All-Time State Champions

One of the more interesting and contentious discussions revolving around the history of high school football in Pennsylvania is that of historical state champions.  As we approach championship weekend for 2016, let’s take a look back at the teams determined by one measurement to be state champions throughout the history of the sport in our state.

Much of the lore and tradition surrounding the culture of high school football comes from either hearing about or – if we had the chance – seeing teams considered to be “the best.”  Chances are, asking any number of fans across the state for their opinion on a particular season’s best team would yield a number of unique responses.  Calling a team “the best in the state” is inherently an extremely subjective exercise, especially for the years before 1988 when teams began settling the matter on the field through the state playoff brackets.  And in some ways, finding the “best” team from a given year isn’t actually all that important.  Many fans of football follow the sport because it’s important to them through a variety of personal connections.  If a flawless and all-encompassing measure of team quality existed (and I apologize, but it never will), would that diminish the enjoyment a fan experienced from watching a team that was rated, say, 8th best in the state that year?  I doubt it.  But the major aim of this site is to collect and record as much historical information about high school football in Pennsylvania, and a list of yearly champions is certainly a crucial part of the story of the game.

Relative to the rest of the country, Pennsylvania began crowning state champions on the field very late in its history.  From the beginning of high school football in the state (which dates as far back as at least 1885) until 1987, all teams considered to be state champions were either:

a.) Purely mythical champions or anecdotally considered to be the best in the state that year

or

b.) Rated the best by a variety of systems (the Saylor Rating System, the Gardner Points System, or another method).

That means that there is over a century of seasons in which the true state champion is up for debate, and always will be.  For the purposes of this site, the yearly champions of the Saylor Rating System will be included as that year’s state champion.  The list presented here is not meant to be an end-all, be-all compilation of the definitive best teams from each season.  Rather, it should be viewed as one perspective of the teams that earned the highest rating based on the same system.  The Saylor system was chosen because it rated teams yearly from 1887 until 1987, Pennsylvania’s final season without on-the-field champions.  The system isn’t perfect and the method Dr. Saylor used to determine the ratings is not known, but it is a consistent, statewide and historically comprehensive measurement.  As much as I would love to be able to present a perfect list of inarguable state champions, the fact is that the uncertainty and debate surrounding who truly was the best team that year is probably as important, if not more so, than actually knowing which team it was.  Having a definitive state champion for every year pre-1987 would erase some of the nostalgia and mythology that surrounds teams from hazy, long-ago seasons.

With all of that being said, here are some important things to note when looking at this list:

  1. The ratings presented here were originally created by Dr. Roger Saylor, a former Penn State professor.  The inspiration for this list stems from a copy of the 2012 Pennsylvania Football News Resource Guide that I own.  In it, the top ten teams based on Saylor Rating from each season from 1914-1987 were included.  That list was compiled by Hal Wilson and Bob Grube, with assistance from Dr. Saylor himself.  I want to stress that the information presented on this site was gathered independently of the PFN list, and thus there are a few differences between that one and the compilation you’ll see here:
    • The list on this site includes teams from 1887 through the present day.  I have included teams from all years in which a rating was derived (1885 and 1886 teams did not receive one from Saylor) and also all post-1987 teams to win on-the-field PIAA titles.  This gives the list you’ll see here a complete record of all state champions.
    • The PFN list is only complete statewide for 1939-1987.  Before 1939, the authors note that there are some missing teams from the western part of the state.  I have tried to include all teams statewide for all years since 1887, and this has allowed the list you’ll see here to fill in some missing pieces.
  2. Teams named state champions by this list up through the 1987 season held the highest Saylor Rating for that year.  I’ve combed through individual team files and recorded every team in state history to achieve a Saylor Rating of at least 500; in most seasons, a 500 rating puts a team in the top 15-18 teams in the state.  There have been at least 857 teams to earn a 500+ rating all-time.  For a few seasons in the 1800s, no team reached 500 points, so I searched every team for every year to find the highest rating for those seasons.  In a future post (or possibly a series of posts), I’ll break down the members of this “500 Club” in more detail.
  3. There are a few schools (namely Belle Vernon, Hampton, Kiski Prep, Lancaster McCaskey, Middletown, Shady Side Academy, Wyoming Seminary, and a few long-closed prep schools) that do not have ratings included in their files.  I don’t know why this is the case, but these schools will not be included because of the lack of this data.  If these ratings can be found, those schools will be added to the list.
  4. This list is mostly complete, but there is still data that is missing (see #2 above) or that possibly hasn’t been found yet.  Because of this, the list of state champions could potentially change if new information surfaces in the future.  This is a living document; new champions will be added each year and adjustments/corrections/additions will be added when found.
  5. Champions through 1987 are based on the Saylor System and champions from 1988 until today are the PIAA champions as determined by on-the-field state playoff competition.  That’s it.
  6. Only one team to earn a 500+ rating has been removed from this list.  The 1974 Aliquippa team earned a 567 rating, which would be the 3rd-highest in state history and was nearly 30 points higher than the three teams that tied for second place that season.  However, the team went 5-3-1 and didn’t play for a WPIAL title.  The year before, the Quips also went 5-3-1 and earned a rating of 467.  In 1975, they went 6-3 and earned a 466.  Because of this, I am strongly convinced that the rating for the 1974 team is a typo and chose not to include it on this list.  Historical ratings for Aliquippa can be viewed in the file shown here, under column DZ.

