Several schools find new leagues in 2016

Aug 30, 2016

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The 2016 football marks the beginning of a new two-year classification cycle for teams competing in KSHSAA competition.  Every two years when the membership of each classification is determined, we see movement of several schools from one class to another. Often those changes significantly impact the playoff picture for the coming years.  In fact with the beginning of this new cycle, five schools that played in a state championship game last season are in a different classification this fall. 

It is also common for the KSHSAA to wait until a new two-year cycle to implement any significant changes to the structure of district or playoff formats.  We have that this season with the introduction of a new playoff format for Class 5A and 6A. 

The new format essentially eliminates the district system as it exists in other classifications, divides these two classifications into two “super districts” (East and West), and qualifies all schools for the state playoffs.  After an 8-game regular season, all teams will be seeded into the playoff bracket based on record and various tie-breaking criteria. 

While we’re anxious to see the impact these changes have on the 2016 season, we now want to shift the focus to some less publicized changes involving several schools changing leagues this fall.  After all, the league races will be decided long before we begin eliminating teams come playoff time.

Here’s a look at the various league realignments for the 2016 season:

Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League

  • Newton drops from AVCTL-I to AVCTL-II
  • Andover Central & Maize South drop from AVCTL-II to AVCTL-III
  • Towanda-Circle moves up to AVCTL-III from AVCTL-IV
  • El Dorado & Rose Hill move from AVCTL-III to AVCTL-IV

The AVCTL is a 26-school super league that has traditionally been divided into four divisions (I, II, III, & IV) with seven schools in each of the top two divisions, and six schools each in the bottom two divisions. With the redetermination of classes for this cycle, 14 of the league’s schools were placed in Class 4A prompting the reduction (for football only) of AVCTL Division I & II to six teams each, and the expansion of AVCTL III & IV to seven members each. The smallest school by enrollment in AVCTL-I, Salina South, was given the option to move down to Division II. The Cougars declined, as did their cross-town rival Salina Central—the next smallest by enrollment.  Instead, Newton requested to move to Division II where the Railers will compete under new head coach Chris Jaxx.

Central Kansas League
The departure of Sterling to the Heart of America League this season has left the CKL with an odd number of teams.  Thus, the CKL decided to scrap their East/West division format and simply track league standings for all 11 members.

Central Plains League
Membership of the Central Plains League now stands at nine schools after Leon-Bluestem’s departure to the Tri-Valley League. The Lions have long struggled to gain momentum in the CPL, especially considering the league contains traditional state powers such as Conway Springs and Garden Plain. Bluestem has posted an 11-99 record in the past 12 seasons with ten of those wins coming in the past five years.

Eastern Kansas League
Arguably the state’s best football league, the EKL just got stronger with the addition of St. James Academy and Class 5A defending champion Mill Valley.  In fact, the two new members will meet this week in a match-up of 5A’s No. 3 (Mill Valley) and No. 4 (St. James) ranked teams to begin the 2016 season. St. James Academy has been an independent school, while Mill Valley sought independence from the Kaw Valley League a couple of season ago.

Flint Hills League
The Flint Hills League is operating a one-in, one-out policy to remain at an even eight members. A move to 8-man football solidified the need for the Herington Railers to leave the FHL for the Wheat State League.  The FHL replaced the Railers with the Central Heights Vikings, a former member of the Pioneer League.

Heart of America
As mentioned earlier, Sterling joins the Heart of America after leaving the Central Kansas League. For football, the HOA remains at eight teams as Bennington has moved from 11-man to 8-man football this fall. The Bulldogs will be the only 8-man HOA school this fall, however, as longtime member Canton-Galva has left to join the Wheat State League.

Heart of the Plains League
There technically isn’t a change in membership in the Heart of the Plains League, but the standings will still look a bit different this fall. Hutchinson Central Christian will officially become a KSHSAA-sanctioned football team after being a club team for several years. In addition, Fairfield is back to being known as the Fairfield Falcons after a co-op with Cunningham (Fairfield-Cunningham Griffins) was not renewed. Cunningham football athletes have now joined with school district member Kingman.

Hi-Plains League
Leoti-Wichita County’s decision to switch to 8-man football this cycle is the only change in the Hi-Plains League. The Indians have finished with a 1-8 record in each of their last four seasons.

Northeast Kansas League
League member Leavenworth-Immaculata and Maranatha Academy have struggled with roster numbers in recent years so the two schools have decided to extend their co-op again this season. The only change is that Immaculata will be the primary sponsor of the program this season.  The NEKL standings will have one less team this fall as Valley Falls has made the move to 8-man football.

Northern Plains League
While technically still a member of the NPL, Natoma will be playing 6-man football this fall and be listed in the 6-man standings.  

Pioneer League
We mentioned earlier that Central Heights left the Pioneer League for the Flint Hills League.  The Vikings were replaced in the Pioneer League by longtime Tri-Valley League member the Burlington Wildcats. If you’re paying close attention, you will remember that the Tri-Valley picked up a new member in Leon-Bluestem…and the carousel continues.   

South Central Border League
After so much uncertainty in fielding teams each year, Elk Valley athletes will participate in football at Fredonia this fall. The Lions did not have enough to field a team last fall, and their 52-0 win over Altoona-Midway in 2014 was the school’s first football victory since the 2007 season.

Southeast Kansas League
The big news in the SEK League is the departure of the Pittsburg Purple Dragons to independent status.  This is a football-only change, but was necessitated by Pittsburg simply outgrowing (or a combination of other members’ regression) the remaining six members.  The Dragons were the only Class 5A team in the SEK.  Pittsburg has, instead, strengthened its schedule by adding Missouri powers Harrisonville, Webb City, and Carl Junction, in addition to Andover Central and Bonner Springs.

Three Rivers League
The 11-man division of the Three Rivers League picked up two new members to push its total to five teams for this fall.  Yates Center joins the TRL from the Tri-Valley League, and Uniontown rejoins the 11-man division of the league after returning from 8-man to 11-man football.  It is rare for a school to move to 8-man football and then return to 11-man, but even more strange is that the Eagles went from Class 3A in 2010 directly to 8-Man, Division I in 2012. Yates Center is another school that returned to 11-man football from 8-man back in 2014.

Tri-Valley League
As outlined above, the TVL lost Burlington (Pioneer) and Yates Center (Three Rivers), but added Leon-Bluestem (Central Plains).

Twin Valley League
The Onaga Buffaloes drop from the 11-man division of the TVL to the 8-man division this fall. Also joining the 8-man version of the TVL is longtime member Wetmore, which resurrected football last season (as a JV team) for the first time since 1987.

Western Kansas Liberty League
The WKLL is still very much intact in most sports, but league members Cheylin, Golden Plains, and Wheatland-Grinnell have all chosen to play 6-man football this fall.  

Wheat State League
A fairly new league compared to most (formed in 2011), the Wheat State League continued to attract members with the addition of Canton-Galva (Heart of America) and Herington (Flint Hills League).

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