Six weeks of observation, research and networking have led me to believe which WPIAL football conferences are for real, and which are not. Here's how I see strength of conference in each classification:
1. Great Southern. Hard to argue with Canon-McMillan coach Guy Montecalvo's claim that the Great Southern is the state's toughest league. Easily the best in the WPIAL.
2. Northern Five. North Allegheny and Shaler are both 6-0.
3. Big East. Gateway, Penn Hills and Kiski Area make for a nice top three.
4. Foothills Conference. Pittsburgh Central Catholic is the O-R's No. 1 Class AAAA team. Norwin is the best 3-3 team around, but the rest of the conference is mediocre to poor.
1. Parkway Conference. Montour, Blackhawk and New Castle are pleasant surprises and show how strong this league is – remember, Hopewell and West Allegheny were preseason picks and are in fourth and fifth place.
2. Greater Allegheny. Knoch and Pine-Richland are contenders. Highlands is pretty good and Indiana is better than most would believe.
3. Big Seven Conferemce. Could have been ranked second but Char Valley took a hit with Santino Coury's injury. Thomas Jefferson is still the team to beat and Trinity is quickly improving. Not sold on the rest of the conference.
4. Keystone Conference. This won't change until the league picks up some postseason wins.
1. Interstate Conference. Jeannette, Greensburg Central, and teams like East Allegheny, Washington and McGuffey could be in first place in at least one other conference.
2. Midwestern Conference. One of the WPIAL's most tradition-rich leagues, the MAC is loaded once again.
3. Allegheny Conference. Ford City is the O-R's No. 2 Class AA team. Shady Side Academy, Burrell and Valley add depth.
4. Century Conference. It's a down year for the Century but that should not discredit the 6-0 records of South Fayette and Steel Valley.
5. Tri-County North Conference. The Keystone of Class AA.
1. Big Seven Conference. Top-heavy with Monaca, Rochester and Western Beaver. Would not be shocked if Rochester made it back to the WPIAL championship.
2. Tri-County South Conference. This is a shaky ranking but Monessen and Jeff-Morgan are quality teams. California can be one when healthy and Carmichaels is coming on strong in recent weeks.
3. Eastern Conference. Clairton is the class of the classification and Springdale is strong. The rest of the conference is not.
4. Black Hills Conference. Serra Catholic is an explosive team. The rest of the conference is 4-11 outside the league.