Eastern Nebraska could be looking at an upheaval in high school conferences not seen since the 1990s.
Ralston is leaving the River Cities Conference for a new Class B league that could draw from the RCC, Eastern Midlands and Capitol Conferences.
Platteview and Nebraska City are believed, based on press reports and school board documents, to be ready to join Ralston. Wahoo, Beatrice, Ashland-Greenwood and Plattsmouth are known to have been approached as possible members.
Ralston is the largest of the seven while Wahoo and Ashland are the only ones not currently in Class B across the board (though Wahoo will be in B in boys basketball next winter). But both Saunders County schools are expecting soon to get inside the top 60 in enrollment that is the current Class B cutoff.
If those seven schools come together for the 2020-21 season, they will leave their former leagues scrambling. The Eastern Midlands would have six schools, the Capitol five and the River Cities five in boys sports and six in girls.
Left in the Eastern Midlands would be Blair, Waverly, Norris, Bennington, Elkhorn and Elkhorn North (it opens in August 2020). In the River Cities would be Omaha Skutt, Omaha Roncalli, Omaha Gross, South Sioux City, Elkhorn Mount Michael (boys), Omaha Duchesne (girls) and Omaha Mercy (girls). In the Capitol would be Fort Calhoun, Arlington, Syracuse, Douglas County West and Raymond Central.
The River Cities maybe can’t count on having South Sioux City. A South Sioux official told me if the Cardinals are competing in Class A, they need to be in a Class A league. Currently, there are two options — the Metro (19 schools with Gretna coming from the Eastern Midlands for the coming school year) and the Heartland (11).
Where to find replacements? And how could it impact the imprint of the Greater Nebraska Conference, which is clinging to six schools — all but North Platte are in Class B in football — after Kearney and Norfolk left for the Heartland this past season?
South Sioux City could join the GNAC, but that would take the league from the Panhandle to the Missouri River. Columbus, which in 2016 was turned down (as was Ralston) for the Eastern Midlands, could try again and leave the GNAC for the Heartland or EMC.
The River Cities could look toward Boys Town, Omaha Concordia and Douglas County West, the latter two close to the top of Class C-1. Sources say Concordia may get the first call. Or could/should the RCC merge with the Eastern Midlands?
Elkhorn and Elkhorn North, given their rapid growth, will be in Class A sometime in the mid-2020s.
The Capitol could consider Auburn and Falls City, the latter begging the Nebraska School Activities Association to find it a conference home it has lacked for nearly 40 years.
On a related note, North Platte representatives last month unsuccessfully lobbied the NSAA board to be reassigned as a Class B school for travel reasons. With Columbus and Lincoln Pius X looking anchored in Class A with the enlargement of the state’s largest class starting this fall, it should help North Platte in reducing trips to Omaha for football and basketball.
The jockeying may not be over for a while, not until all the new schools come on line — Elkhorn North in 2020, two new Omaha Public Schools in 2022, possibly two new Lincoln Public Schools if the district passes an expected 2020 bond issue and maybe a second high school for Gretna. It’s safe to say conference alignments 10 years down the road will look vastly different.
Shrine 60 update
When I compiled the Shrine Bowl 60 for 60 last week, a mistake from the all-star game’s silver anniversary team was perpetuated. And as in 1983, the same rectification will be made.
Ken Geddes of Boys Town (1966, travel reasons) and Jerry Murtaugh of Omaha North (1967, broken toe) didn’t play in the Shrine game — Murtaugh was still listed in this year’s program — but were initially voted onto the 25-year team. Their worthy replacements then and now are Tom Heiser of Columbus (1972), who scored all three touchdowns in the North’s 20-6 win and went on to start at NU; and the late Joe Blahak of Columbus Scotus (1969), a defensive back starter at NU who logged five seasons in the NFL.
Some other college stars and NFL players also didn’t make it into a Shrine Bowl. Among them: Larry Station of Omaha Central (Iowa Hawkeyes), Chad Mustard of Columbus Scotus (Cleveland, Denver), Rod Kush of Omaha Burke (Buffalo Bills), Zach Miller of Wahoo Neumann (Jacksonville, Chicago), Jim McFarland of North Platte (St. Louis Cardinals), Junior Bryant of Omaha Creighton Prep (Notre Dame, San Francisco) and Niles Paul of Omaha North (Washington Redskins).
Woolridge’s son in D-I
Andre Woolridge will be a father of a Division I basketball player. His son, Rick Barros III, signed with hometown Sacramento State as a 6-foot-5 small forward.
“I trained him as a 1 or 2,” said Woolridge, an All-Nebraska guard at Omaha Benson and an All-American at Iowa. “So it was kind of rocky. He didn’t get a lot of offers so we sent him to prep school for a year in Oklahoma. He wanted to play (college) at home and that’s the great thing.
“Sacramento State doesn’t recruit close to home so playing at home is good because I can keep my eye on him.”
Sam Wibbels of Hastings, an All-Nebraska pitcher headed to Kentucky and drafted in the 36th round by the Washington Nationals, struck out 120 this season — but it’s not the state high school record.
Logan Ehlers of Nebraska City remains the King of the Ks. He struck out 186 in 78 innings as a senior in 2010 to finish with 525 in four years. Class A’s single-season leader is Gregg Olson of Omaha Northwest, 130 strikeouts in 64 innings in 1985.
With the All-Nebraska soccer teams, the book closes on our high school honor teams for this season.
Look for our choices for the state’s boys and girls athletes of the year to appear June 30 with the boys and girls coaches of the year July 7. The All-Sports Awards results by class will begin July 3.
I’d better get in a mention, too, that colleague Mike Patterson swept our season series of state tournament picks. Otherwise, he’ll keep rubbing it in that he has a hole in one and the golf writer doesn’t.