EAST LIVERPOOL - If everything goes as anticipated, the Beaver Local Beavers and East Liverpool Potters will be continuing their long-running rivalry as members of the newly-expanded Buckeye 8 Athletic Conference. The conference recently approved both schools for membership.
The East Liverpool Board of Education unanimously approved joining the league Monday night at its regularly-scheduled meeting. The Beaver Local Board of Education is expected to approve their school's membership in the league at their November meeting.
Current schools in the Buckeye 8 include Buckeye Local, Edison Local, Indian Creek, Harrison Central, Martins Ferry, St. Clairsville, Bellaire and Union Local. With the admission of the Beavers and the Potters, this increases league membership to 10 schools.
"We have always been looking for a league since we left the MAC (Metro Athletic Conference), now the All-American Conference," East Liverpool athletic director Bob Shansky said. "The problem with that league was that the schools were considered too far away and our fans didn't want to travel to some of those places, and then their fans didn't want to travel down here."
Beaver Local athletic director Eric Lowe agreed with Shansky's assessment, saying, "The All-American Conference just wasn't a good fit for us. The Buckeye 8 is a really good fit for us, competition-wise, demographically, school size and resource-wise. We're looking forward to it."
East Liverpool was in the MAC for just two seasons (2006-2008). Beaver Local was in the All-American Conference from 2008-2013.
With East Liverpool and Beaver Local joining the Buckeye 8, plans are under way to split the league into North and South divisions. The two local schools will join Buckeye, Indian Creek and Edison in the North, with the other five comprising the South.
Both athletic directors anticipate their schools will be eligible to compete for league crowns in every sport except for football beginning with the 2014-15 school year. The two athletic directors have been conscientiously working to get their football schedules in place for the 2014 and 2015 seasons, as they juggle the other teams on their schedules into open slots.
"I am very confident that we can make this work," Shansky said. "It's been some work, but then it's work every year trying to get our schedules all lined up since we've been an independent. What I like is that these are teams that we a have history with. That's what makes rivalries and creates interest."
East Liverpool board member Dick Wolf said he is "particularly enthused about this" and appreciates the problems with scheduling outside a league, saying joining Buckeye 8 puts the district "in a good position" to "retain good rivalries."
In football, each school will play four league games and eight league games in most of the other sports.
"This is a good fit for us," Lowe said. "Hopefully, we'll be very competitive. As we get ready to move into our new school, we will have greatly improved facilities."
Lowe pointed out that with Beaver Local and East Liverpool being located where they are, they are geographically challenged as to joining leagues.
"We are almost always going to be either the northernmost schools in a league, or the southernmost schools in a league, with being on a state line. I think our students and our fans are really going to enjoy the league and the competition."
Both schools, as with all the schools in the Buckeye 8, will still retain full membership in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference and participate in the OVAC tournaments/playoffs.