“Fort Loramie is looking to add games beginning in the 2021 season for 9/17, 9/24, 10/1, 10/15, and 10/29. We are a D7 school (55-60 players) and can host or travel. Fan base travels extremely well.”
The fact that this is from the website of the Indiana High School Athletic Association demonstrates that athletic director Mitch Westerheide is searching everywhere for opponents once the school is left without a football conference affiliation after the 2020 campaign. In a perfect world Westerheide would like to find a new football arrangement that allows them to stay in the Shelby County Athletic League for other sports.
The 2018 state semifinalists have been a football associate member of the Cross County Conference which disbanded into two new leagues last winter for the 2021-22 school year. When the dust settled, both groups had an even number of football schools which left no need for a single associate member. That even number is vital so that members aren’t left to fill open dates later in the schedule. Such dates are difficult to fill especially when all the small school conferences in this sector of the state have an even number of members.
The Redskins initially found that no conferences were member shopping and that this same pool of schools had no open dates after the first three weeks of the season. Hence, no conference and many open dates beginning in 2021.
How about other independents in the same boat as Fort Loramie? Lima Central Catholic is the only one that comes to mind and the paperwork is pending for the Thunderbirds to join the Loramie slate. Other opponents booked for 2021 are Minster, Versailles, Covington, and Lucas (near Mansfield), leaving five to find.
In addition to listing on the Ohio and Indiana websites, several in the Loramie camp are working contacts with various schools and conferences. Scheduling these games is a temporary fix. The long-term solution is a football conference affiliation. Some dominoes likely need to fall for that more enduring solution.
Let’s take the legendary, powerful, and neighboring Midwest Athletic Conference as an example. With 10 football members they don’t want or need one more. The MAC won’t come calling unless someone leaves and I’m told that’s not imminent. Even if one or more MAC members want to depart, where would they go if all the other options have an even number for football?
For the MAC to have a vacancy for Fort Loramie it would likely have to begin far beyond Shelby County. Maybe there would be some conference movement in far northwest Ohio that would result in a departure within the Northwest Conference (Allen East, Spencerville, and north), leaving the NWC with an opening that could attract a MAC school that would open the door for Fort Loramie.
Even if that happens, would the MAC seek an associate football member to replace a full-time member?
Mitch Westerheide continues to try to make the best of a tough situation. The contract language in these new schedule additions provides an escape should the Redskins find a conference for football. He hopes that comes sooner rather than later.
Next Friday: My memories of Hara Arena.
Dave Ross has worked in local sports media since 1975 and his first SDN byline was that same year. Sports Extra appears each Friday.