Woodmore could help Sandusky River League situation
In recent years, a number of area schools have changed conferences, but maybe it’s time for the dominoes to fall one more time.
In 2011, Eastwood, Genoa, Lake and Woodmore left the now-defunct Suburban Lakes League for the Northern Buckeye Conference and Gibsonburg departed the SLL for the Toledo Area Athletic Conference, a 10-team league (soon to be 11 schools with the addition of Tiffin Calvert) that is home to two other area schools, Northwood and Cardinal Stritch Catholic.
Meanwhile, Clay left the Toledo City Athletic League for the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.
While those changes have been for the better, I believe there are more alterations that would make for an even fairer and competitive high school sports scene.
With the Midland Athletic League only in existence for one more year, some of those schools are looking for a new conference. Six of the league's schools, Lakota, Fremont St. Joseph Central Catholic, New Riegel, Old Fort, Bettsville, and Fostoria St. Wendelin have joined with Sandusky St. Mary CC of the Sandusky Bay Conference to form the Sandusky River League.
However, of the seven SRL schools, only three have football programs. The new conference should have eight football teams and I believe there is a plausible way to get there. That is where some of our other area schools come into play.
I believe that Fostoria, Woodmore and Elmwood should leave the NBC and join the SRL starting in 2014-15. At the least, Woodmore and Elmwood should do so.
Combined with the addition of Margaretta, out of the SBC, and Calvert of the MAL, there would be eight football teams and 12 schools total. Of course, Calvert has already committed to join the TAAC in 2014, but I see this as a better move geographically if everyone else follows suit.
In addition to those five, the SRL would include football schools Lakota, St. Joseph, St. Mary, and non-football schools Old Fort, New Riegel, Bettsville, and St. Wendelin. FSW does have football, but its league foes are home-school based club teams, mostly from Michigan.
As for Bettsville, maybe it should consider consolidating with Old Fort because enrollment figures demonstrate that boys don’t want to go to school there, likely leaving through open enrollment to play sports elsewhere.
We certainly do not want Bettsville going up against Fostoria, or any of those other schools that are multiple times their size, but who else can Bettsville match up with — small non-OHSAA private schools like Harvest Temple in Clyde? Or maybe Put-in-Bay High School, which is at least an OHSAA member with 12 students in three grades. Or Kelly’s Island, which has nine boys compared to Bettsville’s 13.
Some are probably wondering why a school of Fostoria's size would fit into a conference with much smaller schools. Well, the truth is that the town is currently in rough shape demographically and has been so for some time as the population has steadily decreased the last 20 years.
In the 1990s, the Redmen won two state football titles in Division II, and today, it’s a D-IV school that has gone 5-25 in the last three years. Where it will be in another decade remains to be seen. Quite simply, Fostoria has already had a difficult time competing in the NBC and would benefit from a move to the SRL.
No east side for NLL
With three slots open in the NBC, Bowling Green or Maumee could move over from the Northern Lakes League and Oak Harbor and Port Clinton could leave the SBC for the NBC.
When Oak Harbor left the SLL years ago, it was much larger than the remaining schools at the time and fit better enrollment-wise with the SBC.
However, sports writers believe that OH’s gate would be better in the NBC than when teams from Milan or Huron are in town — it seemed pretty good in the SLL days when Genoa, Eastwood, and Woodmore arrived. SBC football games have decent crowds, but visiting empty bleachers are everywhere during basketball games.
Plus, bring in Maumee, BG, or PC along with the rest — Eastwood, Genoa, Lake, Rossford, and Otsego — and it looks attractive competition-wise and gate-wise for both Ottawa County schools
If PC, once a member of the Northern Lakes League, does not move, then maybe Fostoria stays in the NBC. If PC would move, than six of the eight NBC schools would be former NLL members.
Bowling Green would obviously have an advantage in numbers over the rest of the NBC, but, in the last four years, the Bobcat football team has struggled to compete in the NLL, going a combined 14-26 (.350). BG rarely finishes in the upper division in the all-sports standings.
BG and Maumee still fit in with the NLL, but barely. Maumee City Schools are locked in by surrounding districts and have little room, if any, for future growth. Maumee was invited to be a charter member of the NBC and despite heated public debate, the school board voted 3-2 to remain in the NLL. There are still community members and coaches who want to see Maumee leave the NLL for the NBC.
Of course you could invite Napoleon to the NBC, which fits even better enrollment-wise, but some NLL fans are wondering why they were even invited to the NLL because of its small enrollment and travel. Even with the new Route 24, it’s still a longer haul for most NLL schools than Clay was and a town like Napoleon is a different demographic.
BG or Maumee’s departure would leave a spot open in the NLL and Clay would be the ideal fit for the conference, if you can convince some people from the western suburbs.
Clay has applied numerous times over the years and fits demographically, but the NLL has continued to turn down their application for whatever reason. A Sylvania school administrator was once quoted that the NLL schools would never go to “the east side.” The Oregon high school has been slighted too many times by the western suburbs.
You talk to Clay coaches and athletic officials, and they salivate at the idea of playing against more localized suburban competition in the NLL. The TRAC would have a number of Northwest Ohio options to fill Clay’s departure.
(Press sports editor J. Patrick Eaken contributed to this opinion piece.)