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DiGIOVANNI: Ches-Mont may be nearing a much-needed split, but options are limited

It is no secret that Ches-Mont League athletic directors and principals have been trying to come up with an equitable way to realign the league for football to achieve a competitive balance.

There is no easy solution.

The four Class 6A schools — Downingtown East, Downingtown West, Coatesville and Avon Grove — really would rather not play the 5A schools. Aside from the lopsided routs, the teams miss out on precious playoff points because of the way the formula penalizes teams for playing “smaller” schools.

And on the flip side, the 5A schools do not want to face the larger 6A schools, especially as the gap in talent continues to get larger, leading to blowout losses for most of the 5A schools. At last week’s meeting, sources tell me there was nearly a coup, as West Chester East and West Chester Henderson voted to move to the Ches-Mont American Division, leaving just Downingtown East, Downingtown West, Coatesville, Avon Grove and Class 4A Bishop Shanahan alone in a five-team Natonal Division.

The proposal passed, but at the last minute it was tabled, pending a meeting in early October. It has long been the fear of the 6A schools that this would happen, leaving them in the lurch with no real league, and having to find five nonleague games a year. That task is next to impossible, outside of pairing up with teams from other smaller leagues, like the Del Val, which would defeat the purpose of the switch. Nearly every other Class 6A school in the state would be in the middle of league play and unable to schedule nonleague dates with the Ches-Mont quartet.

And in terms of potential moves to other leagues, it’s unlikely any other league would be willing to take in the 6A powers, for fear of being drowned out in their own league by perennial powers.

This is the exact reason the Ches-Mont League split up back in the late 1980s, anyway. At that time, Pottstown, Phoenixville and Boyertown wanted no parts of Coatesville and Downingtown, so don’t expect the Pioneer Athletic Conference to come to the rescue now, or a merger with the Central or Del Val leagues.

The four 6A schools would basically become orphans with nowhere to go, which has been their fear for a while now.

The wild card in all this is little Bishop Shanahan (Class 4A), which seemingly wants to stay in the National Division with the big boys. Head football coach Paul Meyers has long said that he likes the challenge of playing the big schools.

Another wrinkle with Shanahan is also the constant whisper about a move to the Philadelphia Catholic League.

There is another meeting in early October, so we will see where the state of the Ches-Mont League lies.

I understand both sides of the situation. Since the West Chester district split into three high schools, it is very hard for West Chester East and West Chester Henderson to compete in the Ches-Mont National Division. And the crossover games have been largely a joke, with the 6A schools dominating the American side.

The number and ease with which the 6A schools are dominating the smaller 5A schools is becoming almost laughable. Coatesville led West Chester Henderson, 48-0, in the first quarter Friday night and was forced to pull starters well before halftime.

Games like that are not good for anybody.

And it’s easy to see why the 6A schools complain about losing points in their playoff pursuit by having to play the 5A schools.

If Coatesville runs the table, as expected, the Red Raiders will likely finish behind a 10-0 North Penn squad in District 1 because wins over the two 5A West Chester schools, West Chester Rustin and Class 4A Bishop Shanahan.

I do not know where this league is headed, but something has gotta give. So stay tuned.

Peter DiGiovanni covers high school football for the Daily Local News and Pa. Prep Live. You can reach him at Follow him on Twitter @PeteDLN.



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