Several steps required for Ligonier Valley to move from District 6 to WPIAL

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Saturday, October 19, 2019 | 6:40 PM


The Ligonier Valley football team probably played its final game in the PIAA District 6 Heritage Conference on Friday.

The school board voted unanimously (9-0) to allow the administration to petition to move to the WPIAL for the 2020-21 school year. It is a move all the coaches felt was necessary. Before Ligonier Valley can gain acceptance and leave, there are several steps.

Step 1 has been achieved: the school board’s decision.

Step 2 is sending a letter to District 6 requesting a transfer. District 6 president Bill Marshall, the superintendent of Penn Cambria, said he received the letter, and the board will vote at its Nov. 6 meeting whether to allow Ligonier Valley, which is located in the WPIAL territory of Westmoreland Country, to leave.

“We will meet on Nov. 6 and will listen to their reasons why they want to leave,” Marshall said. “You look at the request, and then our 19 committee members will vote on the request. It’s in the hands of our committee.”

District 6 denied Portage’s request to leave for District 5.

If approved there, Ligonier Valley will send a letter of acceptance to the WPIAL so it can vote. WPIAL executive director Tim O’Malley said he is aware Ligonier Valley would like to return after leaving for District 6 in 1969.

If the WPIAL approves the move, the final hurdle is approval from the PIAA at its December board meeting.

“I knew for awhile talking to (Ligonier Valley principal Tim Kantor) that they were considering a move,” said Jody Rainey, Homer-Center principal and Heritage Conference president. “Each school needs to look at what is best for their students first, the school second and the community third. Whatever they decide, I’ll support.

“I feel that Ligonier Valley is getting an unfair shake because of their enrollment. They’ve taken their share of criticism. They’ve built some exceptional programs and have a great bunch of kids.”

Rainey said football coach Roger Beitel is an exceptional coach and has a great stuff.

“They have a program that the kids have bought in, and the kids hold each other accountable,” Rainey said. “And their kids support their community. When they made the state playoffs, you have to capture that in a bottle. Once you have that type of season, then it takes character and commitment to keep it there. They’ll be successful in whatever league they are in.”

The Rams football program gets most of the criticism because its success.

Since 2010 — including the three players on the 2019 squad (Michael Petrof, Christian Jablonski and Wylie Spiker that have NCAA Division I offers) — the Rams will have eight players playing Division I football. The others are Collin Smith (West Virginia), Aaron Tutino (St. Francis), Alex Bloom (Connecticut), Michael Tennant (Lehigh) and Devin Cesario (Robert Morris).

And after Friday’s win against Blairsville have won 37 consecutive conference games.

Ligonier Valley sponsors 17 athletic programs. What the WPIAL offers them the most is a stable schedule.

“We believe that this move will provide consistency in opportunities for all of our athletes,” Ligonier Valley superintendent Christine Oldham said. “Because of the size of some of the schools in the Heritage Conference, some sports required independent schedules. We will now have conference schedules for all of our athletic teams in the WPIAL.”

While many believe the move is all about football, Ligonier Valley is a Class 2A school in football. Oldham stresses it is best for all the athletes.

During the past PIAA cycle, Ligonier Valley played in Class 2A for all sports except boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball. Those were Class 3A.

The football team has played in the past three District 6 championships, winning in 2016 and ‘17, but losing in 2018. During that stretch they have put seven players into Division I football programs.

The boys basketball team has reached the Class 3A district finals the past two seasons, winning in 2017.

The baseball team and softball team have played deep into the district playoffs, and the track and field team has dominated the Heritage Conference for years.

“We believe that this is best for our athletes and it is a reclassification year,” Oldham said. “It is hard to determine travel, but our shortest trip now is about 40 minutes, and our longest is about an hour and a half on a clear day.

“If released by District 6 and accepted by District 7 (the WPIAL) our sections will change by sport, so at the current time, it is hard to determine travel times.”

The biggest change is getting used to the ride west on U.S. Route 30 instead of the mountainous area of Indiana County.

Ligonier Valley could see matchups in all sports against Derry, Mt. Pleasant, Southmoreland, Yough, Greensburg Central Catholic, Burrell, Apollo-Ridge and Valley.

And because the Heritage Conference is made up of seven Class A schools and two other Class 2A squads, Ligonier Valley will be matching up against schools similar in size.

“Although the Heritage Conference has provided our athletes with positive experiences, we believe that this decision will benefit all of our athletes moving forward,” Oldham said. “All change is difficult, but we feel that pursuing a transfer at the current time will provide the best opportunities for all of our athletes.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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