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Written by: Phil Myers on Sunday, May 31st, 2020
It’s Protimes birthday week, so wish @Protime_PFN a Happy Birthday after you check out his preditictions
With all this virus stuff going around and our country still in semi-lock down or quarantine or whatever, Protime put his prediction helmet on a few months early to do something he has only done twice before, and that is predict who the top teams are going to be for the upcoming high school football season. Protime will call it the Top Twenty of 2020. The caveat, sports fans, is they are in no particular order.
The only other times Protime did this was when he entered Tom Elling’s and Richie Vetock’s PA Football News’ preseason top ten predictions contest quite a few years ago. The first contest resulted in Protime winning a hat and a jacket for having the most top ten predictions correct. The second year, he won again but was ineligible for prizes due to being a professional prognosticator.
A special ‘thank you’ goes out to Protime’s pals Billy Splain, Shane Lux, and Willie McGonigle for helping to provide some insight on who will be some of the top squads vying for state titles this year. Let Protime be the first to say, with the possible exception of 6A and the St. Joes Prep juggernaut, 2020 may well top last year for close championship games as there doesn’t appear to be one team in 1A through 5A that could be considered a shoo in. So, as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck used to sing before the Bugs Bunny Show, ‘On with the Show, this is It.’
Protime will only concentrate on teams, not player names as that is done in his weekly predictions’ previews. We’ll begin with the big boys of 6A. Suffice it to say the one team that has to be a huge preseason favorite is the Hawks of St. Joes Prep. They are loaded for bear and not only may be the top bird in PA, but one of the premier teams in the country to boot.
But the reason they play the game is that on any given day, someone may not care who you are or where you are ranked. Those teams are extremely dangerous and Protime believes there are a few that will be lurking around in the top classification. Glancing around the state Protime feels there are some pretty darn good 6A teams that have the potential to make a run deep into the state playoffs.
Starting in the west, D-7 is low on numbers in top classification, but will have a couple contenders. If not for a St. Joes miracle late in the game which led to an overtime victory, Pittsburgh Central Catholic would have played Central Dauphin in the championship last year. PCC is back and don’t be surprised to see them play the Hawks in the finals as the PIAA switched the brackets again. North Allegheny looks tough coming out of the WPIAL also, as does Mount Lebanon. Protime’s crystal ball says a team not named Cathedral Prep coming out of Erie may make some noise. That would be the Trojans of McDowell. Put them on your radar for 2020. The other ‘western’ team who should be on the doorstep of getting to the title game is St. College.
The south central and eastern part of Pennsylvania is where the majority of 6A teams reside. Protime has perhaps two surprises in his D-1 forecast. Look for Downingtown West and Coatesville to be very strong again, but keep an eye on Garnet Valley and Spring Ford because they will be in the mix. Down in Philadelphia look for LaSalle to pose a threat as well as the Northeast Vikings.
Parkland out of District 11 will be formidable this year along with Nazareth who is ready to build on last year’s success. Delaware Valley will be good again up in District 2. Finally, D-3’s playoffs will be super due to the quality of teams they have. Central Dauphin may be the favorite to repeat, but Harrisburg will be right there as will Manheim Township, Central York, and Cumberland Valley. Protime has other teams on his depth chart that could easily make the jump into the top twenty like Baldwin, Haverford, Perkiomen Valley, and Cedar Crest to name four.
Pine-Richland has dropped to 5A and has to be regarded immediately as one of the favorites. But Gateway will have a big say about that as well as Peters Township, Penn Hills, and Penn-Trafford out of the Pittsburgh area. Another team from the west that is going to be good is Erie Cathedral Prep who moved up to 5A due to the Success Factor rule. Expect them to make a serious run, but on the eastern side of the bracket.
Districts 1 and 3 make up almost half of the top 20 in 5A. Academy Park is one squad whose name keeps cropping up for 2020. Don’t forget Cheltenham who came within seconds of winning the 5A title last year. Add in Strath Haven and Chester and D-1 will have some fireworks in their 5A playoffs. In D-3, Warwick appears to an odds on favorite and Protime would like to add them to his list of 300 plus high school teams he has seen. So, maybe a trip to Lititz will be in the cards this year. The Warriors will have some heavy competition from perennial power Manheim Central along with Gettysburg, Governor Mifflin, Shippensburg, and Mechanicsburg.
District 11 offers East Stroudsburg South and Southern Lehigh to the mix, while Imhotep from D-12 will be vying to get back to the title game. They, like Cathedral Prep, were forced up by the Success Factor. Imhotep and Cathedral Prep may face each other again, but it would be in the state quarter finals believe it or not. District Six’s Hollidaysburg Golden Tigers are always tough come playoff time. Protime almost forgot Woodland Hills and has them as an honorable mention with a good possibility of having a breakout year.
4A welcomes Aliquippa this year thanks to the Success Factor and Protime believes they will make noise even though there are doubters out there. Protime is not one of them and thinks the Quips have a legit shot at dethroning Thomas Jefferson, who just happens to reload every single year. Don’t be surprised if 2020 will be another grand year for TJ. Belle Vernon and Mars will also be striving for the title in D-7. Protime is picking McKeesport to maybe be Top Cat in the WPIAL though as he has a sneaky feeling 4A will be to their liking.
Oil City looks good out of District 10, while D-6’s Bellefonte Red Raiders may be a sleeper. Speaking of sleepers, and this is just a hunch, DuBois may have a good year due in part to a weaker schedule but also, they have a new coach and some real talent. If the Beavers can put in the work and effort, who knows where it may lead.
The east is loaded with gifted 4A teams, especially D-3. Lampeter-Strasburg won districts in 2019 and was rewarded by being pitted against Thomas Jefferson. Look for the Pioneers to be in the hunt again along with Berks Catholic, Bishop McDevitt, Cocalico, and ELCO. District 2 is loaded also with Berwick hoping to get back to their glory days. Throw in Dallas (2nd to TJ in 2019) and Valley View, and Berwick has some top-notch opposition just to win the D-2 title.
Pottsgrove out of District 1 will be very good. The catholic schools from D-11 have the horses to make a charge at a championship. Protime’s talking about Bethlehem Catholic and Allentown Central Catholic of course. Pottsville beat them both last year and has a shot at doing it again. Jersey Shore out of D-4 comes in with the 4A honorable mention hoping to build on their nice run in ’19.
Protime is looking eastward to begin the 3A divination’s. Notre Dame Green Pond and Pine Grove keep coming up as teams to beat in District 11, while Neumann-Goretti appears to have what it takes to represent D-12. Wyoming will make every effort to make back to back appearances in Hershey, but Scranton Prep and Lake Lehman stand in the Warriors’ way up there in District 2. Montoursville and Loyalsock should represent District 4 honorably. Meanwhile, District 3 will be very strong with Wyomissing bringing a lot back. Stir in Middletown, Lancaster Catholic, and Susquehanna Township to the mix and that’s a nice contingent from D-3. Only Township has not been to the state finals yet.
Out west, Clearfield from District 9 has some players who will make a difference. Plus, the Bison dropped down a classification for this two-year cycle and that may make all the difference in the world. Hickory, out of D-10, is the team Protime is hearing as having a great shot at making it to Hershey. Huntingdon and Tyrone will duke it out to represent District 6. The Bedford Bisons (D-5) are poised to make an impact in the playoffs this year.
Top WPIAL teams may well be Elizabeth-Forward and North Catholic. Finally, we can’t ignore Central Valley who just may play with a chip on their shoulder this year after failing to hold the lead in the 4th quarter against Wyoming on a Saturday afternoon in Hershey last December. AAA HM goes to the Antelopes of Avonworth, Burrell, and Westmont.
Now for 2A. The door is wide open here because the once in a life time team from Southern Columbia graduated. They will be tested and from within their own district (4) by Mt. Carmel. Protime lists Dunmore and Lackawanna Trail from D-2, Northern Lehigh and Schuylkill Haven from D-11, and West Catholic out of the Philly area as other strong teams from the east.
The west has a plethora of championship caliber candidates. Beginning in District 10 where everyone will be looking to the Farrell vs. Wilmington match-up. Farrell was affected by the Success Factor too, but being at AA will not hinder the Steelers in the least. Berlin out of District 5 is going to be for real in 2020. But, keep an eye on Richland from District 6. The Rams could be one of the two teams vying for the championship come December. They are going to be that good. Central, Martinsburg and Bellwood-Antis should bring something to the table in D-6 also.
Ridgway along with Central Clarion (the Clarion and Clarion-Limestone jointure) look good out in D-9. The WPIAL brings some solid teams including Beaver Falls, Washington, New Brighton, Laurel, and McGuffey. Protime believes Beaver Falls is the cream of that crop though. Bald Eagle Area, Chestnut Ridge, and Conwell Egan make up your favorite prognosticator’s honorable mentions.
In single A, Steelton-Highspire quickly pops into the conversation for a run to the state finals. Even though there are not a lot of 1A teams from the east, the Steamrollers (D-3) will be one of PA’s best. Old Forge from District 2, Canton from District 4, and the Valley teams from District 11 (Williams and Tri) will be the other good ones from the eastern half of the state.
West Middlesex, Reynolds, and Maplewood will represent D-10, while Coudersport will be the D-9 rep. West Shamokin and Homer Center will try to dethrone Bishop Guilfoyle in D-6, but Protime thinks BG is on course to be one of the best 1A in 2020. Northern Bedford is a dark horse coming out of District 5. The Pittsburgh area will have the most teams in the top 20. Clairton is expected to do well and they don’t have Farrell to contend with this year. Following the Bears are going to be Jeannette, Burgettstown, OLSH, Greensburg CC, West Greene, and Imani Christian.
Protime decided to break it down to possible finalists. 6A – St. Joes vs. Pittsburgh Central Catholic, 5A – Warwick/Pine Richland winner vs. Cathedral Prep/Imhotep winner, 4A – McKeesport/TJ winner vs. Berwick/Bishop McDevitt winner, 3A – Protime’s crystal ball says Wyomissing vs. Central Valley (this class is so wide open), 2A – Wilmington/Farrell winner vs. Southern Columbia/Richland winner, 1A – Steelton-Highspire/Bishop Guilfoyle winner vs. Clairton.
So, there is Protime’s Top Twenty for 2020 and odds on faves to make the championship game in each class. Every year a team or two comes out of nowhere and has a monster season, so Protime doesn’t care if that special squad puts forth that dogged determination to prove him wrong. High school football is the best sport on earth in Protime’s opinion. He would love to get a chance to see every single team play and talk to every coach if he could. Protime is looking forward to the 2020 season maybe more than any other year. (Protime has an inkling Mrs. Protime can’t wait for the season to start either.) As he always says, “may the best team win.”
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