The Suburban One League is growing bigger by getting smaller.
First reported on suburbanonesports.com, the league announced Thursday it is expanding by two schools, with the Bicentennial Athletic League’s Lower Moreland and New Hope-Solebury joining the SOL in the 2020-2021 academic year.
Lower Moreland will start a year later in football, the league granting it an exemption to begin Suburban One play in 2021-22.
The two additions, which bring SOL membership to 24, will be among the smallest schools in the league. In football, Lower Moreland is Class 4A in the current two-year PIAA classification period while New Hope-Solebury in Class 3A. Of the 22 SOL current members, only two are below Class 5A in the sport – Upper Moreland and Springfield-Montco, both of which are 4A.
With the move to a 24 schools, the Suburban One will be realigning conferences along with implementing divisions for several sports, the changes per the suburbanonesports.com story “designed to promote competitive balance, traditional rivalries and travel efficiency.”
Football will feature three, eight-team conferences when Lower Moreland joins in 2021. That alignment will be:
National Conference: Abington, Central Bucks East, Central Bucks South, Central Bucks West, Neshaminy, North Penn, Pennridge, Pennsbury.
Continental Conference: Bensalem, Council Rock North, Council Rock South, Hatboro-Horsham, Quakertown, Souderton, Truman, Upper Dublin.
American Conference: Cheltenham, Lower Moreland, New Hope-Solebury, Plymouth Whitemarsh, Springfield-Montco, Upper Moreland, William Tennent, Wissahickon.
For basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, field hockey and golf, the SOL will have two conferences with two six-team divisions in each that will as followed:
SOL National Conference
Colonial Division: CB East, CB South, CB West, North Penn, Pennridge, Souderton.
Patriot Division: Bensalem, CR North, CR South, Neshaminy, Pennsbury, Truman.
SOL American Conference
Liberty Division: Abington, Hatboro-Horsham, Plymouth Whitemarsh, Quakertown, Upper Dublin, Wissahickon.
Freedom Division: Cheltenham, Lower Moreland, New Hope-Solebury, Springfield-Montco, Upper Moreland, William Tennent.
Bowling, cross country, lacrosse, tennis, water polo, wrestling, volleyball will feature different conference and division alignments.
While Lower Moreland and New Hope-Solebury are on the smaller side in the SOL, they were two of the bigger schools in the Bicentennial. In boys basketball – in which all 17 BAL schools play – Lower Moreland and New Hope-Solebury were second and third in PIAA classification enrollment numbers, with only Holy Ghost Prep larger.
New Hope-Solebury, which brought back its varsity football program in 2009, has claimed the past three BAL titles on the gridiron, winning nine games in each season. Lower Moreland has gone 1-7 the past three years.
The two schools have also both found success in basketball. Last season, Lower Moreland boys won the District 1-4A title and advanced to the PIAA semifinals while New Hope boys won the District 1/11-3A title before reaching the state quarters. Lower Moreland girls hoops qualified for 4A states in 2019 while New Hope made the District 1-3A final.
With Lower Moreland and New Hope leaving, the BAL will have just three schools with football programs – Bristol, Morrisville and Jenkintown. In 2015, the Bicentennial had an eight-team football league but Calvary Christian dropped the sport and both Delco Christian and Valley Forge Military Academy now play 8-man football.
The Suburban One League has had a few fluctuations in membership in the past two decades.
The league had 25 schools before Methacton left to join the Pioneer Athletic Conference in 2008 – the Warriors replacing Lansdale Catholic which left the PAC-10 for the Philadelphia Catholic League.
Springfield-Montco left the SOL for the Bicentennial in 2010 then came back to the league in 2012. Springfield’s football team cancelled its 2016 season after one game and since then has played an independent schedule.
In 2016, Norristown and Upper Merion left the SOL for the Pioneer, putting the PAC at 12 schools and the Suburban One at its current 22 schools.
The Bicentennial, likewise, has shifted size in recent years. The league went to 15 members in 2012 by adding Faith Christian and Church Farm School then grew to 16 in 2014 when Valley Forge Military Academy joined.
The BAL had 18 schools in 2016 with the additions of Calvary Baptist and The Christian Academy. In 2018, Devon Prep left for the PCL while Calvary Baptist went back to the ACCAC. This year Collegium Charter joined to put the BAL at 17 schools.
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