Football realignment on tap for Vail Valley football teams
And thus the dance begins again.
Count Day, Oct. 1, when CHSAA schools report their enrollments for classification purposes, has passed, and the mad shuffle is under way in high school football.
CHSAA issued its proposed football conference for the 2010 and 2011 seasons this week, and schools and leagues get to argue their cases until the organization renders its verdict in January.
Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley are staying in the 3A Slope, while 8-man Vail Christian remains in the Central League. But from there, especially for the Saints, it’s going to be guess work until CHSAA finalizes the every-other year realignment.
Here’s what’s on the table for the local gridders.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
Saints fans will be seeing a different league in 2010. Maranatha Christian, Rocky Mountain Lutheran and Silver State are leaving the Central for the Black Forest, essentially a Front Range league.
Familiar faces like Gilpin County and North Park are definitely staying put. Justice, the defending Central League champ, remain, according to CHSAA, but the Phoenix is considering hopping to the Black Forest.
Meanwhile, Soroco and West Grand are joining the Central. Soroco has played as an independent 8-man program the last two seasons, and was 7-1 this season. West Grand, which won state titles in the 1990s as a 1A 11-man program, is new to the football variation.
Vail Christian coach Tim Pierson is enthusiastic about the addition of the Rams and Mustangs.
“I definitely like it,” he said. “I think the travel will be shorter and both schools have lights on their fields, and we like playing on Fridays. We’ve scrimmaged Soroco and had JV games with Soroco. They have a great program. We’re getting to know (coach) Chris Brown and West Grand. We’re excited about playing high-caliber teams.”
The first question is whether Justice will stay in the Central or jump to the Black Forest with Maranatha, Rocky Mountain Lutheran and Silver State. Though he does want Justice to stay put, Pierson said there’s a chance that South Park, which is in Fairplay, would move from Western Mountain League to the Central.
A league of the Saints, Gilpin, West Grand, Soroco, North Park, Justice and/or South Park would be as geographically-compact as possible when it comes to 8-man football in the mountains. It would also leave Vail Christian with three nonleague spots to fill.
Plateau Valley is definitely set on the 2010 schedule, and don’t be surprised to see some combination of Faith Baptist, Maranatha, Silver State or Rocky Mountain Lutheran fill those two other spots.
Another thing Pierson would like to see out of realignment is a rotation for crossover play come the postseason. As it stands, Central League teams play the Plains League in the ninth week of the season for a spot in the state playoffs. The Plains is the dominant circuit in Colorado 8-man football – league rivals Merino and Dayspring Christian meet in the state-title game Saturday – and Merino and the like have run roughshod over the Central League.
Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley
In the 3A Slope, the question is where does Montezuma-Cortez go?
The rest of the league is staying the same in football. Rifle is staying 3A for football, but will go from 4A to 3A in every other sport.
A CHSAA rule allows a program which has won only 20 percent or fewer of its games in the last five years to drop down a class for a two-year cycle. Cortez qualifies and is trying to join the 2A Mountain League with the likes of Alamosa, Bayfield, Buena Vista, Centauri, Pagosa Springs and Salida.
The 2A Mountain is not too keen on Cortez for the same reason the Panthers’ presence is the 3A Slope is troublesome – geography. Located down near the Four Corners, Cortez really doesn’t fit into any Colorado League.
As Eagle Valley coach John Ramunno put it succinctly, “(Cortez) is a nice home game.”
For the Devils and Huskies, Cortez is a winnable game. The Panthers were Eagle Valley’s only win. Meanwhile, when the Huskies beat 1A Highland in September to snap a 19-game losing streak, their last win had been the Panthers in 2007.
On the other side of the coin is travel. It’s 336 miles in a bus from Gypsum to Cortez, a stretch which includes some time in Utah. Both the Devils and Huskies stay in a hotel before the game, and that starts to get expensive in a time when athletic budgets are tightening.
“To be honest, I know it’s a winnable game, but I wish they’d go down (to 2A),” Huskies coach David Joyce said. “It’s a lot of money to go down there. Our kids miss a lot of school time. I don’t know how they do it every other week. Can you imagine when they go to Moffat?”
Chris Freud is the sports editor for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at 970-748-2934 or via email@example.com.