The Wyoming Valley Conference kicks off its football season tonight with 12 games. Two more are on tap Saturday.
All three WVC divisions should be competitive, with no clearcut favorite in any of them.
Of course things will sort out over the next 10 weekends. And come Week 11 most teams will still be playing with a bloated playoff field once again.
Here’s a crash course in the divisional race and the playoffs, which will be determined much differently this year.
WVC DIVISIONAL RACE
Division 6A-5A: Williamsport has won the last two titles and is primed for a three-peat. The Millionaires have the WVC’s top pitch-catch combo in quarterback Joe Fagnano and receiver Marcus Simmons. Plus, running back Treyson Potts is back after missing last season with a knee injury. The University of Minnesota recruit rushed for over 1,600 yards and 27 TDs as a sophomore.
Hazleton Area has made steady progress under coach Mike Brennan, who won a state championship while coaching at Mount Carmel.
Wyoming Valley West was hit hard by graduation and lost two more players to transfers. Lineman Sammy Solomon, a Division I recruit, transfered to Wyoming Area, and leading receiver Darrian Tyson is now at Meyers.
Predicted order of finish: 1. Williamsport; 2. Hazleton Area; 3. Wyoming Valley West.
Division 4A: Wyoming Area departs and is replaced by Nanticoke Area. The Trojans play all divisional teams except Berwick and Dallas, who are expected to battle for the top spot.
After Berwick and Dallas, the next three slots should be Coughlin, Crestwood and Pittston Area, although not exactly in that order.
Tunkhannock has a new coach in Mike Marabell, who missed the early part of camp because he was at the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Oregon, where his daughter Paige was playing for Tunkhannock.
Predicted order of finish: 1. Berwick; 2. Dallas; 3. Crestwood; 4. Coughlin; 5. Pittston Area; 6. Nanticoke Area; 7. Tunkhannock.
Division 3A-A: Northwest has won the last two divisional championships, quite a feat for the WVC’s smallest school. A third consecutive title will be difficult, especially with some very good players getting their diplomas.
Wyoming Area moves down from Division 4A, where the Warriors more than held their own against bigger schools. Lake-Lehman should be formidable. Meyers has good size on the line and some solid skill players.
GAR and Hanover Area need to rebound from bad seasons. Holy Redeemer once again will try to be competitive with a small roster.
Predicted order of finish: 1. Wyoming Area; 2. Lake-Lehman; 3. Northwest; 4. Meyers; 5. GAR; 6. Hanover Area; 7. Redeemer.
District 2 has abandoned the user-friendly PIAA points system, where by the end of the final game of Week 10 everybody knew where they stood. In its place is the Power Rating System, which takes into account not only wins and losses but the win-loss records of opponents through something called the Weighted Winning Percentage and Opponents Weighted Winning Percentage.
Other districts having been using the Power Rating System. An explanation is available at piaad2.org.
Anyway, here’s how the playoff fields shape up for the next two years.
Class 6A: Three District 2 teams — Delaware Valley, Hazleton Area and Scranton — will join District 4’s Williamsport in a four-team subregionals. Since no teams get eliminated through regular-season play, the new points system will merely determine seedings.
Class 5A: Once again, District 2 will be grouped with District 11 in a subregional tournament. However, things have changed.
District 2 had three Class 5A teams in 2016 and 2017 — the first years the PIAA went to six classifications. The two lower seeds would play Week 11 and then play the top seed Week 12. The District 2 champion then faced the District 11 champ in Week 13.
District 2, though, is down to two 5A squads — Wallenpaupack and Wyoming Valley West. They will compete with five District 11 teams for four spots in the subregional. The four berths go to the top four teams regardless of district, so there is a chance — albeit slim — District 2 could be shut out.
Class 4A: Eight teams qualify for the District 2 playoffs, just like the past two years. However, the class now contains 13 teams, up from 11. While Wyoming Area dropped down to 3A, Abington Heights dropped from 5A to 4A, Nanticoke Area moved from 3A to 4A and Montrose leaped from 2A to 4A. Montrose’s change was due to a cooperative agreement with Elk Lake and Mountain View, where a portion of those schools’ enrollment are applied to Montrose’s.
The other 4A teams are Berwick, Coughlin, Crestwood, Dallas, Honesdale, North Pocono, Pittston Area, Tunkhannock, Valley View and West Scranton.
Class 3A: Things get silly here as eight of the nine teams make the postseason, up from four the past two years.
The 3A teams are GAR, Hanover Area, Holy Redeemer, Lakeland, Lake-Lehman, Meyers, Scranton Prep, Western Wayne and Wyoming Area.
Class 2A: No WVC teams are Class 2A, but like Class 3A just don’t be the worst team and you’re in. Four of five make the postseason.
The 2A teams are Carbondale, Dunmore, Mid Valley, Riverside and Susquehanna.
Class A: Like the past two years, there will be just a championship game between the top two teams.
There are four Class A teams — Holy Cross, Lackawanna Trail, Northwest and Old Forge.
Eastern Conference: The once-prestigious tournament fell to bridesmaid status as the state playoffs expanded. And once the PIAA went to six classifications in 2016, the Eastern Conference had to scrape together teams for the 2017 playoffs.
The Eastern Conference will be back in 2018, and any teams not making the District 2 postseason has a shot at them.
Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar