Somehow, some way, we have arrived at the 2020 Pennsylvania high school football state playoffs. In this bizarre season, I thought it would be interesting to take a new approach to looking at the remaining teams state-wide. Territory maps have been around for a few years now at the college football level and this year a few people have taken it upon themselves to create them for high school football, too. Pennsylvania should be no different, right?
With the generous help of National Helmet Tournament accomplice – and graphics/helmet design guru – Gus (@SportsPSD), we were able to do just that. By locating each remaining high school on a map and allowing this app to find its Voronoi diagram, we could then assign each team to the county it “occupies” as the nearest remaining team. When two schools occupy the same county – as is common in the WPIAL, especially with Allegheny County – you’ll see a cross-hatched design with both teams’ colors. As we advance through the playoffs, only winning teams will remain, their territories growing as eliminated teams are removed. There are a number of times when multiple teams “claim” part of the same county; when this happens, the school with the majority of land in that county gets it.
This project will continue to be updated through the state finals, when the state champions in each class will occupy the entire Commonwealth as the last team standing. Many, many thanks go out to Gus for his help on this project. Any coaches looking to redesign their helmets for next season should reach out to him – he’s happy to help and has experience in creating great looks for teams.
So, now that we’re all experts on Voronoi diagrams (or something like that), let’s take a look at the six classes in map form:
A common theme you’ll see throughout these maps is Central Pennsylvania largely being dominated by one or maybe two schools. Nowhere is this more evident than in the state’s largest classification, where Altoona takes up territory stretching from New York to Maryland and Indiana County to Lycoming County. To anyone who understands the demographics of the state, this makes sense. There are comparatively few large schools in between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, so lots of land is there for the taking. The Mountain Lions take on Delaware Valley this week, so much of the state’s Northern Tier is up for grabs. The District 10 final between McDowell and Erie will lock up the owner of Northwestern PA and while St. Joseph’s Prep won’t enter the bracket until the Eastern Final, the rest of Southeastern PA is up for grabs.
The southeastern portion of the 5A map is one of the “messiest” parts of any map this week. Wissahickon, Upper Dublin, Kennett and West Chester Rustin will sort things out this weekend. Wyoming Valley West will dominate Northeastern PA until at least next weekend, as they have a bye in the first round. And in Western PA, four schools from three different WPIAL counties will face off for the chance to go to the district final next week.
As the bracket with the most “small-territory” schools, changes in 4A figure to be interesting to follow as we go from this week to next. Oil City, Jersey Shore, Dallas and Juniata have significant chunks of land right now, but things will certainly look quite a bit different here in next week’s iteration of the map.
Central (Martinsburg) vs. Bedford, Montoursville vs. Danville, and Middletown vs. Wyomissing will be three games this week that dramatically impact the middle of this map. But there are several other matchups this weekend featuring teams that border one another, too. Central Valley, the state’s top-ranked team, controls only its home county (Beaver) at this point, but that figures to change as the Warriors look to march to Hershey.
Class 2A features arguably the most even distribution of territory across all teams of any class in the state tournament. Beaver Falls and Berlin-Brothersvalley hold just one county apiece, while Richland has no counties all its own, sharing Cambria County with Cambria Heights. Most of the other schools hold 3-6 counties each, making this a balanced class from a territory standpoint.
First of all, let’s give some credit to Gus for utilizing Steelton-Highspire’s iconic “Schoolhouse Rock”-esque steamroller logo. The Rollers, Muncy and Old Forge command good portions of land, but outside of that the state’s smallest classification has a chaotic look.
STATEWIDE MAP COMPOSITE
This project combines two subjects – sports and maps – that yours truly can get embarrassingly nerdy about. So naturally, I’ve loved playing a role in helping to put this together. Again, thanks to Gus (@SportsPSD) for his design work. Check back each week to see how these maps change; the difference from this week to next figures to be the most dramatic of all as half of the teams in each class will be eliminated this weekend.