There’s something to note about Friday’s Tri-Village-Fort Loramie game, a pretty good idea that’s long overdue with high school football…and a beacon of increased interest for the future.
When Fort Loramie hosts Tri-Village Friday night for what amounts to being the championship game of the Cross County Conference, it should be noted for what it is…as well as for what it portends as an example for the future.
When the Cross County Conference blew up last year and the six western teams decided to go hunting for a more overall competitive athletic scenario, it, along with the so-called pandemic created what’s now a divisional playoff Friday to decide this year’s CCC champion.
Tri-Village, from Darke County, is 5-0.
And Fort Loramie, a Shelby County team that plays football only in the Cross County Conference, is 5-0.
East meets West to decide who gets a banner to hang in the gym. And in a year symbolic of football in name only, this may lead to something bigger, and better for the future.
For the fact is that many rural school districts have suffered in football in recent years – decreased numbers, decreased budgets, and competitive disadvantage – creating a run-away for those one or two teams that ride roughshod over the rest of the league. And, most conferences have at least eight teams, many have ten, and some have more. Some leagues, like the Ohio Capital Conference in Central Ohio, have as many as eighteen, split in three divisions. The OCC is all big schools, by the way, and highly competitive.
But out in the country that’s not the case and I love the idea of leagues like the CCC, going forward, having two divisions with each team playing nine regular-season games, and the division leaders meeting in Week 10 to decide the ultimate champion.
One, it heightens fan interest.
Two, it heightens competition for the sake of the two best teams in the conference playing each other, and yes in some cases for a second time during the same season. Colleges do it, the pros do it, so why not high schools?
In the case of the Miami Valley League, they already have two divisions, the Miami and the Valley divisions, and why wouldn’t it make sense for Piqua (5-0) to play Stebbins (4-1) for a second time this week to decide a league champion. Of course Stebbins’ only loss was to Piqua two weeks ago, so there would be some argument, I guess, if they were to beat Piqua in the ‘title’ game. But it would be interesting to see how a team might adjust in the span of three weeks in an attempt to redeem its only loss.
There would be nay-sayers, of course, citing the argument about computer points for the playoffs. But there would also be fan interest in that title game, something sorely missing from leagues with a lot of regular season blowouts. Tri-Village and Fort Loramie both have average margins of victory this year of about 35 points.
And, there would have to be concessions for the way schedules are set up, to make sure that traditional rivalries are accounted for.
But I think this is an idea whose time is at hand, if only by accident in Friday’s case.
And regardless of who wins, there should be no argument over which team deserves to be called ‘champion’.