High School Sports

The South Seven says it won’t kick Althoff out of the conference

Althoff football plays first game in new stadium

Althoff Catholic High School opened its new Belleville stadium in September with a football game between the Crusaders and Centralia Orphans.
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Althoff Catholic High School opened its new Belleville stadium in September with a football game between the Crusaders and Centralia Orphans.

The Althoff Crusaders and Centralia Orphans will continue to coexist in the South Seven Conference.

Centralia petitioned other member schools to expel Althoff from the league last October, citing what it alleged has been a pattern of unsportsmanlike behavior by Crusaders players and related concerns for its own players’ safety.

But South Seven administrators managed to broker peace between the two rivals at a meeting Tuesday night. Without backing of other member schools, Centralia Superintendent Chuck Lane rescinded the petition.

“There wasn’t a sufficient appetite for change at this time,” Lane said through an email. “It’s really as simple as that.”

Tuesday’s meeting was supposed to have taken place Jan. 16, but was postponed because of the weather in Southern Illinois.

Althoff Principal Dave Harris said he’s glad the issue has been put to rest.

“We’re relieved that this is over and the issues are behind us,” Harris said. “Staying in the South Seven is what’s best for the school and best for the conference. We’re also very appreciative of the support we received from the other schools.”

Tensions between the two schools came to a head during the 2016 football season when an Althoff player levied a late hit on the Centralia field goal kicker. The Crusaders player was penalized, but not ejected. Coach Ken Turner, on his own, removed the player from the game, however.

It was following the Orphan’s 21-14 win at Althoff newly-christened football stadium Sept. 22 — during which another personal foul was flagged — that the Centralia board passed a resolution seeking the Crusaders’ removal from the conference.

The petition didn’t garner much support from other conference schools. In November, the Marion Daily Republican detailed conversation among District 2 school board members who opposed Althoff’s removal from the conference.

“We’re all looking forward to moving on,” said Marion High School Principal Joey Ohnesorge, president of the South Seven Conference.

Granite City High School Principal Daren DePew talks about Granite City's decision to leave the Southwestern Conference after the 2017-18 school year.

No vote on Warriors

A membership application from Granite City High School also was on the meeting’s agenda, but didn’t go to vote.

More formal discussion of Granite City’s interest is expected at a meeting scheduled Feb. 5 in Mount Vernon, though Ohnesorge said he doesn’t expect a vote to take place.

The Granite City District 9 Board of Education voted last spring to leave the Southwestern Conference and seek a new affiliation.

One potential sticking point could be the unbalanced football schedule that results from having an odd number of teams. It would force one team each week to have to schedule a nonconference game.

“Football-wise, scheduling is very challenging with an odd number, but obviously those things can be worked out if we decide to go that route,” Ohnesorge said.

Granite City Athletic Director John Moad says he’s confident the South Seven will take the Warriors in.

“We haven’t officially been voted in, but I think it’s an encouraging sign that they’ve invited us back to that meeting,” Moad said.

With the end of the 2017 season, Collinsville also left the Southwestern Conference in football only. The Kahoks are unlikely candidates to be the eighth team in the South Seven and have not submitted an application.

Todd Eschman: 618-239-2540, @tceschman