All-State Player Database, 1939-2021

A database of every All-State football selection, one of the biggest projects I’ve ever attempted on this site, has finally been completed. It was begun in 2015, put on the shelf for a long time, and finally completed following about seven months of work throughout 2022. The result: a listing of all 18,836 known All-State football players from the first Associated Press team in 1939 through last season’s selections.

Before getting to the results of this project, there are a few things that I should detail and explain. This was a massive project and it will be beneficial to understand the caveats that may exist in the data:

  • This data is based upon the All-State teams selected by five sources:
    1. The Associated Press (1939-2008). This was the original All-State selection source and was the only selector in the state for various stretches of time.
    2. The Pennsylvania Football Writers (2009-Present). In early incarnations it was called the Pennsylvania Sports Writers team. This organization of writers from across the state picked up the AP’s mantle when it decided to stop naming teams.
    3. The United Press International (1952-1984). The UPI chose teams were chosen by UPI writers until 1979, when they were selected by college football recruiters. The 1983 and 1984 teams were termed “The UPI Pride of Pennsylvania” teams and selected the 25 best players in the state rather than a full roster of players.
    4. Pennsylvania Football News (1998-Present). PFN chose between two and four teams per year based on classification until recently, when it has picked one team per classification with a larger number of slots (i.e., 3-4 quarterbacks make the team).
    5. PennLive (2018-Present). In 2018, PennLive began picking one offensive and one defensive team representing the best players in the state regardless of class. While it is by far the newest team included in this project, PennLive (and the associated Harrisburg Patriot-News) are, in my mind, the paper of record when it comes to statewide high school football. Thus, I included these teams.

All data from 1939 through 2011 were found in the 2012 Pennsylvania Football News Resource Guide. Selections from 2012-Present were found via many hours of internet research.

All State team selectors over time
  • The data is as complete as humanly possible. I’ve checked and re-checked the raw data in this project multiple times, but the size of it still allows the chance for errors to exist. I know there are bound be typos and name misspellings, but I am fairly confident that these should be few and far between. There were at times errors and typos in the source material for this project, but I have done my best to correct those. If you see a missing name and can provide evidence for its inclusion, please let me know (pafbhistory@gmail.com or @pa_fb_history on Twitter).
  • All-State selections vs. All-State players. On the sheets that show total All-Staters for each school, remember that these count each individual selection, not distinct players. For example, if a player was selected to two different All-State teams in the same year, that counts as two selections for the school’s overall tally.
  • Schools are listed as they appeared in that year’s All-State list. I chose to list a player as representing the school he played for the year he was selected rather than use the school’s current name. This means that, for example, all selections for Downingtown are separated from those from Downingtown East and Downingtown West. The Saylor Record Spreadsheets often lump the “original” school’s statistics in with one of the new versions formed by a high school splitting into multiple buildings, but for consistency’s sake I decided to keep all of the school’s separated. If you’d like, you can simply find all of the past versions of your school’s program and lump their selections together to form an overall number – that’s up to you.
  • Selections are heavily skewed to more recent years. The graph below illustrates how dramatic the rise in overall selections has been over time. This is for a few reasons. First of all, there are currently more services that select All-State teams than there were in various periods of history. Second, those selectors tend to choose more teams (i.e., a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and sometimes 4th team) than in early years of All-State teams. Third, selectors in the modern era often choose separate teams for each classification rather than use the original method of choosing one team for all of the programs in the state. Finally, there are more positions selected today than in the early era. For example, the AP (which began selecting teams in 1939) only chose offensive players until 1969. All of these factors combine to heavily favor more recent dynasties and strong programs than ones that existed prior to the mid-1970s. From 1939-1951, only 33 players were selected each year, with the exception of 1942 and 1944, when only 22 players were chosen. Today, an average of around 700 selections are made each year, with an all-time high of 787 in 2016.

