Friday morning ramblings

No, I was not up at 2:01 a.m. when Verizon began taking orders for the new Apple iPhone models. I was so tired when I got back from Buffalo Wild Wings I was out about 15 minutes later. Good decision, because when I finally got up at 5:30, I was quickly in the shower and dressed.

The traffic heading south from Platte County to Overland Park was easy. I figured an easier way by getting off US 69 at 95th Street, so I did not have to U-turn across Metcalf. I was in line at 7 a.m., and now my car is getting its new tires. By getting here so early, I don’t have to sweat it. If I’m out of here by 11 a.m., I’ll be to Smith Center in plenty of time, no matter if I take US 36 all the way across or I take I-70 to Salina, cut north at Belleville, and then across. Going back to Russell is not an option, at least not right now.

I don’t think Smith Center and Oakley have played a regular season football game, which stands to reason, since the Plainsmen were in the Northwest Kansas League forever until coming to the Mid-Continent League this season for football, last season for everything else. Oakley has played Norton quite a bit, since the Bluejays were in the NWKL before coming to the MCL with Smith Center in 1977. I have also recalled the Plainsmen playing Phillipsburg and Plainville in regular season games in recent years, and they have been in districts with Ellis and Trego.

Oakley was put in a bad position when the NWKL schools began to rapidly depopulate. Oakley was the largest member of the NWKL beginning in the fall of 2010, when Colby and Goodland left to form the Great West Activities Conference with Holcomb, Hugoton, Scott City and Ulysses. Quinter went 8-man in 2008, Hoxie went in 2010, and it was only a matter of time before the same happened at Atwood and Saint Francis. It figured there would come a day when only Oakley and Oberlin were left among the 11-man ranks.

The NWKL used to be a powerhouse league. Scott City was in the league until 1996, and they had a dynasty in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Atwood used to be one of the best in 2-1A year in and year out. Goodland had some fine teams in 4A. Oakley was a consistent winner in 3A, and then 2-1A. And once Tim Lambert, the starting quarterback on Smith Center’s 1986 state championship team, took over at St. Francis, the Indians soon zoomed to the top of the league. In fact, Sainty lost four consecutive seasons (2004 through 2007) to Smith Center in the playoffs, highlighted by a neanderthal 6-2 battle in 2006.

When it became apparent Colby and Goodland were twice as big as any other school in the league, the other members politely asked those two to move on. They did, and the result is a league which stretches almost from Nebraska to Oklahoma north to south, and all of the travel is along two-lane highways.

In 2012, after Atwood went 8-man, the NWKL added 8-man schools Sharon Springs, Dighton and Greeley County (Tribune), plus 11-man school Leoti.

It was too late for Oakley, which in January 2012 was voted into the MCL by a 7-2 count, with Osborne and Trego dissenting. Not long thereafter, the Bulldogs and Golden Eagles both left the MCL, but Trego would soon return. The Plainsmen would play in the 2013-14 MCL volleyball and basketball tournaments, and would participate in the league golf and track and field meets, but could not play a full football schedule, or a round robin basketball schedule, until this school year.

TMP-Marian was placed in the MCL by the Kansas State High School Activities Association in June 2012, effective July 1, 2014. Trego’s return brought the MCL back to 10 for the first time since Victoria departed at the end of the 2004-05 school year.

The MCL was the first, and to date only, league to win three state football championships in the same sesason. It was 1985, when Norton won 4A, Plainville claimed 3A, and Victoria triumphed in 2-1A. The next year, Norton repeated in 4A, and Smith Center won 3A. From 1983 through 1987, six different MCL schools won state championships.

I have written about the Mid-Continent League since coming to Kansas in September 2005. I have worried about the league breaking up, which would really be hard for the three schools along US 36–Norton, Phillipsburg and Smith Center–since all are in a sort of no-man’s land, and all are very good in most sports. Norton and Phillipsburg are too big for some of the other area leagues. They were invited to the GWAC, but Norton superintendent Greg Mann had it right when he said no thank you. He wasn’t about to make his students travel three to four hours on a Tuesday night for a basketball game.

I have suggested Russell should be in the MCL. The Broncos are not a fit for the North Central Activities Association, as much as RHS principal Larry Bernard tries to tell me otherwise. Russell’s closest league foe is 45 miles away, and for the most part, most Bronco teams have struggled against Beloit, Sacred Heart and Southeast of Saline. A lot of people at Russell, led by Bernard, think the MCL is beneath them, but why?

As far as I’m concerned, there shouldn’t be league play for football. Form eight-team districts, and that way seven of nine games are taken care of. It would be easy to schedule the other two. If this were the case, Russell would be in a district with Norton, TMP-Marian, Hoisington, Scott City, Cimarron, Lakin and Southwestern Heights. Two more games would be a cinch.

I don’t make the rules,, I just cover the rules enforced by the KSHSAA. Too bad Gary Musselman doesn’t have more power to affect change. I believe he would make a positive difference if he could.

About David

I am a sportswriter for a group of weekly newspapers in small towns across northern Kansas. I grew up in New Orleans, went to college at LSU and wandered in the wilderness until Hurricane Katrina finally put me on the path to my current job.

Posted on September 12, 2014, in Football, KSHSAA, Mid-Continent League, Sports and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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