New year brings new changes for KVL
Some THS teams face tougher schedules
Change has arrived in the Kaw Valley League. And it could mean trouble for some Tonganoxie High sports.
The former 10-team, Class 4A-majority makeup is gone with the departure of 4A schools Perry-Lecompton and Santa Fe Trail. As the KVL now stands, 5A and 4A are equally represented at four schools apiece in an eight-team league.
With the big boys (5A Mill Valley, Lansing, Bonner Springs and Turner) even with the not-so-big boys (4A Basehor-Linwood, Tonganoxie, Piper and Bishop Ward), though, the Chieftains find themselves looking up at their contemporaries in the numbers game.
As far as student enrollment figures go, THS athletics director Brandon Parker said, Bishop Ward will have the least numbers to work with, but Tonganoxie, BLHS and Piper will be neck and neck on a yearly basis for next to last.
“In an eight-team league, there’s a decent chance that we might be seventh in enrollment,” Parker said.
Both Perry-Lecompton and Santa Fe Trail, the AD said, had smaller enrollment numbers than Tonganoxie. League schedules now will be top-heavy for the 4A school as four of its opponents are 5A and three others are 4A.
“Even though it’s a smaller league from a numbers standpoint as far as teams, it’s actually a larger league now for us because of the schools that we’re playing,” Parker said, noting basketball, baseball and softball will all play in a double-round robin format this year.
With the start of the fall sports season just days away, the new-look KVL will have varying effects on different Tonganoxie programs. For instance, Parker said the only significant change for volleyball will be the league’s postseason tournament, which will have two less participants.
The same goes for cross country. The course at the KVL meet will now just be a little less crowded.
Said THS cross country coach Phil Williams: “It’s not going to be a huge effect, I don’t think.”
Nor will an impact be felt in boys soccer. SFT didn’t field a team and Tonganoxie still plays PLHS twice this season. Coach Brian Kroll said the Chieftains haven’t beaten Perry-Lecompton in boys soccer the past couple years and he hopes to see that change this season, regardless of the Kaws’ league affiliation.
“I don’t think it’ll necessarily help us or harm us,” Kroll said of PLHS no longer being in the league, “other than if we beat ’em, it giving us a boost.”
Tonganoxie football, however, will feel the brunt of the hit the athletics department takes this fall with a revamped KVL. In 2008 and 2009, the Chieftains avoided Mill Valley, Lansing, Bonner Springs and Turner, but all four 5A schools appear on the schedule this year. Parker said the absence of those schools in the past was the result of district assignments and the 5A schools not having a lot of flexibility with their schedules. So although the KVL changes aren’t the only reason Tonganoxie will face a much tougher schedule this year, the football team will be the first program to get a taste of what the new league has in store.
“Football and basketball are really going to see it,” Parker said.
While the football team only played five league games each of the past two seasons, the Chieftains will see each of the other seven KVL teams on the gridiron this fall. That fact isn’t lost on coach Mark Elston.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for us,” he said.
Elston said 5A schools, which have larger student populations and therefore have bigger rosters, enjoy the possibility of lining up their players on just one side of the ball while THS will have a bulk of its top athletes playing offense and defense.
“Football, more than any sport, is an enormous numbers game,” Elston said. “I know Turner and Mill Valley are probably not going to play any kids both ways.”
But there might be some silver lining in this change for the Chieftains, Elston said. With a more difficult schedule, they should be better prepared for the most crucial portion of the season — districts.
“In some respects it’s a very good thing because we’re probably gonna get a little bit stiffer competition out of Turner, Mill Valley and Lansing than we would out of Prairie View or Osawatomie,” Elston said. “No disrespect to them but they just don’t have the sheer number of players.”
How each THS program is effected by the absence of two more 4A teams remains to be seen. However things turn out, Parker said he and other 4A athletics directors have no ill will toward their peers at SFT or PLHS.
“Trail and Perry had to make decisions that were good for their communities and a lot of it was about size,” Parker said. “For us it is what it is.”
The AD said the KVL has decided to stay with eight teams for the time being and see where things go from there.