In all, 711 different schools have had at least one All-State selection over the past 83 seasons. Check out all of the data below:

All-State Selections (Listed by School)

All-State Selections (Listed by Year)

School Totals

Top Ten Schools by Total Selections (click the link above to view all schools)

SCHOOLTOTAL ALL-STATE SELECTIONS
Southern Columbia256
Aliquippa205
Cathedral Prep183
Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg)176
St. Joseph’s Prep170
Mount Carmel157
Pittsburgh Central Catholic157
Berwick145
State College142
Farrell141

SOURCES:

The Pennsylvania Football News Resource Guide, 2012 by Rich Vetock & Tom Elling (teams from 1939-2011)

PennLive.com (various teams from 2012-Present)

Newspapers.com (various teams and research to resolve corrections)

Pennsylvania Football News (PFN teams from 2012-Present)

Alternate Universe PIAA Playoffs: The Illinois System

We’ve all seen commercials for upcoming movies that begin with “In a world where [insert apocalyptic event].“. Today, let’s talk about a world where the PIAA adopted another state’s playoff system in order to crown its state football champions. We’re going to take all 550-plus football-playing schools in Pennsylvania and shove them into the process Illinois uses to determine its champions. Hopefully this serves as a fun thought experiment and exercise to consider the various components that make a state’s playoff system “good.”

Why not stick with the current PIAA system?

First, I’m not advocating for the PIAA to scrap its current setup. To begin with, it’ll never change. Period. And while the way we choose state champs and playoff participants is…well, kind of odd when you think about it, it is rooted in several decades of tradition at this point. But if you haven’t tried this yet, I encourage you to explain our state’s playoff procedure to an acquaintance from another state. It’s not as simple as it may initially seem. Our playoff system, which is dominated by 12 small kingdoms that are loosely associated and Frankensteined together each November and December, can lead to some difficult-to-explain scenarios to the uninitiated. In many states, the overarching organization creates one uniform playoff method. In Pennsylvania, all 12 districts choose their state playoff entries on their own and then they enter in various weeks of the bracket. You may think it works just fine, but it’s nevertheless unique.

Why Illinois?
There are a few reasons why I chose to base this project on how the IHSA determines its playoff fields in Illinois:

  • Illinois is a state that is comparable to Pennsylvania in number of football-playing schools, population, and geographic size (although Illinois is a bit bigger in land area).
  • The system Illinois uses (more on that below) is simple and straightforward, making it easy enough to copy for our uses here.
  • Illinois uses a statewide bracket where all teams enter at the same point, which would eliminate many (if not all) of the bizarre scenarios we face in Pennsylvania where a two-win team plays a one-win team for a district title or subregionals must be formed between multiple districts. In short, it produces a clean, easy-to-follow bracketing procedure.

How does the Illinois system work?

Here’s the meat and potatoes of the statewide playoff system used in Illinois. I’ll add how I’ve modified each step for Pennsylvania, too. Illinois has 8 classes for football and has 32-team brackets for each class, meaning 256 teams make the postseason. To be consistent with our classification structure, I’ll be putting together 6 brackets of 32 teams in Pennsylvania (a total of 192 schools entering the playoffs).

