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Changes beyond the Series

The 2021 Little League Baseball World Series, best described by my radio broadcast colleague Ken Sawyer as “a Series like no other,” is now history. Baseball was played, a champion was crowned, and many memories were made by the 16 competing teams and the enthusiastic — but smaller — crowds that followed them. But, as

The 2021 Little League Baseball World Series, best described by my radio broadcast colleague Ken Sawyer as “a Series like no other,” is now history. Baseball was played, a champion was crowned, and many memories were made by the 16 competing teams and the enthusiastic — but smaller — crowds that followed them. But, as usual, there were plenty of interesting stories told and lots of people to talk to.

One morning as I was making my way to the stadium parking lot, a disheveled gentleman emerged from a nearby wooded area. His clothes were grungy, and a long white beard nearly reached his knees. He groggily began asking questions. “What is that stadium next to Lamade? Did George Bush win the election? What cupcake opponent is Penn State opening the season against?”

I looked at him in disbelief. Where has this guy been I thought. Upon further investigation, I realized I was confronting a modern-day Rip Van Winkle. If you are not familiar with the name, Rip Van Winkle was a fictional charter in an 1819 novel written by Washington Irving. The story told the tale of a man, who after imbibing too much liquor fell asleep in the woods and didn’t wake until 20 years later.

I told the dazed visitor it was now 2021. No foreign teams were playing in the Little League World Series, Joe Biden won the most recent election, and the state of college football was undergoing conference changes unheard of when he fell asleep from his stupor.

Penn State opens their season this Saturday traveling to Wisconsin, but the ongoing collegiate gridiron news continues to center on the latest impending turmoil stirred up by the decision of Oklahoma and Texas to bolt the Big Twelve for the lucrative riches of the Southeastern Conference. Speculation swirls that the result could end up being four 16-team super conferences comprising the nation’s top 64 teams, with the rest scrambling for TV revenue survival and the foundation blocks of the once-powerful NCAA crumbling beneath them.

The high school football season heads into its second weekend and similar to what’s happening at the collegiate ranks, changes keep occurring within the ranks of the PIAA membership. The most recent involves a decision reached by Bucktail High School to seek a more level playing field.

Located in Renovo, Bucktail is part of the Keystone Central School District but has chosen to field its own teams in several varsity sports, including football. The school, with an enrollment of approximately 120 students in grades 9-12 is among the smallest schools in the state playing high school football. A few months ago, Bucktail notified schools on their 2021 schedule they would no longer be playing them and opted for a District Nine schedule comprised of smaller schools.

Bucktail principal/athletic director Michael Hall kindly shared his school’s rationale with Webb Weekly.

“We were looking at a league with a schedule built to help small schools keep football programs alive. Past meetings with the Northern Tier League (NTL) revealed it was difficult to align a schedule that was in the best interests of both Bucktail and the NTL. We wanted to play some neighboring county schools and develop a true rivalry that had not emerged in the NTL.

“For us, the new league provides several benefits. We now will be playing schools with a more similar PIAA classification to our own. We will have student-athlete exposure to District 9 media days. Being part of a rebuilt league schedule will allow us to have some voice in playing dates and access to District 9 officials and neighboring counties that we haven’t had in the past.

“It was certainly a difficult decision to change in the middle of a two-year scheduling cycle, but we felt the benefits of the new schedule to our student-athletes and families were needed immediately as opposed to waiting for the scheduling commitment to finish. We did have conversations with the NTL prior to leaving and in each one got a positive, amicable response to exiting the league.”

Bucktail’s new 2021 football schedule will have the Bucks playing Elk County Catholic, Cameron County (2 games), Union-AC Valley, Smethport, Keystone, Coudersport, Redbank Valley, Otto-Eldred, and Brockway.

Locally, Bucktail’s move caused some scheduling scrambling for Muncy and South Williamsport who needed to find a tenth opponent.

“I’m sure it was a difficult decision for Bucktail to leave the NTL in football,” reasoned Muncy athletic Director Curt Chilson. “I understand they only have 52 boys in the school and are the smallest school in Pennsylvania that offers football, so I don’t envy their position. I think the move was best for their student-athletes.”

To fill their scheduling void Muncy was able to get a game with a quality opponent, Homer Center. The Indians will visit Homer Center, a class A team that got beat in the state playoffs last year by Bishop Guilfoyle.

New South Williamsport Athletic Director Scott Hill faced a more difficult chore in finding a tenth game for the Mountaineers. After a several-month search, the Mounties will board buses for a four-hour trek to meet Greenville in western Pennsylvania on October 15.

A frequent Bucktail opponent, Montgomery’s football schedule was not affected this year.

“I understand Bucktail’s decision, but we were not affected,” explained Montgomery AD Mike Snyder. “We did not have them on our schedule last year originally, but when COVID hit we ended up playing them. They came off our schedule so we could play some local rivalries, mainly Muncy and Hughesville.”

If you should stumble upon Rip, please keep him informed.

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