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End Zone Seat: Expect Major Changes in Grid Slates

The high school football season has just begun, but already planning for next year is underway.

Significant changes are in the works for the Northern Tier League in 2005.

In addition to Cowanesque Valley, which began play on the varsity level for the first time in four years last week, Montgomery, Muncy and South Williamsport will join the NTL in football.

According to Wyalusing Valley football coach Gary Otis, the league will be split into Small and Large school divisions.

The Small School division will include Canton, Sayre, Montgomery, Muncy, South Williamsport and Wyalusing.

The Large School division will include Athens, Cowanesque Valley, North Penn, Towanda, Troy and Wellsboro.

Each school will play all the teams in its division and a number of crossover games. There will also be a date held for non-league opponents if a school so chooses.

For example, Wyalusing is committed to playing Montoursville next season.

Of course, the Valley schools—Athens and Sayre—would want to keep Waverly on their schedules.

Scheduling the crossover games preserves three of the biggest rivalries in the league—Towanda-Wyalusing, Athens-Sayre and Canton-Troy.

There are two good reasons for the change. First, scheduling has become very difficult for NTL schools. Second, league teams were finding themselves at a disadvantage under the PIAA point system.

"It's becoming hard to schedule," Otis admitted.

With the current PIAA point system, teams are scheduling games against the largest possible schools they feel they can compete with in order to amass bonus points.

This was becoming a factor in the NTL.

When Wyalusing dropped to Class A this year, that made three A schools in the league.

This makes it very difficult for Class AA teams like Athens and Towanda to earn PIAA playoff berths since they don't receive the same bonus points for defeating a Class A team as they do for a Class AA win.

Just last year, Towanda, the undefeated league champion, missed qualifying for the PIAA playoffs because it didn't receive enough points for its six league wins.

Of course, Towanda might have qualified if it had beaten even one of its non-league opponents during the regular season, but that's another story.

While changes are afoot in the NTL, Montrose in Susquehanna County was making some news of its own.

Montrose recently announced that it will leave the Lackawanna Football Conference to pursue an independent schedule starting next season.

A Class AA school, Montrose has struggled getting sufficient numbers of players to compete against some of the larger schools in the league.

The Meteors only had 25 players, including just one freshman, report for its varsity camp this year.

Yet, they are slated to play Class AAAA powerhouse Scranton in a crossover game in October.

Montrose hopes to continue to play schools on its schedule such as Lackawanna Trail, Susquehanna, Old Forge, Bishop O'Hara, Carbondale and Western Wayne which it feels it can compete with on a weekly basis.

Montrose would probably be a good pickup game for some of the NTL teams looking to fill a non-league spot on their schedules.

While the Rams are committed to their friendly relationship with Montoursville for the time being, Otis admitted that Montrose could be a potential opponent down the line.

"It would definitely be a closer game for us," he admitted.

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