SPARTA — Highland athletics has a new home, which happens to be the same as its old home.
The Fighting Scots will move back to the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference in all sports except for football for the 2021-22 season and football the following season.
The school board approved the move back to the MOAC Wednesday night and the league accepted the membership Thursday morning.
“I think for the long-term growth of our athletic program in sheer numbers and teams that play in lower levels (junior varsity and freshman) — (the MOAC) was attractive to us,” Highland athletic director Mike DeLaney said.
Highland was affiliated as a charter member in 1990 until it left with Cardington-Lincoln, Mount Gilead, Northmor, Centerburg, Fredericktown and East Knox to form the Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference with Danville.
Highland had the chance to move back after Buckeye Valley announced its decision to leave the MOAC in 2018, but decided to stay the course.
“Buckeye Valley left our league last year — rather abruptly — and with only seven schools,” MOAC commissioner Bill Clauss said. “So, we’re obviously very thrilled to have Highland come back to the MOAC. They’re a school of similar size, excellent athletic competition and it gives us four Central District schools and four Northwest District schools.”
DeLaney said they got a letter from the MOAC in early January and met with Clauss and Ontario principal Chris Smith and athletic director Jeff Fisher.
“(Smith) suggested that we invite them again to see if anything had changed,” Clauss said. “Sure enough — as soon as we invited them — I was getting positive remarks from people I know in that school district and here we are.”
The reason for the move stems from size. Highland, a Division II school in all sports except football (Division IV), offers boys and girls soccer, boys and girls tennis and girls golf — which are not offered by most KMAC schools. It forces the Scots to play a non-league schedule in those sports.
“That’s really what it came down to,” DeLaney said. “There’s no hard feelings with the KMAC. We’ve enjoyed working with those schools and we want to continue working with those schools in the future both on and off the field. We want to keep those relationships as close as we can.”
DeLaney cited a potential growth in the school district that would increase the divide between Highland and the smaller schools in the KMAC.
Some of the KMAC schools are unable to play full junior varsity games because of a lack of participants — particularly when there are injuries.
The Scots will continue to play football in the KMAC until the move before the 2022 season.
The MOAC consists of charter members Marion Pleasant and River Valley as well as Clear Fork, Galion, Marion Harding, Ontario and Shelby.