Buckeye 8 expands to 10 schools

The Buckeye 8 Athletic League is alive and well.

After some months of serious questions surrounding the status and future of the league, the league is steady and appears set to be around for the long haul.

There are changes coming to the league, which began competing in 2006.

All of the original members have re-committed themselves to the league and East Liverpool and Beaver Local have been formally added.

The increase to 10 teams is allowing the league to split into a north and south format with five teams in each division.

Competing in the south will be: Bellaire, Harrison Central, Martins Ferry, St. Clairsville and Union Local.

The north will consist of Beaver Local, Buckeye Local, East Liverpool, Edison and Indian Creek.

During the September meeting, it was believed that Bellaire and Union Local would be leaving the league. Beaver Local and East Liverpool had expressed interest, but other members had wavered on their commitment to the league.

However, Martins Ferry principal Jeff Oberdick came up with the idea of splitting the league if Bellaire and Union Local would agree to remain as members. From there, the rest is basically history because every one was on board almost immediately.

And it all became official this past week when the athletic directors got together and began laying the groundwork for what’s ahead.

All sports – except football – will begin in the 2014-15 school year. Football will still crown a champion next season, but Bellaire, Beaver Local and East Liverpool won’t be eligible.

Bellaire, which had planned to withdraw from the league after this school year, had already filled its football schedule. It won’t be competing against Harrison Central, so the league has opted to keep the football title as one with the seven other original members.

Union Local will remain eligible for the football crown because it had a two-year commitment to fulfill regardless, so nothing about the Jets status with the league changes.

Looking ahead to football in 2015, the only league schools each member will be ‘required’ to play are those in their respective division. Those are what will count in the standings. Football will crown a north and south champion.

Whether or not cross-over matchups continue will be at the digression of the schools. However, I’d like to believe that most of the rivalries we’ve come to know will continue.

For instance, Buckeye Local and Harrison Central compete for the VALES Trophy. That will continue. Buckeye Local and Martins Ferry have been long-time rivals. That, too, will continue.

Whether or not other matchups occur will have to fall into the wait-and-see category.

On top of only playing the teams in their division, the games can be placed anywhere needed on a team’s schedule, which will add to the flexibility of scheduling.

Similar to the jockeying that’s gone on at the collegiate level, football is what stirs the drink. Not only does it generate the most revenue for the school, but it’s also the lone OHSAA sport in which every team doesn’t qualify for the postseason, meaning added ramifications on the regular season.

Personally, I’d like to see the teams all play each other. It makes for a lot more interesting games and a lot bigger gates, which is paramount. Bringing in teams from Cleveland, Pittsburgh or wherever just doesn’t create the kind of atmosphere that you’d like to see under the ‘Friday Night Lights.’

All other sports, however, will compete under the new format. All sports – outside of football – will crown an overall champion on the court, field, track, mat, etc.

Basketball will be interesting because the teams will play each team in its division twice and then a championship day – similar to the OVAC – will be utilized with five games being staged. The South champion will play the North champion, while the South runnerup will play the North runnerup and on down the line.

The sites will alternate around the league with the south division hosting in 2014-15. The girls will be held on Jan. 31 at Bellaire and the boys will be at Harrison Central on Feb. 7.

Volleyball, baseball and softball will be held in the same way, but the games will be held on the respective home fields or courts, again alternating between north and south.

The cross country championship will be held at Buckeye Local each year. Golf will continue to be a two-round tournament. Cadiz and Belmont Hills Country Club will host those.

As for wrestling, the coaches will meet to finalize its championship method because of the point system that the OHSAA uses, it’s not been determined whether or not it’ll be a dual tournament or a bracketed individual tournament.

The track meet will alternate between schools with an eight-lane track. It’ll start at St. Clairsville in 2015.

With the addition of the new schools, the Buckeye 8 also have the opportunity to add soccer, swimming and bowling to its list of championships offered because more than half of the schools sponsor the sport.

It’s such a novel idea to have teams, of equal size in the same geographic area, playing each other.

Kudos to the Buckeye 8 officials for getting this done.