Down to just six schools another departure or two could have been the death knell for the conference.
The Class AA exclusive Cardinal Conference, however, survived on life support with just six affiliate members for the 2008-09 and the 2009-10 seasons.
Now it looks as if the league is going to spring to life once again.
Tolsia High School officially joins the league in all sports this fall to become the Cardinal’s seventh school.
And now comes the news that Scott High School will enter the fold this winter to put the league back at eight schools for the first time in more than two years.
Scott and Tolsia join current members Chapmanville Regional High School, Wayne, Herbert Hoover, Sissonville, Poca and Point Pleasant.
Tolsia and Scott are actually rejoining the Cardinal Conference as the Rebels and Skyhawks are both former members of the league.
Scott High School, located at Madison and one of the chief sectional rivals of the Chapmanville Tigers, won’t join the Cardinal Conference this fall during the football season. Instead, the Skyhawks will jump on board for the basketball season and the upcoming 2010-11 spring sports season.
Chapmanville Regional High School officials are welcoming Scott’s entry into the league. CRHS Athletics Director Danny Godby supports the move but had hoped the Skyhawks would join the Cardinal Conference sooner.
Chapmanville Regional baseball coach Eric Ellis said Scott’s location makes sense for the league geographically. Scott and Chapmanville already play each other in every sport and enjoy rivalries in football, boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball. The Tigers and Skyhawks also play each other in tennis and golf.
“They are a good fit,” Ellis said of Scott. “They are right on Corridor G, close to Charleston and they are in the coal fields. They are close to us and it’s an easy trip for us. We play them anyway but they are a really good fit. They are a great contributor for our school and our league in both boys and girls. They have good programs over there. I’m definitely glad to have them.”
Having eight teams makes the Cardinal Conference more viable and makes it less likely to dissolve.
“It’s tough when they reclassify every four years and schools bounce around,” Ellis said. “It does make it tough for a conference as far as continuity goes. But we are fortunute to have Scott and Tolsia join to get us back up to eight. Hopefully those numbers will stick for awhile.”
The eight-team league, however, might have another shakeup in the near future.
The WVSSAC is scheduled to tackle realignment again in 2012 and it’s uncertain where some of the current members of the Cardinal Conference will go.
Under one projection, Herbert Hoover, Scott and Point Pleasant are slated to move up to Class AAA. The Huskies and the Skyhawks have been classified at the state’s highest level in the past. If they move up, and if Point goes along with them, that would leave the Cardinal Conference with just five members.
The league would then have to go looking for more teams.
There could be options, however.
According to one projection, Man High School is predicted to move back up to Class AA.
There is also the possibility of the new Mingo Central school, which will be located at Red Jacket. Mingo Central, the consolidation of the current Matewan, Burch and Williamson high schools, is slated to open in 2012. Mingo Central has been projected to be a Class AAA school, however, Double-A seems more likely.
Other possibilities include Sherman and Tug Valley. Both schools reportedly have been looked at by the Cardinal Conference for expansion in the past. Tug Valley, however, could drop to Single-A again after reclassification.
“In two or three years we might be searching again for more schools,” Ellis said. “If that’s the hand that we’re dealt we’ll roll with it and make the best of it. If we lose three teams and we can’t find anybody the conference might dissolve. I hope not.”
Ellis said he thinks Chapmanville has benefited from being in the league the last few years.
“It makes scheduling much easier,” he said. “And it gives you something else to play for. You can win a conference championship and your kids can make all-conference. It’s good.”
Speaking of championships, the Harry Kirk-led Chapmanville Regional boys’ basketball team was crowned co-league champs with Sissonville during the 2009-10 season. Kirk’s former Class A Harts Lions were also once a member of the Cardinal Conference.