Area high schools to compete in new and realigned leagues


Marion County high school athletics will have a different look this school year as the six schools in the Free Press coverage area will compete in new or realigned leagues.

Hillsboro will move from the Mid Central Activities Associa?tion to the newly formed Central Kansas League. Joining the Trojans are MCAA opponents Halstead, Haven, Hesston, Lyons, Nickerson, Smoky Valley and Sterling, as well as Pratt from the disbanded Mid State League and Kingman from the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League Division IV.

For Hillsboro, leaving the MCAA to form a new league made sense financially.

?The talks came about just a year or so ago,? said HHS activities director Robert Rempel. ?Part of it was we wanted to narrow our distance a little bit. Budget cuts were coming and we wanted to get our league a little closer together.?

But, with the addition of Pratt and Kingman, Hillsboro?s travel budget won?t be affected much. The CKL shaves off a mere 25 miles of total distance between Hillsboro and its interleague schools.

The distance between HHS and CKL schools is about 580 miles, compared to 605 miles in the MCAA.

?We have nothing against playing Pratt, it?s fine,? Rempel said. ?It?s just the distance. That?s one of the things with Hoisington, it?s two hours away; Ellinwood, an hour-and-a-half. We were trying to eliminate some of those distances.

?In this case with Pratt and Kingman, it?s not going to be a lot different.?

Because the high school football regular season schedule is one-third district play, each team in the CKL will not play each other every year. For football, the new league will be split into two divisions, north and the south.

Hillsboro will play in the North Division against fellow Class 3A opponents Lyons, Sterling, Halstead and 4A Smoky Valley. The south will be comprised of 4A Nickerson, Pratt, Haven, Hesston and 3A Kingman.

The remaining sports will not have divisions. Even so, basketball teams will plays schools in their football division twice, with only one game counting toward the league championship. Non-tournament games played in January or later will count toward league records.

Despite losing 10 teams, the MCAA does remain a league, retaining Hoisington and Ellinwood and gaining Larned and Thomas-More Prep.

Marion, another former MCAA member, has moved to the realigned Heart of America League. The HOA has a new look after losing Goessel, Peabody-Burns and Little River to the newly formed Wheat State League.

Nine schools return to the HOA, reducing it from 12 to 10 teams. Joining Marion in the realigned league are Canton-Galva, Bennington, Berean Academy, Ell Saline, Hutchinson Trinity, Inman, Moundridge, Remington and Sedgwick.

The HOA features teams from 2A and 3A. Marion, Sedgwick and Remington are the 3A schools. Hutchinson Trinity plays 3A football and 2A in other sports. Canton-Galva plays 8-man Division 1 in football. Berean Academy does not have a football program.

Marion will be much closer to its HOA opponents shrinking total distance between Marion and league schools to about 445 miles, down from 725 between Marion and MCAA opponents.

Citing the significant save in miles travelled, Marion activities director Tod Gordon said USD 408 started looking for a new league when Pratt was looking to join the MCAA.

?We were on the outer edge (in the MCAA). So we had a two-hour trip to Hoisington,? he said. ?Then all of the sudden Pratt was looking to join the MCAA, which would have been another two-hour trip to Pratt. Kingman was a part of the discussion too.?

Gordon continued, ?At that point, Marion wasn?t interested in increasing our travel. So we started looking a little bit.?

Hoping to dispell talk that the HOA is not as tough as a league as the MCAA, Gordon doesn?t see much drop off in the level of play between the MCAA and HOA.

?I don?t know that we?ve ever looked at it as far as a drop in competition,? he said. ?You go down through this list, Moundridge has won volleyball how many years in a row? Berean has won basketball. I don?t know if size has a factor as to whether you?re better or not.?

Marion football coach Grant Thierolf said moving from the MCAA to the HOA will have no affect on how the Warriors prepare.

?We don?t care who we play,? he said. ?We?ve played teams we know we should beat and the game shouldn?t be that close. We?ve thought about just trying to prepare for the next one but I never have felt comfortable with that. I want our kids to think that every game is the only game.?

So far, there are no divisions of the HOA and Marion will play all but Canton-Galva and Ell-Saline in football this fall.

There is also some familiarity between Marion and the HOA schools. For years, Marion scheduled Moundridge as a football season opener and played Remington in the Cottonwood Valley League during the early 1990?s until the league folded in 1995.

In fact most of the schools in the new HOA have been regular opponents of Marion in non-league and tournament play.

?We?ve played Inman for years,? said Gordon. ?We?ve played Canton-Galva off and on for different things. Bennington used to always come and play middle school basketball with us. With the exception of Hutch-Trinity and Sedgwick, We?ve been playing most of the HOA schools.?

Marion has not lost its ties with the former MCAA opponents. This season, the Warriors will face every team from the 2009-10 MCAA in one sport or another.

Converging with the three defected HOA schools to form the Wheat State League are six schools from the defunct Dwight D. Eisenhower League.

Incor?porating 1A and 2A schools, the Wheat State League is an 8-man football league. Both divisions from eight-man are represented with 1A Centre and Hope competing in 8-man Division 2.

Playing in 8-man Division 1 are 2A Goessel, Peabody-Burns, Solomon and Wakefield and 1A White City and Little River.

Elyria Christian does not have a football program.

With five of the nine regular season games dedicated to bi-districts and district play, Wheat State League teams are going to have to schedule football on a two-year cycle.

Peabody-Burns is the only school that did not play 8-man last year. After going 0-8 the past two 11-man seasons, coach David Pickens is looking forward to competing against some old and new foes.

?There?s only one team that we?ll play on our schedule this year that I?ve really played much football against and that?s Canton-Galva,? he said. ?We haven?t played against them the last couple years because they were 8-man and we were still 11.?

?Really, all these teams are going to find out about us for the first time this year, and I?m going to find out about them.?

Formed in 1972, the Eisen?hower League folded as the oldest active league in Kansas high school sports.

Centre ended its stint in the historic league as the final boys? and basketball regular-season and league-tournament champions and second in football in 2009.

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