New-look Frontier League offers advantages
It's bad news for De Soto's junior varsity athletes. For everyone else -- and heck, he's a teacher, so he even included those JV performers -- De Soto activities director Steve Deghand said the realigned Frontier League is great.
He said the slim-downed league -- it drops from 13 teams to eight this season -- will make for better competition, easier scheduling and shorter travel times, which equates to more time in school, especially for the junior varsity squads whose game's typically start earliest.
"This year, they'll hardly miss any school," Deghand said, to the dismay of freshman and sophomore everywhere. "It feels right. I'm very happy with the new league, and I know the other athletic directors are, as well."
The Frontier League formed in 2004 and initially stretched across a wide swath of northeast Kansas, from Eudora in the northwest to Prairie View, near La Cygne, in the southeast, a distance of nearly 70 miles on the highway.
Prairie View, Central Heights, Osawatomie, Anderson County and Wellsville are all leaving the league this summer, however, eliminating many of the smallest and all of the most distant schools.
"Without the trips to Prairie View, Anderson County and Central Heights, we definitely have helped our fan base," Deghand said. "The furthest trip we have now is Louisburg, and that's not very bad at all."
The remaining Frontier League consists of Eudora, De Soto, Gardner Edgerton, Ottawa, Louisburg, Paola, Spring Hill and Baldwin. The new look pulls the boundaries closer to the Kansas City-metro, and also will confine the league to just two state classification.
Previously Wellsville and Central Heights competed in Class 3A. Eudora, De Soto, Baldwin, Paola, Louisburg, Osawatomie, Prairie View, Anderson County and Spring Hill all competed in Class 4A, while Gardner Edgerton and Ottawa competed in Class 5A.
The change will be immediate for all sports except football, but even there De Soto won't see a tremendous amount of change. The league was initially split into a large and a small division in football. De Soto's continued growth bumped it into the large division before last season, so the Cats only have one game scheduled against a departing team, a Sept. 14 trip to Anderson County.
"We set the districts in football for two years at a time, so this is the last year for the bigger league for football," Deghand said. "For every other sport, we're an eight-team league."
The change by no means makes the path to a league title any easier. The Frontier League was well represented in state competition last season, brining home two Class 4A team state championships, and three second-place trophies.
Though the departing schools fielded plenty of competitive teams, they didn't account for any of the top finishes at state and claimed only two league titles over the last two seasons.
They fought with a decided disadvantage, all five ranking among the league's six smallest schools.
"(Our coaches) know it's still going to be tough," Deghand said. "You will always have to bring your best game. All of the schools will be strong and there won't be any patsies.
"I'm excited about our league and the eight schools we have. I think it's a very solid group."