The District 9 Small School South division is back to six teams and all 12 of the small schools will return to a nine-game interdistrict schedule in 2020 with the option of scheduling a 10th contest.
Those are the big takeaways from the small school schedules heading into this fall, an alignment that once again features two divisions.
Two playoff teams from a year ago — Smethport and Coudersport — lead the North Division and are again joined by rivals Otto-Eldred, Cameron County, Port Allegany and Sheffield.
In the South, Elk County Catholic, Union/A-C Valley, Keystone, Redbank Valley and Curwensville will welcome a new divisional foe: Brockway. The Rovers, which finished 3-7 a year ago in the D9 Large School division, requested and were granted permission to make the change due to declining enrollment.
Brockway takes the place of Clarion-Limestone, which joined a co-op with Clarion and North Clarion for football following the 2018 season and created a lopsided league alignment as its slot sat vacant last year. Some teams (such as Port Allegany) only played eight games a year ago, while others (Otto-Eldred) scheduled two non-District 9 games to get to 10 contests on the season.
But that problem is no more, as every school will now play each team in its division once as well as four crossover games against foes from the other division.
A FEW schools also took advantage of scheduling a 10th game in the final week of the regular season. Cameron County will travel to District 4’s Bucktail on October 30 and Otto-Eldred will make the trip to D4’s Cowanesque Valley on that date. Coudersport and Union/A-C Valley, though technically considered a crossover game if it was scheduled earlier in the year, will also play an “extra” 10th contest on the 30th.
All of the other local teams have just nine games on their schedule, though a game can be added at a later date.
OVER IN Warren County, all of Sheffield’s home games will once again be played on Saturday afternoons. The Wolverines have four home dates in 2020 with opening kick-offs scheduled for 1:30. Sheffield also has a Saturday afternoon game at Port Allegany slated for 1:30 p.m. on October 10.
Brockway, meanwhile, will begin all of its home games at 7:30 p.m., according to the school’s website. The Rovers will welcome Big 30 schools Coudersport, Elk County Catholic and Port Allegany to Varischetti Field — the only small school in District 9 to play on synthetic turf.
Speaking of Coudersport, the Falcons will begin their quest for a District 9 three-peat when they open the season by hosting Cameron County on the 28th. Other marquee games for Coudy include Redbank Valley (Oct. 16), which it beat in last year’s title game, as well as rival Smethport (Oct. 23).
Other rivalry games on the schedule include: Port Allegany at Otto-Eldred (Aug. 28), Port Allegany at Smethport (Sept. 11) and Cameron County at Elk Catholic (Oct. 2).
Other notes on the schedule:
— Big 30 schools will likely be seeing Curwensville on the football field for a final time this year. The Golden Tide announced at the end of last season that it would be leaving the D9 League and join the Inter-County Conference (ICC) as early as the 2021 season to reduce travel. Curwensville last played in that league from 1987-1998, but has been in District 9 exclusively since then. It’s unknown if District 9 would attempt to find a school to take Curwensville’s place or play with just 11 small schools again.
— All seven Big 30 small schools will once again be classified as ‘A’ for the upcoming season. In the new classification cycle — in effect this year as well as the 2021 season — all 12 of the small schools except Brockway will play in Pennsylvania’s smallest class. The Rovers had just three male students (132) more than the PIAA requirement (129) for Class A and will instead spend the next two years as a AA school. Likewise, Ridgway and Johnsonburg’s combined male enrollment is 133 kids. Four fewer, and the Elkers’ D9 Large School co-op would have also fallen to Class A and the football powerhouse would have been playing the likes of Coudersport and Smethport in the playoffs.
A look at each of the Big 30 teams’ complete 2020 schedules:
28 — at Coudersport
4 — Curwensville 11 — at Otto-Eldred 18 — Keystone 25 — Sheffield
2 — at Elk Catholic 9 — Smethport 16 — Union/A-C Valley 23 — at Port Allegany 30 — at Bucktail
28 — Cameron County
4 — at Elk Catholic 11 — Sheffield 18 — at Brockway, 7:30 p.m. 25 — at Port Allegany
2 — Curwensville 9 — Otto-Eldred 16 — at Redbank Valley 23 — Smethport 30 — at Union/A-C Valley
ELK CO. CATHOLICAugust
28 — at Curwensville
4 — Coudersport 11 — at Redbank Valley 18 — Port Allegany 25 — at Union/A-C Valley
2 — Cameron County 9 — at Brockway, 7:30 p.m. 16 — Sheffield 23 — at Keystone
28 — Port Allegany
4 — at Redbank Valley 11 — Cameron County 18 — Union/A-C Valley 25 — at Smethport
2 — Brockway 9 — at Coudersport 16 — Curwensville 24 — at Sheffield, 1:30 p.m. 30 — at Cowanesque Valley
28 — at Otto-Eldred
4 — Keystone 11 — at Smethport 18 — at Elk Catholic 25 — Coudersport
2 — at Union/A-C Valley 10 — Sheffield, 1:30 p.m. 16 — at Brockway, 7:30 p.m. 23 — Cameron County
29 — Smethport, 1:30 p.m.
4 — at Union/A-C Valley 11 — at Coudersport 19 — Redbank Valley, 1:30 p.m. 25 — at Cameron County
3 — Keystone, 1:30 p.m. 10 — at Port Allegany, 1:30 p.m. 16 — at Elk Catholic 24 — Otto-Eldred, 1:30 p.m.
29 — at Sheffield, 1:30 p.m.
4 — Brockway 11 — Port Allegany 18 — at Curwensville 25 — Otto-Eldred