  1. All teams statewide are ranked in order of wins at the end of the regular season (in Illinois, all teams play 9 regular season games). School size is not considered at this point. All 9-0, 8-1, 7-2, and 6-3 teams get into the playoff field. Many years, all 5-4 teams make the playoffs and occasionally a few 4-5 teams can enter, too, if wins must go that low to get 256 total entries. Because much of Pennsylvania plays a 10-week regular season, I’ll use that many games to determine playoff participants (meaning games through the weekend of October 28th will still count toward a team’s playoff position). Also, because we will only take 192 entries in this simulation, the cutoff will be higher, meaning some 6-4 teams won’t be selected.
  2. Ties between schools with the same number of wins are broken by Illinois’ version of power points (or win points, or bonus points, or whatever you’d like to call them). Eastern PA Football posts a similar statistic for all teams statewide, so I’ll use that in this exercise as a close facsimile. I’ll prorate each team’s number to balance out the rating for teams that play varying numbers of regular season games.
  3. All conference champions, regardless of record, automatically qualify into the field. I’ll be using the league rankings page from Eastern PA Football to determine conference champions.
  4. Once the final list of 256 Illinois teams is formed (192 in Pennsylvania), they are re-ranked by school enrollment, largest to smallest. The top 32 schools form 8A, the next 32 are 7A, and so on. Due to this process, a traditional 4A program in Pennsylvania may play in the 5A or 3A playoffs in our simulation depending on how many bigger or smaller schools qualify. In essence, your classification doesn’t really come into effect until/unless you enter the postseason.
  5. Remember those ratings from Step 2? Those are used to seed teams within their classification bracket to form the finalized playoff. So the top-rated 6A team will be paired with the 32nd rated 6A team, the No. 2 6A will play the No. 31 6A, and so on. All of this is done without regard to geographic location in Illinois’ two largest brackets (8A and 7A). For the other six classes, Illinois splits the state into a north bracket and a south bracket to cut down on travel costs. In our thought experiment, I’ll make all six brackets statewide because I think it leads to more interesting matchups and we don’t need to pay for virtual gas. You could see rematches of league/district opponents in Round 1, or you may see a Lehigh Valley team paired with a team from Pittsburgh. It’s a truly statewide bracket.
  6. The final step: you play the games! The top seeds host, although in our fictionalized Pennsylvania bracket neutral sites could potentially be used in extreme circumstances. In the post-COVID world, the PIAA has become much more open to having teams host true home games in the state playoffs, meaning this really wouldn’t be a huge shift in our state.

So what’s next?

After this weekend’s (10-28 to 10/29) games are completed, I’ll run through the steps above and create all six brackets. I’ll publish them either Sunday or early next week. After that, I’ll publish updated fictional brackets each week after simulating that week’s round using either the CalPreps.com or Massey ratings websites. Be sure to follow along to see if your team qualifies for the (fictional) postseason and to track how far it goes.

REMEMBER: this is just for fun. If you’re a huge Pennsylvania high school football and/or bracketing nerd like me, it should be fun. If not: I don’t hate your school! I swear!

All-Time State Champions List – 2021 Update

Now that the 2021 PIAA Championships have been decided, take a look at the updated list of all-time Pennsylvania high school football champions here. This list tracks each champion in the PIAA statewide playoff era (1988-present) in addition to annual champions as chosen by the Saylor Rating System (1887-1987).

This year’s champions:

  • Mt. Lebanon (6A)
    • Previous state championships (3): 1958, 1970 & 1981
  • Penn-Trafford (5A)
    • Previous state championships: None
  • Aliquippa (4A)
    • Previous state championships (5): 1952, 1955, 1991, 2003 & 2018
  • Central Valley (3A)
    • Previous state championships (1): 2020
  • Southern Columbia (2A)
    • Previous state championships (11): 1994, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 & 2020
  • Bishop Guilfoyle (1A)
    • Previous state championships (3): 2014, 2015 & 2016

It was an historic year in Hershey for the WPIAL, as it became the first district to win four state championships in the same year. Prior to the six-class system’s introduction in 2016, the WPIAL took three-out-of-four titles in 2001, 2005 and 2007.

All-Time PIAA Championship Game Statistics: 2021 Update

Last year, Shayne Schafer and I compiled team and individual statistics from every PIAA State Final ever played, dating back to the first games in 1988. This database has now been updated to include the 2020 title games.

In the link below, you’ll find a listing of every touchdown ever scored, every player who ever recorded a carry, pass attempt, reception or kicking point, and team stats for every game* in the state championship game era.

Anyone is free to use this database, but please remember to credit Shayne (who did the lion’s share of this) and PFH for the research.

