April 18, 2014

Elyria
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High school: Elyria Catholic finds a new home, joins Bay, Rocky River and four Parma area schools in new conference

Take three parts Northeast Ohio Conference, mix in three parts West Shore Conference, add a dash of North Coast League and a mystery ingredient yet to be determined and you have the makings of a new conference that has Elyria Catholic athletic director Bob Thayer excited.

The Panthers will join West Shore Conference brethren Rocky River and Bay in teaming up with three Northeast Ohio Conference schools from Parma — Normandy, Valley Forge and Parma — and Parma Heights Holy Name of the NCL to form a seven-school league, for now, that will begin competition in the 2015-16 school year.

The WSC was set to dissolve following next school year, and the new conference gives Elyria Catholic a new home.

“It is a load off all of our minds because 2015 is not very far away,” Thayer said. “The possibility was there that we would not have been able to find a conference that was a good fit for us. We feel like we found a good conference with schools we are very familiar and comfortable with. We could not be happier.”

As far as football is concerned, Panthers coach Mike Polevacik thinks the new conference will be beneficial to his program. In the WSC, his Division V school usually went up against Division I or II programs. In fact, the Panthers had a four-game stretch this season in which they played Avon, Lakewood, Midview and North Ridgeville in successive weeks.

Polevacik said he doesn’t mind playing bigger schools, but having to do so every week is difficult for a school Elyria Catholic’s size.

“There’s a big difference between gearing up for a game and having to go through the grinder like that,” he said. “If you have one big school on your schedule you can prepare for it and look at it as an opportunity to pick up some nice computer points. When you have to play those schools back to back like that it really takes a toll on you.”

With mostly Division III schools in the new conference – and no Division I schools — Polevacik thinks his Panthers have a better shot at the playoffs.

“This gives us a chance to be competitive and have a good chance to make the playoffs most seasons,” he said. “Playing in the West Shore Conference was such a grind. This new conference should be very competitive as far as football is concerned because all the schools are similar in size.”

Football, however, is just one sport. Thayer thinks all Elyria Catholic programs will benefit from the move.

“Any time you make a decision to join a new conference, of course football is very important,” Thayer said. “You have to consider the other sports as well. Football, they play on Friday so the travel isn’t that bad. With other sports, like volleyball and basketball, travel becomes much more important because you don’t want your volleyball coming home from a road game at 11:30 on a Tuesday night. That’s not going to happen with this new conference.”

Another school could be added before the 2015-16 school year. However, adding an eighth team is not critical, Thayer said.

“We recently had a meeting with the other principals and athletic directors from the new conference, and we all agreed we are going to be very selective,” Thayer said. “We’d like to get to eight schools, but are more than willing to stay with seven until we find the school that is the right fit.”

Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or macsportstalk@gmail.com.