Can’t we all just get along with leagues?

Boardman football coach Joe Ignazio began explaining how his team was preparing for the 2019 season in his warm office with a fan circulating the humidity — an office parallel from the team’s practice field. Sweat occasionally dripped down from this reporter’s brow. Good, warm times.

After the preview, I asked Ignazio about the current state of the All-American Conference, Red Tier, which was an Independent Tier this past fall for football. Canfield, Howland, Warren G. Harding, Austintown Fitch, Boardman don’t have a unified home for the 2020-21 season.

Ignazio told me his team was contemplating going into a conference for football only to play teams like Avon and Avon Lake, which currently competes in the Southwestern Conference with teams clustered in Lorain and Cuyahoga Counties. Did we not learn from the failed Federal League experiment Fitch and Boardman endured almost a decade ago? It was the junior high and freshman teams bearing most of the brunt of the hour-plus travel times to the Canton area, putting an unnecessary strain on the school’s travel budgets.

Even though it’s football only, what would Boardman gain going almost 2 hours one way and wasting turnpike tolls on game days?

There has to be a better option. Amazingly enough, there is.

AAC commissioner Rick King has been working very hard to keep these remaining six teams as part of a group. The AAC Blue Tier is in its last year. Liberty, LaBrae, Champion, Brookfield, Campbell, Crestview and Newton Falls are heading to be a separate tier of the Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference for the start of the 2020-21 school year, along with new member Garfield of the dwindling Portage Trail Conference. There was talk of Mogadore, Southeast and Rootstown also being added to the MVAC. Glad it’s just Garfield. The other three do not make sense.

These eight teams are separate from the current MVAC teams of McDonald, Springfield, Sebring, Western Reserve, Mineral Ridge, Jackson-Milton, Lowellville and Waterloo for the first two seasons of this two-team conference. Two separate champions for each division. Happy everyone?

You’re good, MVAC. You understand how to get along with other local teams, which is not always the case around here.

How about this AAC Red Tier? It’s like a disfunctional relationship. It was called an independent tier because not everybody was willing to schedule one another.

Steel Valley Conference commissioner Rick Shepas, whose teams are Ursuline, Cardinal Mooney, Chaney and East, are scheduling these five AAC Red Tier teams. However, not everyone will schedule one another.

Bring back old SVC with Fitch, Boardman and Harding. We can safely say these three teams would be willing to join with Mooney, Ursuline, East and Chaney. OK, so we’d have seven.

That leaves Howland and Canfield.

Howland would be a good fit in the Northeast-8, a great conference that boasted an outstanding football season where Hubbard, Girard, South Range, Struthers and Poland made the postseason. Poland made the Division IV state football semifinals. Niles was almost the sixth team, going 7-3, its best team since making the playoffs in 2012.

Want to make the NE-8 better? Jefferson, the oddball in this group from Ashtabula County, needs to leave. Take the hint, Falcons. Bring in Howland. Awesome fit and keeps the great mojo for this great grouping progressing.

Then, we have Canfield. Sure, the NE-8 would’ve been great for the Cardinals. That didn’t happen. Here’s your chance, Canfield. I know there are plenty of people in this fine town who would love to see the Cardinals be part of a local conference. How about the SVC? Nearby South Range stepped up as the smallest team in the NE-8 and is thriving in that conference. Why not you, Canfield? They could be part of Fitch, Boardman, Harding, Chaney, East, Mooney and Ursuline to make the SVC.

Canfield, quit letting a small, vocal faction dictate your future, which is bleak if you remain independent. Ask Louisville. Unfortunately, the Leopards were booted from the former Northeastern Buckeye Conference a couple of years ago. Canton South, my alma mater, Carrollton, Salem, West Branch, Alliance, Marlington and Minerva formed the Eastern Buckeye Conference, a poor-functioning league without Louisville — a highly-successful athletic program. The Leopards struggle to find teams.

Canfield shouldn’t be relegated to independent purgatory. The SVC would welcome you. Come aboard. The Cardinals deserve to succeed here in the Mahoning Valley, not travel to parts unknown on a consistent basis.

Boardman also deserves to play teams here, not try to find teams hours from home.

Just like the NE-8 and MVAC, can’t we all just get along?


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