Another shakeup in high school football league alignment is set to take place in 2018.
Earlier this month, the 15-member football committee for the Colorado High School Activities Association made its recommendations for new league alignment, and when the committee reconvenes in late January, its members will vote on the changes, which are expected to be approved.
“It should get pushed through no problem,” said Adam Bright, athletic director for Durango High School. “There might be some small changes here and there, but for the most part, I think it goes through with no issues.”
Durango High School’s football team will see significant changes to its league.
The Demons, if the alignment passes, will be placed in the Class 3A Southern 3 League with all Pueblo schools. The league would consist of Durango, Pueblo Centennial, Pueblo Central, Pueblo County, Pueblo East and Pueblo South, meaning the Demons would have to make five-hour bus rides for every away league game.
“We actually kind of like the Pueblo travel. It’s pretty easy and the kids are used to it, so we enjoy that part of it,” DHS head coach David Vogt said. “Now, them putting Pueblo South in a league with us and Pueblo East, I thought they’d be spread out a little bit. That’s the three-time defending state champions in 3A and this year’s state champs in 4A. Having two state champions in the same league is going to be tough.”
Pueblo East won the Class 3A state title in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and Pueblo South won the Class 4A state title in 2017.
Durango shared the South Central League with Pueblo Central, Pueblo County and Pueblo East the last two seasons. Harrison and Sierra high schools were the other two programs in league and were moved to the Southern 2 League with Cañon City, Falcon, Mitchell and Sand Creek.
Durango was originally placed in the Southern 2 League and Cañon City was in Southern 3 until the Cañon City athletic director, Scott Manchester, argued the two programs should flip leagues because Durango would have to drive past all the Pueblo schools to get to its league games in Southern 2.
“We appreciate what the AD at Cañon City did for us,” Bright said. “He’s on the committee and reached out and asked my thoughts. I explained my reasoning, and he didn’t agree with the original lineup. He stood up for us and said they were screwing over Durango pretty bad by doing this, so they switched us and Cañon City.”
Some programs were reportedly upset with the change and didn’t want to be in a league with the Demons.
“There were some coaches in the discussions and I heard some feedback that nobody wanted Durango in their league,” Vogt said. “The Cañon City AD actually stood up for us and said it was ridiculous for us to travel past all these schools to play in a different league. (Manchester) kind of stood up for us and got us in that Pueblo league.”
The Demons have already set their nonleague schedule for the 2018 season. They’ll open with back-to-back road games at Aztec and Palisade, then will host Montrose, Farmington and Bayfield before the league schedule starts.
“Our first call was to Bayfield to keep that rivalry going,” Bright said. “Everyone wants to, and La Plata County needs to keep that game going.”
Bayfield High School won’t see as many changes to its league as the Demons.
The Wolverines, this year’s Class 2A state champions, will play in the Class 2A Southwest League with Alamosa, Gunnison, Montezuma-Cortez, Pagosa Springs and Salida.
The only change to the new league compared to the Intermountain League the Wolverines played in the last couple of seasons is Salida coming in and Delta moving out.
“Well, I think it’s great. It eliminates travel around Red Mountain Pass to get to Delta,” Bayfield head coach Gary Heide said. “Salida is actually a shorter trip for us.
“It might be a tough haul for Salida, but it was a tougher haul for Delta for every league game. Every road game is quite some distance, but maybe not as bad for Salida now getting to have Gunnison and Alamosa in the league.”
The switch of Delta for Salida trades a traditional power in the Panthers for the up-and-coming Spartans, who made the 2A playoffs in 2017 with a 7-3 overall record.
“Salida is a very competitive team. They have great facilities over there and are a well-coached team,” Heide said. “I believe they will be a great challenge and competitive for us. It’s good for the league.”
Like Bayfield, the Ignacio High School football team won’t see much change to its league.
The new 1A Southern Peaks League will consist of Centauri, Center, Dolores, Ignacio and Monte Vista.
The only change will be John Mall moving from the Southern Peaks League to the Sante Fe League, with Center taking its spot in the SPL.
Along with voting on new league alignment, the football committee will vote on changes to scheduling and the locations for the Class 3A and Class 2A state title games.
The scheduling changes would match the National Federation of State High School Associations calendar. These changes would allow teams to begin practices one week sooner and give all classes, except 5A, a bye week during the regular season.
Changes to the 3A and 2A state title games would shift from one of the teams hosting the title game to playing the championship on a neutral location, which has yet to be determined.
The football committee will vote on the proposed changes Jan. 24-25 in Aurora.
Sports editor John Livingston contributed to this report. firstname.lastname@example.org