Apparently people like when I do this, so I guess I have to do one of these again. I tried to keep the word count down a bit, but we all know how that can go sometimes. Division B first, in chronological order of regionals this time. I’m going to do top 5, except for regions that only sent 4 teams to states last year. I’ll also do top 3 for Urban, although that’s really more of a wild guess.
Southeast: 1. Strath Haven, 2. Bala Cynwyd, 3. Garnet Valley, 4. Welsh Valley, 5. Stetson
This is an interesting region this year, as the top three teams all seem to be in the mix. Strath Haven, being the defending champ, has been pretty consistent this year so far, but they’ll have to stave off challenges from Bala Cynwyd, which showed improvement (as normal) between invites, and Garnet Valley, who broke into the top three last year and doesn’t look like they’ve lost a step based on Rustin. BC gets the nod at second here for me based on their history. After that, it feels like there’s a gap to the next tier of teams, including Welsh Valley, Stetson, Devon Prep, and J.R. Fugett. I’m going with WV for their historical consistency and Stetson for their strong invitational season, especially at Cornell. Haverford, Springton Lake, and Tredyffrin-Easttown are also teams to watch for the final qualification spots.
Northwest: 1. North East, 2. Wilmington Area, 3. Laurel, 4. Wattsburg Area
Northwest is always difficult because there’s no invitational results to judge from, so the only data I can use is from past years. Regardless, it feels like North East is the safest bet, as they’re the only team to finish in the top 3 for each of the past four years. I’m a little suspicious that Wattsburg Area might lose a little bit of steam this year, so I’m putting my stock in Wilmington Area to start cycling back up to the top of the region, and Laurel, who’s one of the most consistent teams in the region. Also keep an eye on Clarion Area, which is usually on the bubble, and Kane Area, which improved a lot last year and has a deep history.
Southwest: 1. Shady Side, 2. Franklin Regional, 3. Winchester Thurston, 4. Peters Township, 5. Huston
Predicting SW is difficult like NW… with the exception of Shady Side. This is especially true this year, as SSA has had some very notable results, especially at Solon and Cornell, to show that they may be challenging Springhouse for state superiority. Franklin Regional is again a bit of a mystery state-wise, but they should be strong enough to remain at second. Winchester Thurston should be able to hang onto third, but a push from an improving Peters Township or consistent Huston wouldn’t surprise me. Teams to watch include Spring Valley, who finished strong last year, but has never made states in an even year (these things matter!) and Norwin, which is seeking a state return.
Northeast: 1. Abington Heights, 2. Wayne Highlands, 3. Harlan Rowe, 4. Wyoming Area, 5. Dallas
This is an interesting time for NEPA B; last year was the first year in its history that no team from the region placed in the top 10 in the state, and they had six teams place between 15th and 24th. As of now, it looks like Abington Heights is the favorite, as both the defending champ and the team with the most impressive invitational results. After that, it’s pretty wide open. For second, I was tempted to go with Harlan Rowe as they’ve continued their rise from dormant feeder for Athens Area to legitimate regional contender with strong showings at GV and Cornell, but I chose Wayne Highlands for their general track record, and they didn’t do too badly at GV and Little Tiger themselves. Rowe’s rise would push Wyoming Area to 4th, which would be the lowest since 2005, but I’m unsure if “Wyoming” at GV was them, so I’m not confident about putting them above the other invitational vets. As for the rest, Dallas looks the safest bet based on GV, though I expect Wilkes-Barre Academy, Wyoming Seminary, and Wallenpaupack Area to be involved with the states race, with 2017 risers Crestwood and Lake Lehman as dark horses.
Central East: 1. Springhouse, 2. Orefield, 3. Whitehall-Coplay, 4. Kutztown Area
First place here is pretty straightforward: despite CEPA being an underrated region, Springhouse is head and shoulders above the competition yet again. Orefield has shown out well at invites, showing clear improvement between Rustin and GV, and finished comfortably above Whitehall-Coplay both times. Whitehall-Coplay and Kutztown both tend to improve as the year goes on, but they seem to be somewhat behind where they usually perform at this point in the year. Improve in the next couple weeks and they should be safe, and could challenge Orefield for second; fail to do so, and they may see their spots taken by historical standbys Exeter Township and Fleetwood Area, or dark horse Twin Valley, which competed at Rustin.
Central: 1. Eagle View, 2. Hershey, 3. Park Forest, 4. Spring Grove, 5. Good Hope
Central is stronger in B Division than it has been in quite some time, and could even have an argument for best B region in the state currently. Eagle View is the odds-on favorite after their third-place breakout last year, but Hershey is coming on strong after an 8th-place states finish, and was only 7 points behind Eagle View at Rustin by manual stacking. I still expect Eagle View to win, but the margin could be closer than anticipated. I have Park Forest then as a solid third, positioning themselves continue the S7reak, which is really the only important race in PA states. Spring Grove is fourth, as they seem back to their trademark consistency after a blip in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Fifth could be any number of teams, but I see Good Hope finishing there after a solid Little Tiger performance, over Warwick and Middletown Area. Eastern York, Mount Nittany, and rising new team Elizabethtown Area are on the states bubble.
Southeast Urban: 1. PPACS, 2. Folk Arts, 3. St Katherine of Siena
I’m actually fairly secure in these three teams based on history, but the order is pretty much a guess. PPACS (Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School) won the competition in 2016 before finishing second in 2017 to FACTS (Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School). I wouldn’t be surprised if those are the top two again, but I have PPACS reclaiming the top spot. St. Katherine has a third-place streak going, but Vare-Washington could be a sleeper to break it.
Feel free to debate these for now and to prepare your own thoughts! I’ll be posting C Division around midday tomorrow.