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Changes in store for area athletics in 2013-14

Beginning with tonight’s Gatorade football scrimmage in Corning, it’s time to cheer on the black, silver and teal of the Southwest Valley Timberwolves.

There are no more red and black Corning Red Raiders, nor Villisca Bluejays. The Timberwolves, under former Corning head coach Kent Bass and a staff assembled from both former programs, takes the field for real next Friday at Thornburg in a week zero contest against Tri-County before opening district play at home (Corning) against Stanton the following week.

With whole grade sharing commencing this school year, the merged football program was granted one more year of Eight-Man football before switching back to 11-man football in Class A next year because of enrollment. This year’s squad, filling the second year of Villisca’s district schedule, has 36 players.

When we were covering all of the Corning regional softball games, I wish someone had come up to me and mentioned the Red Raider Retired festivities that took place July 26-28 in conjunction with the annual Lazy Days of Summer observance.

The advertisement in our newspaper about the Lazy Days schedule had “RRR” references, but it wasn’t registering with me what was going on. I was busy that weekend with state softball wrap-up duties, but it would have been fun to have head over for the Red Raider Pride Parade on Saturday.

Several activities were held as the community officially retired the Corning School District Red Raider mascot. Many alumni came back for the observance, and there was a parade with more than 50 entries. There were performances by the alumni band, and a program officially proclaiming the Red Raider mascot “retired.”

My very first high school event to cover for a southwest Iowa newspaper after graduating from college was the Corning Wrestling Tournament in 1980, which of course, later became the John J. Harris Invitational after its dedicated founder.

I was in the old Armory for the Atlantic News-Telegraph, and later made several more trips to Corning after joining the News Advertiser staff. Percy Stielow and Bob Myers were among the iconic coaches I met over the years there. There are stlll many longtime Red Raider coaches I enjoy working with.

And, of course, there was the tragic and untimely death of athletic director Greg Andrews, a good friend, in 2008.

There have been many terrific memories covering the Corning Red Raiders. Now, it’s time to start building new memories at the scene of Southwest Valley Timberwolves events.

Mat Beu, Southwest Valley athletic director, said in most sports a home game or two will be held in Villisca, which is the home base of the district’s middle school sports. Geographically, it would make sense to have those be the games scheduled against western opponents like Stanton or Red Oak.

As for conference play, the new school just takes over Corning’s spot in the Pride of Iowa Conference. Villisca was formerly in the Corner Conference.

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Southwest Valley’s emergence is one of many changes in the southwest Iowa athletic landscape this year.

The Hawkeye 10 now has 11 members with Council Bluffs St. Albert joining Atlantic, Clarinda, Creston, Denison-Schleswig, Glenwood, Harlan, Kuemper Catholic, Lewis Central, Red Oak and Shenandoah this school year.

St. Albert, which was already playing many H-10 schools, has a strong athletic tradition and should be a contender for a top spot in just about every sport.

Jeff Bevins, Creston athletic director, said there will be no north and south divisions anymore in the conference.

“In basketball, the finish is based on how you do against the other 10 teams, the first time you play them,” Bevins said. “We still play some of those teams twice, but you are not required to anymore. So, there will be a 10-game conference schedule.”

Schedules are being rearranged to allow each school to still play twice in softball and baseball. Each school meets once in volleyball and wrestling, and there will still be a wrestling conference tournament.

Bluegrass grows

Perhaps the biggest change in the area is the end of the Rolling Hills Conference. From that league, Orient-Macksburg, along with Iowa Christian Academy, Ankeny Christian Academy and Grandview Park Baptist joined the Bluegrass Conference, which now has 13 schools.

The other six schools from the disbanded Rolling Hills Conference join five from the former Western Valley Conference to form a new league called the Rolling Valley Conference. The RVC is made up of Adair-Casey, Ar-We-Va, Boyer Valley, Charter Oak-Ute, Coon Rapids-Bayard, CAM, Exira/Elk Horn-Kimballton, Glidden-Ralston, Paton-Churdan, West Harrison and Woodbine.