I’ll be devoting more posts based on this research, but please leave any comments or questions in the comments section below.  Without further ado, here’s the link to the list:

All-Time Pennsylvania State Champions

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Teams Nearing Milestones in 2016

With the 2016 season less than a week away, it’s a good time to check in on upcoming milestones teams across the state can reach this season.  All of the current statistics come from the Wins List published on this site, which is based primarily on the research of Dr. Roger Saylor and can be found here.  Because 2016 will feature a 15-game season, all teams that fall within 15 games of each milestone are included below.

*Numbers in parentheses indicate statistics entering the 2016 season.

WINS

800

  • Berwick (789)

700

  • Central [Philadelphia] (692)
  • Williamsport (690)
  • Aliquippa (687)

600

  • Shamokin (596)
  • North Penn [Lansdale] (594)
  • Central Bucks West (594)
  • Altoona (590)
  • Erie Cathedral Prep (586)

500

  • Reading (499)
  • Roman Catholic (499)
  • Chambersburg (496)
  • Cumberland Valley (496)
  • Wilkes-Barre Meyers (494)
  • Nanticoke (493)
  • Lancaster Catholic (492)
  • Pen Argyl (489)
  • Clarion (488)
  • Camp Hill (487)
  • Uniontown (486)
  • Juniata (486)
  • Erie McDowell (485)

400

  • Shenango (399)
  • Lewisburg (398)
  • South Philadelphia (397)
  • Springdale (395)
  • Mercersburg Academy (393)
  • Cameron County (393)
  • Muhlenberg (393)
  • Karns City (393)
  • Gateway (393)
  • Ligonier Valley (392)
  • California (392)
  • Riverside [Taylor] (392)
  • Brentwood (392)
  • Union [Rimersburg] (392)
  • Conemaugh Township (392)
  • Mars (391)
  • Allentown Central Catholic (387)
  • North Allegheny (387)
  • Homer-Center (386)
  • Avonworth (385)

300

  • North Schuylkill (299)
  • Olney (298)
  • Exeter Township (297)
  • Conrad Weiser (297)
  • Warrior Run (296)
  • Southern Huntingdon (295)
  • Blackhawk (295)
  • Central Columbia (294)
  • Youngsville (292)
  • Sheffield (292)
  • Susquehannock (291)
  • Hughesville (291)
  • Archbishop Carroll (291)
  • Archbishop Ryan (290)
  • Upper Perkiomen (289)
  • Kiski Area (289)
  • Belle Vernon (289)
  • Knoch (286)
  • Bishop Canevin (285)
  • East Allegheny (285)

200

  • Cambria Heights (199)
  • Apollo-Ridge (199)
  • Martin Luther King (198)
  • Greencastle-Antrim (196)
  • Dover (196)
  • Wallenpaupack (196)
  • Academy Park (196)
  • Glendale (194)
  • Lakeview (194)
  • Northgate (194)
  • Perkiomen Valley (193)
  • Maplewood (189)
  • Serra Catholic (187)
  • Mid-Valley (187)
  • Keystone (186)

100

  • York County Tech (94)
  • West Chester Rustin (89)
  • Bishop Shanahan (86)

GAMES PLAYED, min. 1000

List includes week and opponent when team would reach milestone.  The week refers to the team’s game number; the PIAA is referring to games on August 26th as “Week Zero,” but those games will be shown here as “Week 1.”  If a team plays two scrimmages, its “Week 1” may be a week later than the “Week 1” of a team who plays one scrimmage.  All schedules via Western PA Football and Eastern PA Football.