* Full team statistics from the 1989 AA Final between Hickory and Montoursville have proven elusive. If you know of where a boxscore for this game can be found, please let me know.

ALL-TIME CHAMPIONSHIP GAME STATISTICS

Willie Thrower: A Forgotten Pioneer

On October 18, 1953, a crowd of 40,740 fans at Wrigley Field saw Bears coach George Halas – frustrated by the play of his starting quarterback, George Blanda – send an undrafted rookie into the game to lead his offense. With five minutes left to go and his team down 35-21, Willie Thrower took command of the Chicago offense and completed a pass to the 4-yard-line of their opponent, the San Francisco 49ers. Halas promptly re-inserted Blanda, drawing the ire of his team’s fans: “Blanda and [Fred] Morrison came into the game, and the crowd responded with a resounding razzberry. They wanted Willie to put it over.” Instead, Morrison scored the touchdown.

Thrower would return to the field, ending the game by throwing an interception to San Francisco’s Lowell Wagner. He would never attempt an NFL pass again. But despite going just 3-for-8 for 27 yards, Thrower had made history. He had become the first Black man to play quarterback in the NFL. He would never appear in an NFL game again.


Continue reading “Willie Thrower: A Forgotten Pioneer”

Pennsylvania State Championship Game Records – Team and Individual

A few days ago, we added a page where you can view every touchdown in state title game history. Today (just in time for the 2020 state championship games), we bring you more title game records. Use the links below to view the all-time team and individual results for all of the boxscore statistics @shayne_schafer and I could find. Some stat categories weren’t included in all boxscores, so you’ll see a yellow cell where there’s missing information. These lists will be updated as additional information becomes available.

Enjoy!

TEAM SINGLE-GAME RECORDS

Points Scored

First Downs

Total Plays

Total Yards

Rushing Attempts

Rushing Yards

Rushing Touchdowns

Completions

Passing Attempts

Passing Yards

Passing Touchdowns

Interceptions Thrown

Fumbles

Fumbles Lost

Penalties

Penalty Yards

Punts

INDIVIDUAL SINGLE-GAME RECORDS

Rushing Attempts

Rushing Yards

Rushing Touchdowns

Completions

Passing Attempts

Passing Yards

Passing Touchdowns

Interceptions Thrown

NCAA Quarterback Rating

Receptions

Receiving Yards

Receiving Touchdowns

Total Touchdowns

Points Scored

Pennsylvania Playoff Territory Map, Championship Round

Somehow, some way, we’ve made it to the state finals. Friday and Saturday will feature three games apiece and six teams will leave Hershey as state champions. Let’s take a look at the territory maps one final time, provided as always by friend of the program @SportsPSD. Remember to contact him if you need a helmet or uniform redesign for the 2021 season – he does fantastic work!

Continue reading “Pennsylvania Playoff Territory Map, Championship Round”

Pennsylvania Football Playoff Territory Map, Semifinal Round

Twenty-four teams remain in the race for a trip to Hershey next weekend, meaning that our playoff territory maps have consolidated significantly. I’ll cut down on the commentary in this week’s post, but I’ll replace the text with each of the three iterations of maps we’ve published so far so that you can see how territory has changed hands over the course of the playoffs. As always, these maps couldn’t be possible without the help of Gus (@SportsPSD), a truly talented helmet and uniform designer who would be happy to help you redesign your team’s look for 2021. Be sure to reach out to him this off-season!

