Several area teams expected alterations to their usual tournament road when the IHSAA released sectional alignments for the 2013-14 and 14-15 school years.
The specifics came Monday, when the introduction of a sixth class for football and new rules for highly successful teams led to the most sweeping sectional realignment since the inception of class sports more than 15 years ago.
The new sectional alignments were approved at Monday’s meeting of the IHSAA Executive Committee. (The alignments for spring sports could still change due to the Tournament Success Factor, which bumps teams up one class based on state tournament success over a two-year period.)
“By direction of the Executive Committee, the (IHSAA) staff will make the appropriate adjustments after the conclusion of the baseball and softball tournaments if necessary due to the recently confirmed success factor,” IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox said via e-mail.
Lafayette Jeff football will compete with Crown Point, Lake Central and Merrillville in Class 6A, Sectional 1. Jeff is the smallest school in the new Class 6A, comprised of the 32 largest schools in the state.
“We scrimmaged Merillville six or eight years in a row, and traditionally they’re one of the better teams up north,” Jeff coach Andy Kennedy said. “I think we have a good feel for that kind of football. It’s one of those cases where playing our conference schedule certainly prepared us for our sectional.”
Harrison and McCutcheon football remain in 5A and will compete in a new Sectional 11 with Kokomo and Westfield. Class 5A now includes 34 teams.
“It’s where we thought we should be,” Harrison coach Tony Martin said. “We’re 5A schools, not 6A schools. We’re happy to be in a sectional situation where the goals for the kids at the end of the year, to win a sectional championship and beyond, look like it’s attainable.”
In addition to their rivalries with each other, Harrison and McCutcheon will face an outgoing conference rival (Westfield of the Hoosier Crossroads Conference) and an incoming conference rival (Kokomo of the North Central Conference).
“Harrison’s our rival school and our kids get excited about playing for them and their kids are excited about playing us,” McCutcheon coach Ken Frauhiger said. “It’s what high school is supposed to be about. I’m glad we’re able to keep doing that.”
West Lafayette football will see some new faces in Class 3A, Sectional 38, which includes Blackford, Delta, Eastbrook, Mississinewa, Northwestern, Western and Yorktown.
Central Catholic football, bumped up to 2A by the tournament success factor, will compete in a widespread Sectional 35 with Benton Central, Cass, Delphi, North Putnam, Southmont, Taylor and Tipton. The Knights won their fourth consecutive Class A state championship last fall.
Central Catholic’s four-class sports teams also received a significant shift. The Knights will now compete in Class A sectionals for basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball with Attica, Covington, North Vermillion, Rockville and Turkey Run.
The structure of that sectional grouping, traditionally comprised of Wabash River Conference teams, changed when Riverton Parke’s enrollment bumped up to 2A. Carroll’s return to Class A also likely factored into Central Catholic’s move.
“Rockville has been real good the last eight years or so, and Covington has had some good teams,” said CC boys basketball coach Dave Barrett, whose team won its 12th consecutive sectional title in March. “It should be an interesting sectional. A lot of good teams, good balance.”
Faith Christian remains in a four-class sectional grouping with Clinton Prairie, Frontier, Rossville, Tri-Central and Carroll, which drops down from 2A.
West Lafayette bumped up to 2A in boys soccer to join a sectional with Frankfort, Harrison, Lafayette Jeff, McCutcheon and Twin Lakes. The Red Devils had competed in Class A in the first two years in which the soccer tournament was divided into two classes.
West Lafayette girls soccer remains in Class A.
“In our old sectional I think sometimes our guys took for granted who we were playing, and obviously last year we paid the price for that,” WL boys soccer coach Andrew Kiernan said. “It’s more interesting for us, but we also play those teams during the season.”
The basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball sectional alignments for Harrison, Lafayette Jeff and McCutcheon (all 4A) and West Lafayette (3A) did not change.
Three committees consisting of school administrators representing each IHSAA district and class were assembled to assist the realignment process. Area athletic directors who were involved included Harrison’s Jerry Galema (5A football), Frankfort’s Ed Niehaus (4A football), Benton Central’s Jim Puckett (Class A soccer) and Frontier’s Greg Martz and West Central’s Chuck Evans (Class A baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball).
According to Martz, the committees essentially double-checked the alignment recommendations made by the IHSAA.
“You’re asked to basically go through each and every sectional for each and every sport and make sure something doesn’t look funny or make sure Ben Davis is not playing in a sectional up at Fort Wayne or something like that,” Martz said. “You go through all the details and make sure nothing was missed.”