1200

  • Easton (1199) – Week 1 vs. Stroudsburg
  • Steelton-Highspire (1198) – Week 2 vs. North Schuylkill

1100

  • Connellsville (1095) – Week 5 at Kiski Area
  • Pottstown (1094) – Week 6 vs. Pottsgrove
  • William Penn Charter (1092) – Week 8 at Chestnut Hill Academy
  • Beaver Falls (1087) – Week 13, playoffs
  • Greensburg Salem (1086) – Week 14, playoffs

1000

  • Titusville (998) – Week 2 at Fairview
  • Carlisle (995) – Week 5 vs. State College
  • Curwensville (995) – Week 5 vs. Kane
  • Ellwood City (995) – Week 5 vs. Valley
  • Oil City (995) – Week 5 vs. Grove City
  • Hollidaysburg (993) – Week 7 at Tyrone
  • Hanover Area (990) – Week 10 at Nanticoke
  • Sharpsville (989) – Week 11, playoffs
  • Latrobe (987) – Week 13, playoffs
  • West Catholic [Philadelphia] (985) – Week 15, playoffs
  • LaSalle (985) – Week 15, playoffs

Players from PA High Schools in the NFL/AFL Draft

Through the end of the 2015 NFL season, Pennsylvania ranks 4th in the number of players produced by any state.  There have been 1,396 players from the Keystone State play professional football since 1920, and that number will grow this season as recent draft picks and undrafted signees appear in games during the 2016 season.

Birthplaces Table
Rk State # of Pros
# Active # of HOF
1 TX 2325 194 30
2 CA 2289 245 16
3 OH 1413 90 21
4 PA 1396 66 27
5 FL 1342 217 11
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/13/2016.

Of those nearly 1,400 players, at least 778 have been drafted into the NFL.  Another 67 were drafted into the AFL; many AFL draftees were also picked by NFL teams, meaning there are several players who were picked twice.  All of this data comes from Pro Football Reference, an incredible resource for a variety of statistics, including listings of the high schools attended by players throughout history.  I went through the pages of each of the listed Pennsylvania high schools and created a spreadsheet of players drafted into both the NFL and AFL.  You can view the lists of drafted players from Pennsylvania high schools here:

NFL Draftees from Pennsylvania High Schools

AFL Draftees from Pennsylvania High Schools

Note: Each player’s name links to his PFR page, if available.

Here’s where you come in:

While PFR is one of (if not the) best websites for historical football data anywhere, its listings of player high schools is far from perfect.  The most time-consuming part of this project was finding and correcting the high schools each player attended.  Most commonly, the error was a typo or misspelling of a school name (here’s the full list of high schools).  For example, East Pennsboro is listed twice – once for Mickey Shuler and once for Mickey Shuler, Jr. – because one entry lists the high school location as Enola and one has the location as East Pennsboro.  Both are referring to the same school, of course.  High schools themselves contained errors, too: former linebacker Micheal Barrow’s profile shows that he attended Homestead High School, which he did…except he graduated from the one outside of Miami, not the now-closed Homestead High School outside of Pittsburgh.

I’ve corrected these errors as completely as possible, but there are two issues that I’ll need your help addressing:

  1. Further corrections of high schools attended by draftees or any other incorrect information about that player
  2. Finding drafted players who do not have a PFR page

Point 2 is the biggest hurdle in making these lists 100% complete.  Players only show up for a high school if they have a PFR page, and a player only has a PFR page if he appeared in at least one NFL game.  There are surely countless Pennsylvania high school graduates who were drafted and did not appear in an NFL game and therefore do not have a PFR page.  These are the players who are missing from the lists I’ve compiled.  Many of these players are late-round picks or were chosen in the early days of the draft when it wasn’t uncommon for a player to be selected and choose not to pursue professional football (even if he was a high-round pick).  Here’s the page for the 1945 NFL Draft; all of the players without a linked name do not have a PFR page and therefore do not have a high school shown on the website.  Undoubtedly, at least a few of these players are Pennsylvania natives who need to be included in the NFL and AFL Draftee lists.

So, what can you do to help?

If you’re aware of a player from a high school who was drafted but isn’t included on one of the lists I’ve put together, send me his name, the approximate year he was drafted and any other vital information that may help find him.  You can comment on this post, tweet at me (@pa_fb_history) or email me at pafbhistory@gmail.com.  After using all of the info provided by PFR, a community-based research effort is the best way to make these lists as complete as possible.

