Bellwood-Antis athletics took a major step upwards last month when the school board voted to approve a move from the Inter-County-Athletic Conference to the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference.
While the Blue Devils have dominated ICC competition across a variety of sporting fields, many have felt their participation in the league could also hamper their ability to achieve more in the District 6 playoffs because of the lack of consistently high competition on a weekly basis.
The move to the LHAC addresses these concerns, while admitting B-A into one of the fastest growing and most successful athletic conferences in Central Pennsylvania.
“I am excited for the opportunities available for our student-athletes in the expanded Laurel Highlands Conference,” said high school principal Mr. Richard Schreier, who is also a football coach. “There are larger schools in this conference, which will lead to increased competition, but it also solidifies schedules and access to games. With this move we hope to continue to build programs with robust junior high and junior varsity competitions on a more consistent basis.”
In light of the recent move for all B-A Athletics to the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference (LHAC), the BluePrint sat down with B-A Athletic Director Charlie Burch to discuss in the transition in depth and for the community to understand the process behind the big decision.
Last year alone, the LHAC crowned football champions in 1A, 2A, and 3A as well as two boys basketball champions.
B-A has dominated the ICC picture over the last 15 years, claiming 50 team championships, including 11 in football.
Athletic Director Mr. Charlie Burch said leaving that environment will be tough for many reasons.
“I love the ICC and all of the competitions/friendships that I have made as AD, football coach, and track coach,” he said. “I am hoping to maintain these friendships and hope to play the ICC when we can.”
Mr. Schreier said the benefits of league membership extend even beyond the competitive arenas.
“This move will inspire better work ethic among our student-athletes to achieve positive results,” he said. “I believe in the concept that ‘Iron sharpens Iron,’ so playing larger schools will make our teams and individual athletes better in the long run.”
In light of the switch approved at a board meeting earlier this month, the BluePrint spoke at length with Coach Burch about the move, the competition, and community support for a change to the LHAC.
BLUEPRINT: What was your initial reaction to the board approving the move to the LHAC?
Burch: I was not surprised by their approval to join the LHAC. We had several meetings and discussions about joining the LHAC prior to the board meeting.
BLUEPRINT: What were the factors that led to finalizing the move to the LHAC?
Burch: The league has solid competition and stability at all levels, from junior high, junior varsity and varsity. With a time of schools creating co-ops, the LHAC provides stability in our scheduling.
BLUEPRINT: What are the challenges you expect to see once B-A’s teams begin competing in the conference?
Burch: There will be some growing pains to be made, the competition will be more demanding week to week, but I feel that our coaches and student-athletes are up to the challenge.
BLUEPRINT: What do you think the community needs to know about this move?
Burch: This decision was not taken lightly. Hours and hours of research and discussion went into this. In the end, the board feels that this is the best move for the future of our student athletes.
BLUEPRINT: What has been the reaction from B-A from student athletes and coaches?
Burch: Most are excited about a new era, plus the new challenges and demands that await. Change is always scary, but it can be a great thing.
BLUEPRINT: How would you reflect on B-A’s time in the ICC, across the board in all sports?
Burch: We have always been successful in the ICC in sports like football, basketball, and track and field. It has been very nice to see the recent success of golf and cross country.
BLUEPRINT: What kind of rivalries might we expect from some of the new opponents the Blue Devils sports teams will face?
Burch: We will continue our rivalry with Tyrone, but I can see some new ones being created as we form sections within the conference. We will see schools like BG and Central on a regular basis.
BLUEPRINT: What successes do you anticipate from this move?
Burch: In football, 6-4 seasons or better could legitimately be D6 contenders in the playoffs. In all other sports, we will be battle-tested for the playoffs regardless of standings and records.’
BLUEPRINT: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Burch: I am excited about what the future holds in the newly expanded LHAC. We begin working on sections and schedules very shortly.