Wednesday, July 10, 2013

WPIAL Top 10 Dynasties of the Last Decade

Recently Karlo Zovko of ranked the Top 10 WPIAL Dynasties of the last decade. He heavily promoted his post on Twitter in an attempt to drum up interest in the topic.

Of course, there was only one clear choice for the top spot.
There were some detractors out there that didn't think the Bears would actually land the top spot.
Thankfully, Karlo's Viking-tinted glasses didn't fog his perception in the choice of the top team on his list. However, his homerism popped up with Central Catholic landing in the second spot of his list. His logic was partially based on the fact that they play in Quad-A, the biggest classification.

While it is true that Quad-A tends to be the most difficult classification, this should not detract from what other teams have done. A "dynasty" should be judged on what you did against the opponents in front of you. Karlo's analysis often focuses on what teams "seem" to do (ie "[Gateway] seems to get down to Heinz or make it to a semi-final game every year"). But when we look at the data from the last 10 years, the Gators have reached the semi-finals 5 times in the past decade. Their 4 championship game appearances are impressive, but does this qualify them as one of the Top 10 "Dynasties" of the last decade?

Simply looking at playoff data from the last 10 years, there are 118 teams that have appeared in the playoffs. Of those, 37 have never won a playoff game. Carmichaels (0-9), Chartiers-Houston (0-8) and Belle Vernon (0-7) have the most appearances without a playoff win. Of the 81 remaining teams, 22 have a playoff winning percentage of 60% or greater. Given that the inherent nature of a "dynasty" is something that is sustained over time, we can rule out 3 more schools (Central Valley, South Park, Duquesne) that have appeared in less than half of the playoffs in the last decade.

If values are assigned to each playoff victory, we can eliminate the "class bias" of ranking Quad-A teams higher simply because they play in a more difficult classification and empirically rank the remaining 19 teams based on their playoff success. I decided to award 1 point for a playoff appearance, 2 points for a first round win, 4 points for a quarterfinal win, 8 points for a semi-final win and 16 points for a Championship. Based on this scoring system, I tallied the number of "Prestige Points" for each of the schools.

1. Clairton

9 Playoff Appearances
31-3 Record
6 Championships
215 Prestige Points

It should be no surprise that Bout Dat Nation appears at the top of the rankings. The Bears have won more Championships than any other team over the last decade (6) and have won 5 straight Class A crowns. In the last decade, Clairton missed the playoffs only once and made it at least to the Semi-finals in every playoff appearance. They have 7 appearances on the Heinz Field grass, going 6-1 in title games.

2. Aliquippa

10 Playoff Appearances
28-6 Record
4 Championships
180 Prestige Points

The Quips edged out AAA-powerhouse TJ for the second spot thanks to their 7 appearances at Heinz Field. Aliquippa has won 4 championships in their 7 title games and have made the trip to Heinz Field in each of the last 5 seasons.

3. Thomas Jefferson

10 Playoff Appearances
29-6 Record
4 Championships
178 Prestige Points

The Jaguars have been a fixture of the AAA playoffs over the last decade, They reached the Semi-finals in every year except 2011 as part of a string of 13 consecutive years (1998-2010) where they won 4 titles and appeared at Heinz Field 6 times. TJ's 29 playoff wins are second only to Clairton over the last decade, but they were edged out for the second spot by Aliquippa's 7 title game appearances. Between the two, it's really splitting hairs as both have been dominant in their respective classifications.

4. Central Catholic

10 Playoff Appearances
23-7 Record
3 Championships
130 Prestige Points

Karlo's homer bias put Central Catholic at #2 on his list, above two teams that had more titles. However, even based on the empirical data, the Vikings still belong in the Top 4 and as the best Quad-A squad. Central has made the playoffs each of the last 10 years and made it at least to the quarterfinals every time. They have 3 WPIAL titles to their name though they haven't been to Heinz Field since 2007.

5. Rochester

10 Playoff Appearances
24-9 Record
1 Championship
118 Prestige Points

The Rams did not appear on Karlo's list but they make the Top 5 here based on their 10 playoff appearances where they reached the quarterfinals each season, the Semi-finals 8 times and Heinz Field 5 times. As bad luck would have it, the Rams faced Clairton in 4 of their 5 championship appearances and are the only team in the last decade to best Clairton on Heinz Field grass. Since 2008 the Rams have a 53-8 overall record with only 3 losses coming in conference play (2 to Sto-Rox). Four of those losses were to Clairton in the playoffs.

6. North Allegheny

9 Playoff Appearances
18-6 Record
3 Championships
115 Prestige Points

The three-time defending Quad-A Champions have had a wealth of success since Art Walker has taken the helm. The Tigers only missed the playoffs once in the last decade and have reached at least the quarterfinals in each of the last 7 years. One could easily make the argument that they belong in the Top 5 of these rankings based solely on their 3 Championships, but Rochester's 5 Heinz Field appearances and 8 Semi-finals gave them an advantage over the Tigers (3 and 5 respectively).

7. Jeanette

9 Playoff Appearances
18-7 Record
2 Championships
109 Prestige Points

The Jayhawks were ranked behind Woodland Hills in Karlo's rankings but when you look at the data as a whole it is hard to see why. Both teams appeared at Heinz Field 4 times in the last decade with Jeanette raising the trophy twice (thanks to Terrelle Pryor) and the Wolverines winning only once. Jeanette also has 6 Semi-finals appearances to the Wolverines 4 and while Woody High has had more success recently, this does not diminish the success Jeanette has had over the past decade.

8. Woodland Hills

10 Playoff Appearances
16-9 Record
1 Championship
88 Prestige Points

The Wolverines edge out Upper St Clair for the 8th spot in the rankings thanks to their 4 appearances at Heinz Field. Woodland Hills has taken the non-traditional route to the title game the past few seasons, coming from the #7 seed in 2012 and 2010. Woody High has made the playoffs each of the last 10 years but haven't been as dominant as the turn-of-the-century teams that won 3 titles in 4 years from 1999 to 2002.

9. Upper St Clair

10 Playoff Appearances
17-9 Record
1 Championship
86 Prestige Points

Jim Render is a coaching legend and the Panthers have performed well under his tenure. They have made the playoffs each of the last 10 years and have reached the Semi-finals 5 times. The Panthers have taken home one title in 3 appearances at Heinz Field and have been consistently at the top of the Quad-A South Conference.

10. West Allegheny

9 Playoff Appearances
14-7 Record
2 Championships
85 Prestige Points

The Indians make the last spot thanks to their two WPIAL Championships. Coach Bob Palko has built a program that doesn't overwhelm teams on a game-to-game basis but consistently puts out playoff contenders (9 appearances in the last decade) in the brutally tough Parkway Conference. West Allegheny has 4 Semi-Finals appearances and won both of their trips to Heinz Field, giving them the advantage over Gateway (who is 0-4 at Heinz) for the last spot in the Top 10. As one of only 7 schools with multiple titles in the last decade, it's hard to argue against their inclusion in the Top 10.

The Others

Greensburg Central Catholic (82 Prestige Points)

GCC has 10 playoff appearances and 1 Championship in the last decade. They have been boom-or-bust with 3 trips to Heinz Field but also 4 first-round knockouts.

Gateway (82 Prestige Points)

Springdale (78 Prestige Points)

The Dynamos have beat Clairton not once but twice in the playoffs in the last decade. Both wins have come in the Semi-finals and one trip to Heinz resulted in a Championship.

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