The Birth of the AP All-State Team

From the December 11, 1963 issue of the Warren Times Mirror:

First AP All-State Team

We often think of all-state teams as being meticulously thought-out and analyzed, but from Scott’s own admission, this wasn’t the case for the inaugural edition in 1939.  Scott’s recollection depicts him being told – during the season’s final game – that he should pick his own team for the AP.  Following discussions with football people at that Clearfield vs. Blythe Township game, Scott published a team that he acknowledges missed on one player: Pittston’s Charlie Trippi.  Give Scott credit for selecting players from across the commonwealth, though; virtually all corners of the state are represented.  Of course, Scott’s greatest accomplishment was beginning the AP All-State team in the first place.  The team was selected every year through 2008.

As an aside: Blythe Township won the game 12-0.  The school fielded a team until the end of the 1958 season and its high school students now attend Pottsville.

One more thing – the birthplace of the AP All-State team still stands, but it hasn’t hosted a high school football game since the mid-1970s.  It now serves as the grandstand for the Clearfield County Fair:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The birthplace of the AP Pennsylvania All-State football team.

Map of 2016-17 Football Enrollment

Fans across the state have had plenty to say about Pennsylvania’s move to six classifications for football ever since the decision was made earlier this school year.  Instead of rehashing all of the debate that has occurred since then, I wanted to take a look at the new arrangement from a geographical perspective.  State playoffs in football (and many other PIAA sports) are based around an East vs. West arrangement.  In the past, this strict division hasn’t always been possible; for the past few seasons, the AAA winner of the Pittsburgh City League advanced into a subregional that played through the eastern bracket.  In 2009, Clairton beat Bishop McCort for the Class A state championship, meaning no team in the final hailed from farther east than Johnstown.

There are, of course, other examples of the geographic breakdown of the state football playoffs not quite matching common sense.  But these irregularities are based in the unequal populations of eastern and western Pennsylvania as a whole.  This map of each football program in the state bears that out.  Make the map full-screen and then check the boxes next to each classification to show or hide each school playing at that level over the next two seasons.  This map groups teams by the classification they have chosen to play for if they decided to play up, so Aliquippa is grouped with 3A instead of 1A, the classification in which its enrollment initially placed it.  All school enrollment information comes from this PIAA document, so please let me know if there are any errors that may need to be corrected.

Some thoughts:

  • As expected, the East – and District 1 in particular – dominates the large school classifications.  In the new 6A class, the East-West alignment is as clear-cut as it could possibly be.  The class is comprised of a bunch of schools from the Philadelphia-to-Allentown corridor, a number of Pittsburgh-area schools, and then a light smattering from across the rest of the state.  Adding in the 5A schools does virtually nothing to change this distinct geographic separation of schools.
  • Classes 4A and 3A are more evenly spread across the state, with the exception of the sparsely inhabited north-central part of Pennsylvania.  The Pittsburgh area maintains a large number of schools in these classes, while the large-school dominance of suburban Philadelphia gives way to more schools in the south-central part of the state.
  • Down at 2A, the tables have completely turned from the larger classes, as a large number of schools from the far western part of the state make up a significant chunk of the class.  The stretch from Washington to New Castle has a number of 2A schools, as does – to a lesser extent – the Coal Region.
  • The smallest class, 1A, has a fairly even spread geographically with the exception of southeastern Pennsylvania.  In fact, only 7 teams in 1A are located east of Interstate 81.

What do you think?  Share any observations or discussion points in the comments.

Wins List Now Updated for 2015

The Wins List has now been updated for all teams through the end of the 2015 season – you can check it out here.  All 1,178 programs to record at least 1 game played by the Dr. Roger Saylor Football Records are included in the list.  Before you look at the list, though, be sure to quiz yourself on naming all 113 programs with 500+ wins.  Note that one of those programs is now defunct.

After you take the quiz, check out some observations of the list (SPOILER WARNING IF YOU’RE PLANNING ON TAKING THE QUIZ).  Have anything to add or find anything cool/interesting/strange in the list?  Let us know in the comments.  And, as always, please let us know if there are any errors or corrections.

