Youngstown, OHIO (WKBN) – With the 2019 high school football season set to kick off in just a few weeks, the inaugural season of the NE8 is preparing to begin. Although the league has already experienced competition in its fall, winter and spring athletics, this fall will be it’s first on the gridiron.
The league, consisting of Girard, Hubbard, Jefferson, Lakeview, Niles, Poland, and Struthers broke away from the All-American Conference in the spring of 2017, along with South Range, and selected Rob Conklin to serve as it’s first commissioner. Conklin served most recently as an Athletic Director at Austintown Fitch for nine years in addition to coaching football, track, cross country, and gymnastics in the area at Struthers and Lakeside.
The seven members of the former All-American White Division, feeling that their needs were not being met in the league as a group, decided to part ways with the league. While South Range was in search of a new league with the disbandment of the former Inter-Tri County League.
“I have to be completely honest with you because they did compete last year in the AAC for the final time, with the exception of South Range, I was able to witness the level of competition, sportsmanship, and the crowds. Last year was a bit of a dress rehearsal,” Conklin said in anticipation of this football season. “I expect this year to be even better because they are focused in on a new conference and the first potential championship in league history.”
“It’s not much different,” Lakeview head coach Tom Pavlansky said of the new league. “I mean the All-American Conference presented challenges week in and week out and the Northeast 8 is going to do the same.”
“All the schools here I think they all have really good traditions, a lot of success, a lot of competition and a lot of close games,” Pavlansky remarked. “And I think that is what this new league is going to continue to carry on.”
“I know Soth Range and Coach Yeagley have a great program and they will be a tremendous participant in the conference,” Pavlansky added about the Raiders joining the former AAC schools. “We know those kids are talented, they have a great tradition and they have had a lot of success for many years. They bring a lot to the table.”
“We know it’s going to be a tremendous league. Similar to the AAC, the Northeast 8 is going to be very competitive and you better bring your lunch pale to work every single day to get better and know that on Friday night it’s going to be a battle. If you’re not prepared to play, you’re probably going to have trouble,” Pavlansky added.
Both Conklin and the NE8 have enjoyed a fantastic first year of athletic
competition with several schools claiming league titles and many other schools
pulling off some surprises in how competitive and successful they have been. The Poland softball team reached the state
semi-finals, while Girard, although not officially as a NE8 football member,
was a state-runner up in Division IV.
“We had a really, really, really great year,” Conklin exclaimed. “I was very happy with how our coaches treated each other and that reflects on the sportsmanship of the athletes as well.”
“We had a great first year, obviously without football, but I have the general sense through each of the three sports seasons that our schools, our coaches, and our athletes were getting along very, very well with one another,” Conklin remarked. “Consequently, we had great competition and a limited number of shall we say issues that might have interrupted the game or infringed upon the contest.”
“Poland had some success in a number of their programs. Those programs were strong, to begin with, I might add,” Conklin commented about league competitiveness. “At the same time, we did have a number of surprises, maybe from the standpoint of a casual observer, I thought we had a number of surprises with our championships.”
The official start of the football season will begin on Thursday August 29th when Jefferson, Niles and Poland all start their non-conference portion of the schedule. League play will kickoff on Friday September 20th with Hubbard at Struthers, Lakeview at Girard, Niles at Jefferson, and South Range at Poland.