The Lorain County League is officially back and could begin play as early as 2019.
A switch from the dissolving Patriot Athletic Conference was approved May 16 by all eight teams that will make up the new LCL: Wellington, Oberlin, Firelands, Black River, Keystone, Columbia, Clearview, and Brookside.
Teams initially pointed to a 2020 start date when they voted Dec. 13 to separate from the Patriot Athletic Conference. But plans from PAC schools not included in the new LCL to leave the conference a year early could move that timeline up a year.
Buckeye and Fairview have agreed to join the Great Lakes Conference while Brooklyn and Lutheran West will become part of the Chagrin Valley Conference and all four schools have agreed to a Fall 2019 start in their new homes.
Officials heading to the LCL have said a desire to see rival schools play each other on a yearly basis fed into the formation a new league.
The disparity in the number of students signing up for football between larger schools like Buckeye and smaller ones like Oberlin was also a factor.
Under PAC scheduling, schools like Wellington and Oberlin would face off on the football field in consecutive years but then not again for four years.
“I’m really looking forward to this,” said Wellington athletic director John Bowman. “We’re cutting it down a bit and the teams will all be more local. They’re teams that all have more of a history with each other, and that in itself is exciting. The competitive balance part was also considered. To me, though, the rivalries were most important. We weren’t playing Oberlin or Clearview that much. Why aren’t we playing Oberlin every year? This will do a lot to bring back a lot of the fun that’s been lost in that rivalry.”
The PAC was formed in 2005 with Oberlin, Wellington, and Black River as founding members.
Changes are expected to leave a more balanced playing field, but there are still some power schools.
Firelands, stretching north through South Amherst and into the city of Amherst, and west into Erie County, dominates on the football field. Keystone has long been a nearly-invincible softball juggernaut.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.