Brian Cooper

Laurel coach Brian Cooper, shown here watching the action during a home playoff game against Serra Catholic last year, will lead his squad into action in Class 1A in 2022.

Lawrence County schools will witness a change in scenery in the near future.

The PIAA released the new classifications for the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 academic campaigns earlier this week and county schools are affected in various sports.

Laurel High is dropping down in football to Class 1A. The Class 1A criteria is for 1 to 123 students and Laurel comes in at 99.

“We were 1A a couple years ago,” Laurel coach Brian Cooper said. “We were only in the double A for one cycle and we were used to being down there and that’s where the numbers are at. We just want to play football. We’re excited wherever we’re at and we know there’s good competition wherever we’re at.

“We’ll play there and be working against that competition.”

Last year, the Spartans turned in a memorable 2021 campaign, finishing 11-1 overall. Laurel ended the regular season at 10-0, its first unbeaten regular since 1977. The Spartans also captured the Midwestern Conference championship as well.

Laurel won its first WPIAL Class 2A playoff game against McGuffey, 41-2, but dropped a 6-0 decision to Serra Catholic in the quarterfinals. The Eagles captured the WPIAL title. Laurel finished with an 11-1 overall record.

“We’re just constantly trying to be at our best,” Cooper said. “It doesn’t matter what classification it is. You’re going to compete at the best of your ability and we know how hard it can be to get there. We know we got to be at our best and we’re striving everyday to be at our best.”

Shenango and Union, which both competed in Class 1A last year, will stay at the Class 1A level and likely play in the same conference as Laurel. Shenango and Union play in the Big Seven Conference.

“We played Shenango as a non-league game which was a first in a while,” Cooper said. “It will mean a lot more as a section game along those lines. It will be good for county football.

“Union, we’ve been playing a while but we’re familiar and again and I think its great for Lawrence County football. Hopefully, WPIAL gets it right with non-league games and keep it local games and that’s better for all the programs in the area.”

Teams had until Wednesday to elect to play up in classification. No team is permitted to play down in classification.

Despite remaining in Class 4A, New Castle will notice a change in competition in conference play. Aliquippa, the WPIAL and PIAA Class 4A champion and Parkway Conference rival of the ‘Canes, will move up to Class 5A. The Quips will move up to Class 5A because of the PIAA’s competition formula. However, Aliquippa plans to appeal the move in an effort to remain in Class 4A.

Aliquippa is a Class 1A school by enrollment numbers. The competitive-balance rule has the Quips playing up in a larger classification.

Central Valley, which won the WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A championship, will climb to Class 4A and likely join New Castle’s conference. The ‘Canes lost to the Warriors in 2021 in a nonconference clash, 56-7.

Updated basketball sections won’t be announced until later this winter. Two programs will be on the move though — New Castle’s girls and Laurel’s boys.

The Lady ‘Canes will jump to Class 5A from 4A, while the Spartans’ boys squad will drop down to Class 2A from Class 3A.

New Castle boasts 355 students, while Laurel has 99.

In baseball, defending WPIAL and PIAA champion New Castle climbs to Class 5A with 361 students.

The Lady ‘Canes move up to Class 5A in softball with 355 students. Mohawk also moves up to Class 3A in softball with 155 students.

(New Castle News sportswriter Cody W. Pattison contributed to this report).

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Sports Editor

Ron Poniewasz Jr. is the sports editor at the New Castle News. Email him at rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com.

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