic (3A; 231 enrollment)
Annville-Cleona (3A; 221 enrollment)
Lancaster Catholic (3A; 212 enrollment)
Pequea Valley (3A; 205 enrollment)
Columbia (2A; 161 enrollment)
NOTES: Manheim Central — along with Shippensburg (402) and York Suburban (402) — is the smallest 5A program in District 3; gut hunch, but the Barons will more than likely ask to play up in Section 2, where they could keep rivalry games like Conestoga Valley, Elizabethtown and Warwick. … Section 1 would go practically unchanged in current L-L League circles, with only Reading — the lone 6A program in Berks in the next cycle — coming in. The Red Knights would renew their rivalry with neighboring Wilson. … Berks Catholic is 3A by classification, but the Saints are playing up in 4A in the next cycle. Ticketed for Section 5 in this proposal, Berks Catholic would more than likely ask to play up in Section 4, especially if the Saints choose to play up in 4A again starting in 2022. … There are three reigning District 3 champs in this group: Cocalico in 5A, Lampeter-Strasburg in 4A and Wyomissing in 3A; L-S beat Berks Catholic for 4A gold last fall. Interestingly, all three of those reigning champs would be slotted together in Section 4. … Cocalico dips to 4A for the next cycle, and if the initial proposal passes, the Eagles would be slotted in Section 4, and away from their longtime L-L League Section 2 rivals. … Reigning section champs: Manheim Township (L-L Section 1), Manheim Central (L-L Section 2), Lancaster Catholic (L-L Section 3), Governor Mifflin (Berks Section 1) and Wyomissing (Berks Section 2).