Yet, when the 2012 PIAA Class A brackets were released two of the 16 teams remaining hailed from the WestPAC – North Star and Berlin. It's a solid achievement for a conference looked upon as a weak sisters by its neighbors in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference and the Heritage Conference.
The LHAC produced three state qualifiers in Richland, Forest Hills (Class AA) and Bishop McCort (Class A).
As for the Heritage Conference, there were no PIAA-playoff qualifiers.
"The top of the conference is strong," North Star coach Stacy Schmitt said. "The top teams from the WestPAC can compete. There's four or five teams in our conference that can compete in just about any conference."
|Berlin's Drew Glotfelty scores as North Star's Levi Albright attempts to tackle him during the District 5 Class A championship game at Somerset.|
Berlin coach Doug Paul echoed those sentiments.
"The WestPAC is very competitive," Paul said. "People talk about the size of our schools and the demographics that make up the teams, but any given year, three or four of our schools could compete in any Class A conference in the state."
Paul added more clarification to the statement.
"I'm not saying any of our teams would go undefeated, but there's three or four teams that year-in, year-out would compete for the playoffs."
Count North Star and Berlin among those programs.
And count Berlin (11-10 as the next team to face mighty Clairton (13-0), which set a PIAA record for consecutive wins with 60 in winning last week's WPIAL championship over Sto-Rox. The Bears have won five consecutive WPIAL titles and the last three state championships.
Kickoff is Friday at 7 p.m. at Somerset High School. Clairton shut out North Star, 52-0, two years ago on a memorably snow-filled night in Somerset.
When asked about Clairton minutes after Berlin won its first District 5 championship since 2004, Paul said, "I watched the (WPIAL) game on television earlier (Friday). They don't have a weakness. They have athletes everywhere."