MOUNT GILEAD — Loudonville has been through its share of conference turmoil over the last decade, something athletic director Kevin Maltarich hopes will change in the near future.
The first step is joining the Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference as a football-only member beginning in 2022. The Redbirds will also compete in the KMAC in wrestling as an affiliate member.
“It kind of seems like we’ve always been that odd (one) out,” Maltarich said. “We’re kind of the outliers here. There’s never really been a fit for Loudonville. I’m hoping that this gets us into our niche and we can get in here and stay for years to come.”
The KMAC, which had an opening after Highland elected in March to leave the league for the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference, didn’t have enough votes to offer Loudonville full membership. The Scots will join the MOAC in all sports except football beginning in the 2021-22 school year with football the following year.
Johnstown, Northridge, Lucas and Utica were rumored to be in contention to join the KMAC, but commissioner Barry Wolf wouldn’t confirm.
“We had discussions with very worthy schools,” Wolf said. “We looked at school size, non-varsity sports as well as varsity sports and growth opportunities. We just felt that Loudonville was a good fit for football at this time.”
Why football only?
“We wanted to take it slow,” Wolf said. “There’s some travel concerns, so we wanted to make sure we had a good football schedule. It’s a lot more difficult if you have an odd number. So, that’s where we ended up at this point.”
“We’re interested in becoming a part of the conference,” Maltarich said. “I know the schools voted on it and we didn’t get enough votes to get in. But we are optimistic that it will be brought back onto the table and we can get in as a whole school.
“With wrestling, we (didn’t) have a conference that we could compete in. For the last three or four years, our wrestlers haven’t been able to compete for conference titles. That was the same with the golf program and other (sports). We want to get into the KMAC, which solidifies everything for us and we have one direction to go rather than 15 different directions to go.”
Wolf was noncommittal on the KMAC offering Loudonville full membership in the future.
“Not at this time,” he said. “Right now, we want to stay at eight in football and seven in the other sports. Everyone’s comfortable with doing that for a while, if not forever.”
Loudonville was with KMAC members Centerburg, Danville, East Knox and Fredericktown in the Mid-Buckeye Conference. When Centerburg and Fredericktown left in 2013 and East Knox in ’14 to join the MOAC, the MBC’s football members dwindled. Danville left in 2017 to join the others in the newly formed KMAC, leaving the MBC without enough football teams.
So, the Redbirds were forced to find competition elsewhere. They joined the the Principals Athletic Conference where the closest trip was Wooster Triway, 18 miles away. Cuyahoga Falls Cuyahoga Village Christian Academy at 68.5 miles was the farthest trip.
“The travel times are going to be significantly less,” Maltarich said. “That’s one of the things that we’re happy about. There’s some natural rivals that are in (the KMAC).”
Loudonville went 1-9 overall last season and 0-7 in the PAC, competing in Division VI, Region 22. Cuyahoga Village Christian Academy, Navarre Fairless, Canal Fulton Northwest and Triway were all in Division IV and Akron Manchester, Orrville and Massillon Tuslaw were all in Division V.
“In the PAC, we’re playing over our heads,” Maltarich said. “We’re playing schools that are bigger than us — Division IV or Division V schools. They have some really top, talented athletes over there. The KMAC was more of a fit for our size and our talent. We hope to go in there and compete.”
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