By JAMIE BAKER
The Northern 10 Conference will become the “Northern 8,” at least in football, for the foreseeable future.
Ridgedale’s board of education decided Wednesday it would not play an N10 football schedule in 2017.
The story was first reported earlier this week in the Marion Star.
Ridgedale will still play football, but will attempt to play an independent schedule beginning next year. Its departure in football will leave eight football schools in the N10. The Rockets will remain in the Northern 10 for all other sports.
According to N10 bylaws, Ridgedale had to tell the rest of the league by Feb. 1 whether it would play football in the N10 in 2017.
The school, located in Marion County on the southern edge of the conference’s geographic footprint, would have been required to pay a $2,500 fee for each conference road game it couldn’t play. With five away games in the N10 scheduled for 2017, Ridgedale potentially could have been on the hook for as much as $12,500 if it were to cancel those games.
Ridgedale’s football team has struggled since the beginning of the N10 in the fall of 2014.
The Rockets have lost 26 straight games entering 2017 and have won just one conference game since 2014, a 22-20 victory over Crestline, which left the N10 on Sept. 19, 2014.
Ridgedale also finished the 2016 season with just 18 healthy players, nine of them seniors. The school expects just three players to move up from the junior high team putting the school in a serious bind numbers wise, according to the Marion Star.
The school has approximately 100 boys in grades 9-12 and is currently without a head football coach.
On Friday at the N10’s meeting of athletic directors, the league agreed to a plan for its football teams moving forward.
Beginning in 2018, the N10 will have eight schools playing varsity football. The league will reconstruct its schedule so member schools will play nonconference opponents the first three weeks of the season with league play taking place in Weeks 4-10.
Upper Sandusky has already replaced Ridgemont on next year’s schedule with a game against Division V state semifinalist Edison on Sept. 15.
Ridgedale’s decision does put two area schools, Carey and Mohawk, in a bind as neither has a game lined up, as of now, to replace the Rockets.
Carey’s 2017 opening is in Week 8 while Mohawk was scheduled to play Ridgedale in Week 9.
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By JAMIE BAKER