LOUDONVILLE – The Knox Morrow Athletic Conference has found a replacement for Highland – at least in one sport.
KMAC Commissioner Barry Wolf announced Monday night that Loudonville will join the conference for football in 2022. Highland is scheduled to leave the KMAC for the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference following the 2021 football season. All of the school's other athletic programs will switch conferences following the 2020-21 school year.
Wolf told Knox Pages that Loudonville will only join the KMAC for football. The conference will have seven schools competing in other sports, he said.
Wolf said adding an eighth school in the conference's non-football sports is "not in the plans right now."
"We felt this was our best option at this time," he said in an email.
The KMAC's executive committee considered several schools to replace Highland on the gridiron, Wolf said in a press release. The Redbirds were chosen for a variety of factors.
"We looked at items such as school size, non-varsity sports, travel, long-term growth and continuity with the league," Wolf said.
Loudonville will be the fourth-biggest football school in the KMAC, according to the most recent enrollment figures provided by the OHSAA (dated Feb. 2019). The Redbirds had 131 boys grades 9-11 in 2018, when numbers were last tallied, which fell behind Centerburg (140); Northmor (138) and Fredericktown (134).
The Redbirds had a larger male population than Mount Gilead (125), East Knox (116), Cardington (115) and Danville (75).
Highland, which announced March 19 it would be leaving the KMAC, is far-and-away the biggest school in the conference. It had 435 students grades 9-11 in 2018, far outpacing second-place Fredericktown with 298. The school district is only expected to grow, given location-based economic factors.
Adding Loudonville also makes sense from a location standpoint, as a portion of the Loudonville-Perrysville district extends into northern Knox County. The high school is located 16 miles from Danville; 22 miles from East Knox; 24 miles from Fredericktown; 34 miles from Northmor; 37 miles from Centerburg; 42 miles from Mount Gilead; and 46 miles from Cardington.
The move will mean shorter drives for Loudonville's football program, which currently competes in the Principals Athletic Conference. Five of the PAC's member schools are in Stark and Summit Counties. Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy is almost 75 miles from Loudonville.
The Division VI Redbirds have struggled against the PAC’s Division IV and Division V foes. In its three years of participation in the conference, Loudonville is a combined 4-17.
Loudonville competes in the Mid-Buckeye Conference in all other sports besides football.
Ashland Source sports reporter Curt Conrad contributed to this story.