Sports Scene: Fort Loramie to the NWC, not MAC, for now

Any hopes of Fort Loramie joining the Midwest Athletic Conference have been sidelined, as it looks like realignment of small-school conferences in Northwest Ohio has been finalized.

Luckily for Fort Loramie, the realignment allowed it to find a home for its football program.

News broke last Friday the Northwest Conference was inviting Fort Loramie to join for football and Lima Central Catholic to join for all sports. Fort Loramie’s board of education voted to accept the invite on Monday; the Redskins will begin membership next season.

The invites came after Leipsic and Ada announced earlier this year they were leaving the NWC. LCC’s addition will bring the total number of full-time NWC members to eight; Lincolnview lacks a football program, so Loramie’s addition allows the conference to have eight football teams and maintain a seven-game schedule.

The NWC initially targeted Parkway and Delphos St. John’s for membership, but both declined. Parkway announced its decision in June, while St. John’s announced its decision earlier this month.

“Once Delphos St. John’s made their decision (to stay in the MAC), we were hoping we could make the NWC work,” Fort Loramie football coach Spencer Wells said earlier this week. “… There is a lot of great competition in the NWC, with a lot of schools with great traditions. It will be closer drives. Hopefully playing the same teams will allow rivalries to develop.”

Fort Loramie’s football program has been independent since the breakup of the Cross County Conference following the 2020 season. The squad had to make road trips all over Ohio in order to find opponents — and after a COVID-related cancellation during the 2021 season, had to drive to Indiana.

“It wasn’t a consistent schedule,” Wells said. “We had a few regular teams on the schedule we played, like Columbus Academy. But then we had quite a few teams, like Dayton Public Schools, that we were rotating. You could never develop a rivalry. I think that’s something that’s exciting for a conference, diving into a rivalry aspect.”

The moves look to be the final dominoes after many changes in various small-school conferences in Northwest Ohio over the last three years… for now.

Both LCC (which was voted out of the NWC in 2013) and Fort Loramie’s membership will be reevaluated by the conference in two years. In regards to Fort Loramie being a football-only member, NWC commissioner Jon Derrybery told the Lima News last week:

“It is a home-home two years for sure and they understand that we would entertain full-time membership, and we understand they may possibly entertain membership elsewhere,” Derryberry said.

There’s speculation Parkway or St. John’s may reconsider their MAC membership sooner or later, but for now, that appears to be speculation.

What will be interesting to watch in the future is, if Parkway, St. John’s or other school(s) leave, would Fort Loramie leave the Shelby County Athletic League and join the MAC for all sports, not just football? (What would Anna, a football-only MAC member, do in this scenario?)

The SCAL has been as stable as it gets. I’d argue looking at historical results, year in and year out, it’s a stronger basketball league than the MAC.

But like all the collegiate conference realignment in recent years has shown, football is everybody’s king concern.