TEAMS WITH 800+ WINS

TEAM WINS WIN %
Mount Carmel 833 0.715
Easton 807 0.696

 

TEAMS WITH 700-799 WINS

TEAM WINS WIN %
Berwick 789 0.700
Steelton-Highspire 725 0.628
New Castle 718 0.639
Jeannette 709 0.686

 

TEAMS WITH 600-699 WINS

TEAM WINS WIN %
Central (Philadelphia) 692 0.623
Williamsport 690 0.595
Aliquippa 687 0.676
Greensburg-Salem 681 0.645
Penn Charter School 677 0.644
Frankford 676 0.700
Huntingdon 675 0.648
Coatesville 673 0.621
Pottsville 666 0.563
Washington 663 0.639
Ridley 662 0.782
Monessen 657 0.649
Dunmore 655 0.649
Clairton 650 0.643
Johnstown 646 0.608
Wilkes-Barre Coughlin 646 0.572
Norristown 644 0.584
Sharon 638 0.595
Beaver Falls 635 0.608
Tyrone 634 0.634
Warren 633 0.570
Rochester 631 0.608
McKeesport 625 0.608
Beaver 624 0.609
Windber 614 0.629
Northeast (Philadelphia) 610 0.598
DuBois 609 0.588
Saint Joseph’s Prep 609 0.587
Hollidaysburg 605 0.628

 

MOST GAMES PLAYED (MINIMUM 1,100)

TEAM GAMES FIRST YEAR
Pottsville 1224 1893
Mount Carmel 1206 1893
Williamsport 1206 1892
Easton 1199 1895
Steelton-Highspire 1198 1894
West Chester Henderson 1178 1895
New Castle 1177 1892
Wilkes-Barre Coughlin 1175 1892
Chester 1175 1890
Central (Philadelphia) 1160 1887
Berwick 1158 1888
Warren 1158 1893
Shamokin 1147 1893
Norristown 1145 1894
Reading 1139 1892
Lebanon 1137 1900
Shikellamy 1126 1893
Roman Catholic 1125 1895
Coatesville 1124 1903
Sharon 1115 1899
Phoenixville 1111 1894
Johnstown 1108 1898
Lancaster McCaskey 1102 1890
Allentown Allen 1102 1896

 

DISTRICT WINS LEADERS

DISTRICT TEAM WINS
1 Coatesville 673
2 Berwick 789
3 Steelton-Highspire 725
4 Mount Carmel 833
5 Windber 614
6 Huntingdon 675
7 New Castle 718
8 Westinghouse 549
9 DuBois 609
10 Sharon 638
11 Easton 807
12 Central (Philadelphia) 692
Independent Penn Charter 677

 

TEAMS WITH 500+ WINS & 500+ LOSSES

TEAM WINS LOSSES
Pottsville 666 512
Shamokin 596 510
West Chester Henderson 584 535
Shikellamy 566 521
Lancaster McCaskey 545 509
Shenandoah Valley 537 501
Lower Merion 537 502
Connellsville 530 506
Chester 526 560
Hazleton 522 504
Allentown Allen 512 535
Cheltenham 504 509

 

(Image: 1928 Steelton football team. Source: Steelton-Highspire School District – http://www.shsd.k12.pa.us/domain/255)

Individual Rushing Updated

Individual rushing statistics have been added to the “Individual Statistics –> Rushing” tab on the menu.  All rushing statistics shown here were collected from archived copies of the Pennsylvania Football News’ Keystone Clubs and are current through the end of the 2015 season.

A few observations:

  • There have been 2,547 seasons in which a Pennsylvania high school football player has rushed for at least 1,000 yards.  A number of these instances involve the same player rushing for 1,000+ yards more than once in his career.
  • The only players to lead the state in rushing yards twice are LeSean McCoy (2003 & 2004), Ryan Brumfield (2009 & 2010) and Dominick Bragalone (2013 & 2014).
  • The lowest total to lead the state since 2000 was 2,272 by Robbie Frey of Lehighton in 2005.  That ranks 75th in single-season history.
  • The highest total not to lead the state was 2,974.  Lakeview’s Blake Reddick rushed for the 6th-highest total of this century, but finished 2nd in 2013.  Reddick finished 294 yards behind South Williamsport’s Bragalone.
  • Through 2015, only two players have rushed for 4,000+ yards (Bragalone and Zach Barket).  Five have eclipsed 3,000 yards and 177 have hit 2,000 or more.

The list shown here is as accurate as possible, but there may still be errors or omissions.  Additionally, any information pointing toward players who rushed for more than 1,000 yards before 2000 would be greatly appreciated.  This is a growing document and any assistance in including as many players from past years is helpful.

(Photo: Ryan Brumfield.  Source: “Talking Sports with Seeley” https://pafbhistory.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/16ea9-ojrfball.jpg)