Lebanon County high school football coaches interviewed are largely onboard with the LancasterLebanon League vote Wednesday to add 13 schools from the Berks County Interscholastic Athletic Association to the L-L. One, however, wanted to reserve judgment until he saw what the new sections look like.
The vote by the board of control was 19-5, meeting the necessary two-thirds threshold; one board member abstained. With the expansion, the league – which keeps its name – will now have 37 teams, making it among the largest in the state.
The upcoming merger of the Tri-Valley and Mid Penn conferences will also produce a 37-school league in District 3.
“We’ve created a super league,” L-L Board of Control President Bill Giovino told the media following the vote, done via video-conferencing.
The 13 teams – Governor Mifflin, Exeter, Conrad Weiser, Reading, Twin Valley, Daniel Boone and Muhlenberg from Berks Section One, and Wyomissing Area, Berks Catholic, Fleetwood, Hamburg, Schuylkill Valley and Kutztown from Berks Section Two – are joining as associate members. They will begin play in the L-L League in the 2022 season; junior varsity and middle school programs are included also.
No decisions were made on realignment, but there’s a proposal for five sections that each have seven or eight teams.
Northern Lebanon’s head coach, Roy Wall, said he was in favor of the expansion three years ago when the vote fell just short of approval. Wall noted that the move will reestablish old rivalries, such as Northern Lebanon and Hamburg.
He also liked that teams will be playing other schools of similar size more regularly. Northern Lebanon is classified as 3A by the PIAA, as are Hamburg, Wyomissing and Schuylkill Valley.
“All in all, it’s a real positive thing,” Wall said. “I’m really excited.”
“It’s going to benefit high school football in the long run.” Matt Gingrich, head coach of Annville-Cleona, which is also classified as 3A, agreed. “This is a great thing for small schools,” he said.
The section his team plays in “will be almost all 3A schools,” leading to increased parity and better competitive balance, Gingrich said. More traveling will probably be required, he said, but Annville-Cleona already had Octorara, in Chester County, on the schedule, so the team is used to that.
Some of the trips – to Hamburg, for example – will be pretty easy, Gingrich said. With the 37-school Lancaster-Lebanon League and the 37-school merged Tri-Valley-Mid Penn league, “we’re going to see a lot of champions from this area,” he said.
Cedar Crest head coach Rob Wildasin said he’s happy for the smaller schools. But as a 6A program, Cedar Crest won’t see much change, he said. Reading is the only 6A school being added to the league.
“I’m at the bottom of Section One” in the L-L, as Cedar Crest is the smallest District 3 school in 6A, Wildasin said. It’ll be interesting to see what the reactions are, he said, when the new section format is revealed.
Tentative Lancaster-Lebanon Football League Realignment
(Based on Enrollment)
Reading (6A; 2,148 enrollment)
McCaskey (6A; 1,146 enrollment)
Hempfield (6A; 857 enrollment)
Wilson (6A; 766 enrollment)
Manheim Township (6A; 739 enrollment)
Penn Manor (6A; 654 enrollment)
Cedar Crest (6A; 588 enrollment)
Governor Mifflin (5A; 582 enrollment)
Lebanon (5A; 571 enrollment)
Exeter (5A; 564 enrollment)
Warwick (5A; 531 enrollment)
Muhlenberg (5A; 530 enrollment)
Conestoga Valley (5A; 528 enrollment)
Elizabethtown (5A; 521 enrollment)
Ephrata (5A; 499 enrollment)
Solanco (5A; 454 enrollment)
Daniel Boone (5A; 441 enrollment)
Twin Valley (5A; 424 enrollment)
Fleetwood (5A; 418 enrollment)
Manheim Central (5A; 402 enrollment)
Garden Spot (4A; 392 enrollment)
Cocalico (4A; 385 enrollment)
Lampeter-Strasburg (4A; 365 enrollment)
Donegal (4A; 352 enrollment)
Conrad Weiser (4A; 325 enrollment)
Octorara (4A; 315 enrollment)
Elco (4A; 292 enrollment)
Wyomissing (3A; 238 enrollment)
Kutztown (3A; 285 enrollment)
Northern Lebanon (3A; 272 enrollment)
Hamburg (3A; 264 enrollment)
Schuylkill Valley (3A; 243 enrollment)
Berks Catholic (3A; 231 enrollment)
Annville-Cleona (3A; 221 enrollment)
Lancaster Catholic (3A; 212 enrollment)
Pequea Valley (3A; 205 enrollment)
Columbia (2A; 161 enrollment)