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APW to leave Frontier Leauge

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Frontier League teams won’t have to make that long trip to the Oswego County village of Parish anymore after the spring sports season is concluded.

That’s because Altmar-Parish-Williamstown, the southernmost team in the Frontier League, is leaving to return to its roots in the Onondaga High School League for the 2013-14 academic year.

APW, which left the Onondaga League to become the 18th member of the Frontier League in 2006, was readmitted to the Onondaga League at a business meeting on Jan. 3. A Class B school, APW will become members of the Liberty Conference, which is currently composed of 12 Class B teams.

Frontier League executive director Bob Kowalick said the Rebels’ exit was not a total surprise.

“We’ve heard rumors over the years that they were considering moving back,’’ Kowalick said. “I guess in this day of tight budgets and spiralling expenses, it makes sense for them to play teams closer. But I also think our teams kind of got used to playing them, and making that trip down there. We’re sorry to see them go.’’

When APW came to the Frontier League, many people surmised it was because they couldn’t compete with the powerful Onondaga League teams and that the Rebels would have more success against the mostly rural Frontier League schools.

That did not turn out to be the case. APW teams struggled in most of the major sports, with the exception of baseball and girls softball and basketball.

APW competed in the Frontier League “B” Division against South Jefferson, General Brown and Lowville until this season when the Rebels moved down to Class C. APW also crosses over against the league’s biggest schools — Watertown, Carthage and Indian River — as well as Immaculate Heart Central in most sports.

Coaches at the school support the return to the OHSL, said athletic director Bert Conklin. And parents, many of whom work in the Syracuse area, wanted to cut down on travel to see their kids play.

Commutes to such schools as Indian River, Beaver River, Carthage and Lowville were bad enough, even in good weather. During the sometimes dicey winter weather, it often became treacherous.

“Transportation and geographical issues spurred this,’’ said Conklin. “And it will save the district money.’’

APW will be able to compete in modified sports and possibly nonleague varsity events against their closest neighbors such as Mexico, Phoenix, Pulaski and Hannibal.

The Liberty League is comprised of Chittenango, Phoenix, Marcellus, Westhill, Solvay, Cazenovia, Skaneateles, Hannibal, Jordan-Elbridge, Syracuse Institute of Technology, Syracuse Academy of Science, Bishop Grimes and Bishop Ludden.

APW’s loss means the Frontier League has some options going forward.

With Lowville moving back up to Class B status next season, that leaves a four-team “A” Division, a three-team “B” Division, a four-team “C” Division and a six-team “D” Division.

This season, in soccer, basketball and baseball, the “B” and “C” Division playoffs have been scrapped because teams have too many league games, and not enough room for two playoff games under state guidelines.

That will be the case again next year and in the foreseeable future if the current alignment continues.

“The three-team division is not an ideal situation,” Kowalick said. “There’s been some talk of a three-division set-up, but I haven’t heard any concrete proposals on how to divide the teams up. The bottom line is not everybody will be satisfied no matter what we do.’’

One thing that may spur a possible realignment is South Jefferson’s status. The Spartans have been classified as a B team under state enrollment guidelines for years. But with enrollment declining at most schools throughout the state, the figures (called BEDS numbers) that the state uses to classify its teams have kept going down.

The new cutoff for Class B will be 480 students in grades 9-11. South Jefferson, according to Kowalick, is projecting numbers around the 475 mark next year.

“If they ever go up to Class A, that would leave just two Class B teams and it would not work, schedule-wise,” Kowalick said. “We would then be forced into doing something.”

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