CLASS 6A

Round 1 map:

Quarterfinal Round map:

This week’s map:

Matchups:

McDowell vs. Central York at Altoona, Saturday @ 1:00

St. Joseph’s Prep vs. Souderton at Cardinal O’Hara, Saturday @ noon

CLASS 5A

Round 1 map:

Quarterfinal Round map:

This week’s map:

Matchups:

Pine-Richland vs. Governor Mifflin at Hollidaysburg, Saturday @ 1:00

Cathedral Prep vs. Upper Dublin at Hollidaysburg, Friday @ 7:00

CLASS 4A

Round 1 map:

Quarterfinal Round map:

This week’s map:

Matchups:

Oil City at Thomas Jefferson, Friday @ 7:00

Jersey Shore at Lampeter-Strasburg, Friday @ 7:00

CLASS 3A

Round 1 map:

Quarterfinal Round map:

This week’s map:

Matchups:

Bedford vs. Central Valley at Altoona, Friday @ 7:00

Danville at Wyomissing, Saturday @ 1:00

CLASS 2A

Round 1 map:

Quarterfinal Round map:

This week’s map:

Matchups:

Beaver Falls vs. Wilmington at Geneva College, Friday @ 7:00

Southern Columbia vs. Bishop McDevitt (12) at Selinsgrove, Saturday @ 1:00

CLASS 1A

Round 1 map:

Quarterfinal Round map:

This week’s map:

Matchups:

Jeannette at Reynolds, Friday @ 7:00

Bishop Guilfoyle at Steelton-Highspire, Saturday @ 1:00

Pennsylvania Football Playoff Territory Map, Quarterfinal Round

It’s hard to believe, but we are down to just eight teams (seven in 6A) remaining in each classification in the state. Last week, we unveiled our playoff territory maps with the help of Gus (@SportsPSD), a good friend of PFH. As a reminder, Gus is a tremendous resource for any programs looking to redesign their helmets or uniforms for next year, so be sure to reach out if you’d like your program to have a fresh look in 2021.

This week will feature the biggest changes of the playoffs as each classification lost eight teams from last weekend. Let’s take a look:

CLASS 6A

Last week’s map:

This week’s map:

Altoona’s dominance of Central PA was split up after the Mountain Lions fell to Delaware Valley. Central York and Pittsburgh Central Catholic ate into Altoona’s former space while St. Joe’s Prep added Chester County despite not playing last weekend.

CLASS 5A

Last week’s map:

This week’s map:

One of last week’s busiest maps cleared up considerably following last weekend’s action. Cathedral Prep, Pine-Richland and Peters Township stack atop one another in Western PA and the southeastern corner of the state is much more orderly. While Warwick was forced to forfeit this week’s game to Governor Mifflin, they’re still included in this map because they “earned” the territory shown for this week by beating New Oxford.

CLASS 4A

Last week’s map:

This week’s map:

With one notable exception, every game in 4A this weekend features teams whose territories border one another. Oil City and Upper Moreland, however, couldn’t be located further apart on this map and will meet in Hollidaysburg for the right to go to the state semifinals. The WPIAL final between Aliquippa and Thomas Jefferson figures to be one of the state’s most highly-anticipated games and will dictate who controls the southwestern corner of this map.

CLASS 3A

Last week’s map:

This week’s map:

One major change on the 3A map involves the Philadelphia area. The map was created prior to Neumann-Goretti being forced to forfeit due to COVID, so Archbishop Carroll took its place and will play at Danville this weekend. Lots of territory in Western PA is on the table this weekend as Hickory plays Bedford and Central Valley meets Elizabeth-Forward for the WPIAL title.

CLASS 2A

Last week’s map:

This week’s map:

Last week’s frenetic 2A map became quite organized following the first round games. Southern Columbia dominates Northeastern PA and Beaver Falls controls only Beaver and Butler Counties, but the rest of the teams have roughly equal chunks of the commonwealth.

CLASS 1A

Last week’s map:

This week’s map:

In the first round, the 1A map represented a quilt of little fiefdoms, but those consolidated greatly following the games played last weekend. A devil and a steamroller control all of Eastern PA, while this week’s Reynolds-Redbank Valley and Clairton-Jeannette games will sort out the west. Homer-Center controls only its home county of Indiana, but that would change if they could knock off Bishop Guilfoyle.