Morenci and Fayette to join sports programs 2009.04.01

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

The boys basketball rivalry between Morenci and Fayette resumed just two seasons ago and the girls teams might begin play for the first time next season, but all of that is on hold.

Instead, it appears likely the two schools are headed for a cooperative venture that would soon put them on the same end of the court.

Both boards of education are tentatively favoring a plan that would combine the sports programs of the two neighboring school districts. The move is expected to save money for both cash-strapped districts while improving the competitiveness of the athletic programs.

“We’ve seen this sort of arrangement for years in Lenawee County,” said Morenci’s athletic director Tim Kruse. “Britton and Deerfield are combining all of their teams. Madison and Sand Creek have combined their wrestling in the past and Madison and Lenawee Christian used to combine their track teams.”flyingbullfrog3.jpg

However, the cross-border and cross-league factors in this arrangement will bring some extra challenges, he said.

Both districts have experienced falling enrollment and lack of participation on some sports teams, noted Fayette superintendent Russ Griggs.

“Fayette doesn’t even have baseball this year and the track teams aren’t large enough to fill every event,” he said. “Fayette doesn’t even have its own track. I hear that Morenci’s isn’t much better, but they’re getting a new one this summer.”

Griggs said the districts’ athletic directors are still talking about how to choose coaches—either a lottery system or an examination of win/loss records.

A highlight of the decision for Fayette would be fulfillment of the long-held desire for a football team. Football, along with wrestling and bowling, could begin without any trouble since only Morenci currently sponsors those sports. Similarly, Morenci athletes could jump right into the ping-pong program being established in Fayette.

Others, like basketball, cross country and volleyball, are going to take some effort to make it work.

Fayette athletic director Dave Hoste has been in contact with Jessie Jokeen at the Ohio High School Athletic Association who likes the idea of a dual-state partnership. Jokeen said it will take some finagling but he wants to make it work.

The biggest trouble, he said, will come locally with league play.

Kruse and Hoste have spoken with other league officials and are working on a plan where half of a season will be played against the Buckeye Border Conference teams and the other half with the Tri-County Conference. A formula will determine how much of the win or loss is credited to each league standing.

“We could end up winning league titles in both conferences,” Hoste said.

Post-season tournament play is likely to go to Michigan where the competition is generally easier—four divisions of cross country and track, for example, compared to three in Ohio.

There’s already been talk about a new mascot.

“The TCC has two Bulldogs and the BBC has two Eagles,” said Morenci superintendent Kyle Griffith, “so we wanted to get away from that and come up with something unique.”

There’s also a desire to keep some elements of each school’s heritage, he said, and that’s led to the Flying Bullfrogs.

“I bet you won’t find another one of those,” Griffith said.

After months of closed-door negotiations, both boards are expected to approve the proposal this spring and scheduling would begin for the fall season.

Even though it’s only a proposal at this point, Morenci’s new football coach Tom Saylor has been spotted in the Fayette parking lot after school sizing up some new recruits.

“I’ll be lucky if I have 20 kids from Morenci this fall,” Coach Saylor said. “I like the way this is looking. I like it a whole lot.”

  • Homecoming Court
    HOMECOMING—One senior candidate will be chosen Morenci’s fall homecoming queen during half-time ceremonies Friday at the football field. In the back row are seniors Mikayla Price, who will be escorted by Mason Vaughn; Madison Bachman, escorted by Kiegan Merillat, and Mikayla Reinke, escorted by Griffin Grieder. Senior Ariana Roseman is absent from the photo. Her escort is Garrett Smith. In the front is sophomore Abbie White, who will be escorted by Ryder Price; junior Madysen Schmitz, escorted by Harley McCaskey and freshman Madison Keller, escorted by Jarett Cook.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.
  • Front.starting
    BIKE-A-THON—Children in Morenci’s Summer Recreation Program brought their bikes last Tuesday to participate in a bike-a-thon. Riders await the start of the event at the elementary school before being led on a course through town by organizer Leonie Leahy.
  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks

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