High school sports: No complaints from North Rowan on realignment
Published 12:00 am Friday, December 11, 2020
By Mike London
SPENCER — North Rowan athletic director Mark Woody greeted Thursday’s N.C. High School Athletic Association proposal for new conference realignment in the 2021-22 school year with serious enthusiasm.
The proposal for the Cavaliers is a split, seven-team 1A/2A league that would include current 2A Central Carolina Conference members Salisbury, Thomasville, Lexington, West Davidson and East Davidson and current 1A Yadkin Valley Conference members North Rowan and South Davidson.
Thomasville will be moving down to 1A in 2021-22, so this proposed league would consist of three 1As and four 2As. The 1As and 2As would play each other as standard conference foes during the regular season, but then they’d go their separate ways in the playoffs.
If this proposal holds up, this will be Rowan County’s first experience with a split league.
“I’ve never been a fan of split leagues, but no complaints at all with this set-up on our end,” Woody said. “You’re at the NCHSAA’s mercy a little bit, and you never know what they’re going to send down, but for North Rowan, this is all very good.”
North Rowan has been in a challenging position financially in the YVC, even before COVID, with long trips in terms of mileage to far-away outposts such as North Moore and Chatham Central, plus lots of blowout home football games that have drawn minuscule crowds on the visitors side. Other than parents, not many fans are going to travel 80 miles to Spencer to watch their guys lose 55-0.
“This league might change everything for North Rowan as far as gates, and there will be a lot less travel,” Woody said. “This league would certainly mean a step up as far as the competition (in football and basketball). We’d have to play — but that’s OK. I think this could be an opportunity to rekindle great rivalries with Thomasville and Lexington.”
Even with football schedules for 2021-22 reduced to 10 games, North would have four non-conference games and could try to schedule the 3A Rowan schools to help fill most of those open slots with solid draws.
Another positive is that the last game of the regular season can be a traditional North Rowan vs. Salisbury rivalry game. Woody said he and Salisbury football coach/AD Brian Hinson are already talking about making that happen.
This proposed league would also appear to benefit North in sports such as volleyball and softball, where the Cavaliers would have the opportunity to be competitive with more schools.
The conferences announced Thursday are still in the draft stage. They’re not final. Schools have a month to appeal their assigned conference, but North will be glad to have what it’s looking at right now.
While the proposed league is currently labeled as “Conference 33” by the NCHSAA, it may become the latest version of the Central Carolina Conference, which has been around for 60 years.
Current 3A North Piedmont Conference members East Rowan, Carson and West Rowan are in a proposed eight-team league that also would include current 3A South Piedmont Conference members Central Cabarrus, Northwest Cabarrus and Concord. South Rowan is moving up from 2A, so this conference was an obvious fit for the Raiders. The surprise outlier in this conference is Lake Norman Charter, which has built terrific programs in sports such as golf, soccer and tennis and is starting to make noise in several others.
Eight-team leagues are generally considered ideal for scheduling purposes.
This league — referred to by the NCHSAA as “Conference 48” — would be friendly travel-wise, especially for the southern Rowan schools. It’s 13 miles from Carson to Concord. Rolling through Enochville, South Rowan is 14 miles from Northwest Cabarrus.
South has been on a bus headed to Davidson County for virtually every away game, with some of those trips hauling the Raiders to the outskirts of Winston-Salem. It’s been a 42-mile trek to Oak Grove or Ledford.
Carson has been making frequent trips to Iredell County, so this looks like a win in terms of mileage.
“I think, in general, this conference would a good thing,” Carson football coach Daniel Crosby said. “A couple of weeks ago, it looked like we might be going to 4A — that came at us right out of left field — so we’re very happy with the plan we’re looking at right now. I think it would be a very competitive conference, and I’m just not talking about it from a football standpoint, I’m talking about the overall picture. I think it’s a league that will do well at the gate. I don’t know a lot about Lake Norman Charter, but I know the Rowan and Cabarrus schools will travel well.”
West Rowan head football coach Louis Kraft also likes the proposed league.
“We feel good about the draw we got,” Kraft said. “I don’t want to beating my chest or anything, but you want to be in a conference where you believe you’ve got a chance to win it, and I believe we’d have that chance in football most years. And from a football standpoint, we’d still have the schedule flexibility to play three non-conference games. This is a very good league with a lot of schools that are competitive in a lot of sports.”
The non-conference teams on the schedule probably would be Salisbury, Mooresville and Davie County, but maybe North Rowan could also work into that mix.
The downside for Kraft?
“Statesville,” Kraft said. “We’ve got great football and basketball rivalries with Statesville, and we’d miss that.”
Davie County’s situation also would be improved by a proposed eight-team league.
With the location of Davie’s new high school, Davie has more in common now with its Forsyth neighbors than with its neighbors in Rowan.
The proposed league of Davie, West Forsyth, R.J. Reynolds, Reagan, Mount Tabor, Glenn, East Forsyth, Parkland places the War Eagles in a conference with seven Forsyth schools, most of them familiar rivals.
It’s hard to see any downside here. While this is currently “Conference 56” this will be the new, expanded 4A Central Piedmont Conference.
The new conference proposals also brought good news for A.L. Brown, which is moving up to 4A.
The Wonders’ recent adventures in 4A have meant playing in a Charlotte-dominated league with monster schools such as Mallard Creek, but that’s no longer the case.
Thanks to growth at South Iredell, which is moving from 3A to 4A, and the new West Cabarrus school, which is already moving up to 4A, there are now enough teams for a proposed seven-team “Conference 57” consisting entirely of Iredell and Cabarrus schools.
The proposed league brings together current South Piedmont Conference members A.L. Brown, Cox Mill, Hickory Ridge and West Cabarrus, plus Lake Norman, Mooresville and South Iredell.
Area conference proposals for 2021-22 through 2024-25
“Conference 33” — Split 1A/2A: North Rowan (1A), South Davidson (1A), Thomasville (1A), East Davidson (2A), Lexington (2A), Salisbury (2A), West Davidson (2A)
“Conference 35” — Split 1A/2A: Albemarle (1A), Apprentice Academy (1A), Gray Stone Day (1A), South Stanly (1A), Union Academy (1A), Jay M. Robinson (2A), Mount Pleasant (2A), North Stanly (2A)
“Conference 47″— 3A: Asheboro, Central Davidson, Ledford, Montgomery Central, North Davidson, Oak Grove
“Conference 51” — 3A: East Lincoln, Fred T. Foard, Hickory, North Iredell, North Lincoln, St. Stephens, Statesville, West Iredell
“Conference 56” — 4A: Davie County, East Forsyth, Glenn, Mount Tabor, Parkland, Reagan, RJ Reynolds, West Forsyth
“Conference 57” — 4A: A.L. Brown, Cox Mill, Hickory Ridge and West Cabarrus, plus Lake Norman, Mooresville, South Iredell