CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – They say the only constant in life is change. That holds true for the local high school athletic leagues as well.
Members of the All-American Conference’s White and Blue Tier have resigned from the league to form a new association called the Northeast 8, or NE8.
This new league will have Girard, Hubbard, Jefferson, Lakeview, Niles, Poland, and Struthers, plus former ITCL member South Range. South Range just joined the Eastern Buckeye Conference in June 2016 and was not scheduled to start league play until the 2018-2019 school year. The new Northeast 8 will also start athletic competition in 2018-2019.
“I had a call last week for a meeting for Thursday, May 18 in Girard,” said South Range Superintendent Dennis Dunham. “There were seven superintendents there representing the NE7 at that time, and they gave me a letter of invite for South Range to join.”
Dunham explained how South Range received another unexpected invite, “Low and behold Monday morning, I received a call from LaBrae’s superintendent stating that they are going to send a letter out inviting South Range and Crestview to join the AAC Blue Tier.”
At that point, Dunham met with all the administration on Monday, along with the athletic directors and head coaches to discuss the offers and to get their feelings regarding the two league offers that the school had received. As a group, they looked at economical, size of schools, programs offered, tradition and communities themselves with travel as deciding factors.
The South Range school board then approved the new league change 4-1 in a special meeting Tuesday afternoon.
“The EBC, believe it or not, is bigger than the NE8 that we are now joining. We are the smallest school, but we would have been the biggest school in the AAC Blue Tier,” Dunham said.
“So the consensus, and it was unanimous with the coaches was we would be a division 5 school playing up one division because all of them are division 4 with the exception of Niles (in football). We felt we could be competitive in that league and we know we will have to play up and we felt by doing so we would better prepare ourselves for post-season tournaments,” Dunham explained.
There was also a big difference in the sports being offered by the two leagues. South Range currently has 17 sports programs that they offer for boys and girls in the school. Several members of the AAC Blue Tier did not offer as many programs.
“There are some schools that do not offer cross-country, wrestling, boys and girls soccer, golf, and swimming. We felt it was very difficult to go into that, and how do you exclude those sports when you’re joining a new league?” Dunham said.
Dunham added that even the students are looking forward to the new league, “In fact, we had a comment made at the board meeting by one of our students. ‘Look, this is what we want, we want to be challenged.’”
Dunham also pointed out that the students benefit from having local news and media coverage at games that they just wouldn’t have received in the EBC. By being in a league with local schools, the students-athletes will get more of the recognition that they deserve.
“We had three, what I would consider, pretty darn good elite leagues saying, ‘South Range, we would like you to be part of the EBC. South Range. We would like you to be part of the NE8. South Range, we would like you to be part of the AAC Blue.’ So it was a compliment in my mind. And no matter where we fell, it’s good to be wanted,” he said.