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High school sports: Colts leaving Suburban League

WESTFIELD TWP. — For Cloverleaf, a move to the Portage Trail Conference was all about numbers and a lot of sense. With a vote of 5-0 at Monday’s board of education meeting, the district has decided to leave the Suburban League and will begin play in the PTC Metro Division in the 2015-16 school year.

A member of the SL since 1997, the school came over from the Pioneer Conference when it was bursting at the seams from an enrollment standpoint. With those numbers dwindling, Cloverleaf would have been the smallest school in the 16-team SL beginning two years from now.

The SL will include Brecksville, Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson, Nordonia, North Royalton, Stow, Twinsburg and Wadsworth in the big-school division (National Conference) and Aurora, Barberton, Copley, Highland, Kent Roosevelt, Revere and Tallmadge in the small-school division (American Conference).

So moving to the PTC where the Colts will play in a Metro Division that includes Coventry, Crestwood, Field, Norton, Ravenna and Springfield was a natural fit.

“When we got into the Suburban League we probably had about 3,700 students in our district,” Cloverleaf athletic director Craig Walkup said. “We’re at about 2,600 now. Eight years ago when I was hired on, I believe our numbers for boys was 477 [in high school]. We’re now at 389.

“Based on the district report, it shows a pretty significant decrease in our enrollment numbers. When we send them in next year, in the fall of 2015 we will be Division III in football — which we already are — but we’ll be Division II in all sports except cross country, track and tennis.”

By the time the Colts join the PTC, Walkup estimates Cloverleaf to have an enrollment somewhere between 850 to 860 students.

That fits well in the Metro as today’s numbers put Norton (670 students), Ravenna (653), Coventry (646), Springfield (623), Crestwood (548), and Field (523) not far off the pace. The Colts would essentially be replacing Roosevelt.

“It’s a competitive balance game,” Walkup said. “We felt it’s hard for us to compete right now. We felt it was best to look for places with similar demographics and the Portage Trail was a good fit.

“We’ve been approached by some other leagues and schools to form a league, but we weren’t really sure it was a good fit. We weren’t going to make a change to make a change. It had to be a good fit. We wanted to go to the right place.

“This keeps us not only with a good strong competitive balance, but keeps us in the same media market. Plus, it will be easy travel on (state Route) 224.”

The move was embraced by football coach Bob Lake, who is trying to make the Colts a contender in the very competitive SL — the Colts haven’t had a winning season since 2009.

“There’s nothing I dislike about the move right now,” Lake said. “I have a lot of respect for the football programs in the Portage Trail. There’s a lot of good teams in there. What I really like is the size factor.

“They’re more comparable to us. The demographics match up to what we’re more about. It really should help our football program and all the other programs, too. It’s not going to be easy to win championships, but our chances of having success will be better.”

Cloverleaf’s departure marks the second school to leave the SL as Green announced plans in August to move to the Federal League in two years.

It’s a move the Colts are making with mixed emotions.

“It will renew some rivalries like Norton and others we play in non-league events,” Walkup said “We’re excited, but we leave [the SL] after having developed some great relationships with people. The PTC is a better fit for us.”

Contact Brad Bournival at sports@medina-gazette.com.

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