By Sean Budlong
The saying “nothing is certain except change” is especially true in high school sports. Not only do players change every year, but lately so have the league memberships.
Schoolcraft competed in the KVA for years before it disbanded at the beginning of the 2015-16 season. Some of the schools the Eagles were used to playing against (Parchment, Comstock) headed for another new conference – the BCS. Schoolcraft became a cornerstone of a new division of an old league (the Southwestern Athletic Conference). Old rivalries such as Schoolcraft vs Lawton were renewed, while new ones like Schoolcraft vs Coloma were created.
The Eagles enjoyed great success over the past two seasons, with conference championships in football, volleyball, baseball, and basketball.
It is only two years later, and the winds of change have blown again. Prior to this season, 10 schools joined together to form the Southwest 10. Six of these teams came out of the SAC, which has forced more re-alignment. Making this change more confusing is the fact that the divisional alignments vary by sport.
For example, Schoolcraft’s football team will face Coloma, Watervliet, Constantine, Delton-Kellogg, and Kalamazoo United in Valley Divisional play. The Eagles volleyball team will play Constantine, DK, and both Kalamazoo Hackett and Christian in divisional play. In volleyball however, Lawton and Galesburg Augusta are the final divisional foes while Coloma and Watervliet compete in the Lakeshore Division. Just to add to the confusion, in boys’ soccer there is a single division with only 9 teams.
What does this mean for the Eagles coaches, players and fans? Thankfully for the fans, some key rivalries that are geographically close remain intact. Schoolcraft will continue to play Constantine, Kalamazoo Christian and Hackett in all sports. However, with more non-divisional dates available Schoolcraft will travel a little more. This season the football team travels to Berrien Springs (a non-league game) and Saugatuck, without facing Lawton. The volleyball team will play a few more individual league matches in place of some of the quads played over the past two years.
Perhaps the biggest impact of the changes could be seen in playoff games when formerly familiar foes spend more time looking for strategic advantages. Could a team the Eagles routinely dominated create a new strategy to steal a game? Only time will tell … unless there is more league/divisional re-alignment.