Kim DeJongh, Orient-Macksburg athletic director, said the size of the Rolling Valley Conference and Bluegrass Conference are such that trying to schedule nonconference games against former rivals like Adair-Casey and CAM have been difficult in most sports. Scheduling is still “a work in progress” except for the fall, she said.

In the Bluegrass, divisions are set up for volleyball that limits travel requirements in the vast geographical area of the league that stretches from Orient-Macksburg to Moulton-Udell in southeast Iowa, a 124-mile trip that could take nearly three hours.

Imagine driving from Creston to Iowa City for a high school game, and that’s the time span for these kids on a bus for basketball, baseball and softball contests.

The good thing is, only one league game per year is scheduled between conference foes, so you would make that trip every other year, not annually, in a given sport.

In volleyball, besides the divisional games, two triangulars are scheduled to bring together teams from cross divisions. O-M hosts such an event Oct. 1 involving Twin Cedars and Diagonal.

While O-M ventures into the other division for a “nonconference” volleyball match at Moravia on Aug. 27, the Bulldogs’ first-ever official Bluegrass Conference event will be at home Sept. 5 against Diagonal. Other west division opponents are Ankeny Christian Academy, Iowa Christian Academy, Lamoni, Mormon Trail and Murray.

“It’s mostly made up of smaller schools near our size, so we hope to be competitive,” DeJongh said. “Travel is the downfall. We don’t have Interstate 80 to most of our games like we’ve had in the past.”

The last change in southwest Iowa is the addition of two teams — IKM-Manning and Logan-Magnolia — to the Western Iowa Conference, which is now a 10-team league.

Area conference memberships in 2013-14:

BLUEGRASS — Ankeny Christian Academy, Diagonal, Grandview Park Baptist, Iowa Christian Academy, Lamoni, Melcher-Dallas, Moravia, Mormon Trail (Garden Grove), Moulton-Udell, Murray, Orient-Macksburg, Seymour, Twin Cedars (Bussey).

CORNER — Clarinda Academy, East Mills, Essex, Fremont-Mills (Tabor), Heartland Christian, Nishnabotna, Sidney, South Page (College Springs), Stanton.

HAWKEYE TEN — Atlantic, Clarinda, Creston, Denison-Schleswig, Glenwood, Harlan, Kuemper Catholic (Carroll), Lewis Central, Red Oak, Shenandoah, Council Bluffs St. Albert.

LITTLE HAWKEYE — Dallas Center-Grimes, Grinnell, Knoxville, Newton, Norwalk, Oskaloosa, Pella, Pella Christian.

PRIDE OF IOWA — Bedford, Central Decatur (Leon), East Union (Afton), Interstate 35 (Truro), Lenox, Martensdale-St. Marys, Mount Ayr, Nodaway Valley, Pleasantville, Southeast Warren (Liberty Center), Southwest Valley (Corning-Villisca), Wayne (Corydon).

RACCOON RIVER — ADM (Adel), Ballard, Bondurant-Farrar, Boone, Carlisle, Carroll, Perry, Winterset.

ROLLING VALLEY — Adair-Casey, Ar-We-Va (Westside), Boyer Valley (Dunlap), CAM (Anita), Charter Oak-Ute, Coon Rapids-Bayard, Exira-EHK, Glidden-Ralston, Paton-Churdan, West Harrison (Mondamin), Woodbine.

SOUTH CENTRAL — Albia, Centerville, Chariton, Clarke (Osceola), Davis County (Bloomfield), Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont.

WEST CENTRAL — Des Moines Christian, Earlham, Guthrie Center, Madrid, Ogden, Panorama (Panora), Van Meter, West Central Valley (Stuart), Woodward Academy, Woodward-Granger.

WESTERN IOWA — AHST (Avoca), Audubon, Griswold, IKM-Manning, Logan-Magnolia, Missouri Valley, Riverside (Oakland), Treynor, Tri-Center (Neola), Underwood.

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Contact the writer:

Twitter: @larrypeterson

Email: lpeterson@crestonnews.com

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