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High-school football: Economics reunite Licking County League


Steve Blackledge

The Columbus Dispatch

Sunday August 11, 2013 1:37 PM

Like eight-track tapes and dollar-a-gallon gasoline, the Licking County League is merely the
stuff of legend to teenagers from 10 neighboring high schools. It shouldn’t take long, however, for
them to learn about the fierce backyard rivalries about which their parents still reminisce.

Twenty-three years after a somewhat acrimonious breakup, the LCL is back in business. Citing
economic incentives, the schools agreed to venture back into the not-so-distant past.

Although officials want to let bygones be bygones, it is widely believed that Newark Catholic’s
perceived drawing advantage and dominance in football was the chief reason for the 1990 divorce.
The Green Wave won six small-school state titles from 1978 to ’87.

“There are all sorts of opinions as to what happened before, but regardless of all of that, I
think the majority of people came to the realization that we needed to get things back the way they
used to be,” said Licking Valley coach Randy Baughman, entering his 31st season.

“A lot of schools went into situations that were good to them in a lot of ways, but everyone
knows the bottom line is money and reviving all these rivalries will draw bigger crowds and cut
travel costs. I think it’s a pretty exciting thing for everybody in Licking County.”

For Johnstown, which has qualified for the football playoffs six times in the past 11 seasons,
moving from the Mid-Buckeye Conference to the LCL should provide new challenges.

“We built some great relationships” in the MBC, Johnnies coach Mike Carter said, “but the LCL
has so much tradition and it’s exciting to be part of that. The MBC was a competitive league, but
the schools in the LCL are a little bigger and because every game is going to be a rivalry, that
will only intensify things.”

Carter is certain that LCL competition will be received by the players with the same zest as
their parents.

“Some people might not understand the relationship the kids from all of these schools have,” he
said. “Many played Little League sports or were in 4-H together. Some attend the same church. Some
of their parents work in the same office. Some families have picked up and moved to the next town.
It’s a really dynamic — and significant — thing.”

The LCL reunion triggered a domino effect that dramatically overhauled the makeup of three other
area conferences. To replace those departing to rejoin the LCL, the Mid-State League added six
members and realigned its three divisions. It now has 22 schools.

Liberty Union moved from the Cardinal to the Buckeye Division to rekindle rivalries with
Lancaster-area schools. West Jefferson moved from the Cardinal to the Ohio to join Madison County
newcomers London and Madison Plains. Five Columbus-area schools also figure to be natural rivals in
the Ohio. Among the MSL newcomers are Worthington Christian, Fairfield Christian and Grove City
Christian, though Worthington Christian won’t field a football team until 2014.

Commissioner Jim Hayes said the MSL might expand further but likely not for at least two

“We’ve had communications with several smaller schools interesting in joining, but none of them
offer football and we’d prefer to have three eight-team divisions for the sake of balancing things
out,” he said. “For now, we want to go through a cycle with this lineup before we move ahead.”

West Jefferson football coach and athletic director Shawn Buescher said his school had sought to
align itself with London and Madison Plains since the days of the defunct Central Buckeye League
and Buckeye Athletic Conference.

“Cutting travel costs and boosting gate receipts obviously is our top priority,” he said. “It’s
an extremely exciting time for us.”

Except for the addition of Canal Winchester to replace LCL-bound Watkins Memorial, the 32-member
Ohio Capital Conference should remain stable for the unforeseeable future.

“As one would expect, we’ve had people express an interest in joining, but our principals seem
very happy with the status quo,” commissioner Dave Cecutti said. “As far as realignment, it’s
continually under review. Competitive balance comes into play. According to our constitution, if
just one school inquires about switching divisions, we have to go through the process of studying



New or realigned football conferences in central Ohio (changes from 2012 in parentheses; no
changes made in City League and Central Catholic League):

Ohio Capital Conference


Big Walnut, Delaware, Franklin Heights, Mount Vernon, New Albany, Olentangy, Olentangy Orange,
Worthington Kilbourne (from OCC Cardinal)


Canal Winchester (from MSL Buckeye), Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard
Darby, Westerville Central, Westerville North, Westerville South


Central Crossing, Dublin Coffman, Hilliard Davidson, Marysville, Olentangy Liberty, Thomas
Worthington, Upper Arlington, Westland


Gahanna, Grove City, Groveport, Lancaster, Newark, Pickerington Central, Pickerington North,

Mid-State League


Amanda-Clearcreek, Bloom-Carroll, Circleville, Fairfield Union, Hamilton Township, Liberty Union
(from MSL Cardinal), Logan Elm, Teays Valley


Berne Union, Fairfield Christian (independent), Fisher Catholic, Grove City Christian
(independent), Harvest Prep, Millersport


Bexley, Columbus Academy, Grandview (from MSL Cardinal), London (from South Central Ohio
League), Madison Plains (from South Central Ohio League), West Jefferson (from MSL Cardinal),

Worthington Christian (independent) will begin varsity play in 2014.

Licking County League


Granville (from MSL Ohio), Lakewood (from MSL Ohio), Licking Heights (from MSL Cardinal),
Licking Valley (from MSL Ohio), Watkins Memorial (from OCC Capital)


Heath (from MSL Ohio), Johnstown (from MBC), Newark Catholic (from MSL Ohio), Northridge (from
MBC), Utica (from MBC)

Mid-Buckeye Conference

Danville, East Knox, Loudonville, Lucas (from North Central Conference)

Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference


Centerburg (from MBC), Cardington, Fredericktown (from MBC), Highland (from MOAC Red), Mount
Gilead, Northmor, Ridgedale


Buckeye Valley, Elgin, Fairbanks (from North West Central Conference), Jonathan Alder
(independent), North Union, Pleasant (from MOAC Blue),

River Valley

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