“When we get to the 4A playoffs, we are going up against Longmont and Broomfield, which are schools almost three times our size. Right now, we are a small fish in a giant pond. (With the move), we can be the same size fish and be competitive.”
— Matt Ray, the Moffat County High School girls varsity basketball coach, on MCHS athletics dropping from Class 4A to Class 3A starting for the 2012-2013 school year
When Jeff Simon was a student at Moffat County High School in 1992, the Craig school enrolled over 900 students.
Now, as the MCHS athletic director, Simon will see the Bulldog sports drop from Class 4A to Class 3A as part of the Colorado High School Activities Association starting at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year.
The change comes with new enrollment numbers being released and seeing MCHS come in at 600.5 students.
CHSAA establishes enrollment classification ranges for two-year cycles.
Every sport, sans football, needed the enrollment number to be less than 601 students to make the move, according to the CHSAA handbook.
Football, however, needed fewer than 600 students to drop to a 2A classification and will stay at 3A for the 2012-2014 cycle.
“Being able to play schools our size, there is no telling if we will win or lose, but the competition will be better,” Simon said Wednesday. “We have played 3A and 2A schools in past years who have been really good, but in Class 4A, we have been competing against schools that are twice our size.”
Simon said the MCHS enrollment number has been on the decline since 1993 and the school has dropped 103 students since 2007.
In the 4A Western Slope League, the Bulldogs played Palisade High School, which had an enrollment of about 1,000 students for the 2010-2012 cycle, according to CHSAA.
Starting next year, Simon said MCHS will join the 3A WSL, which this school year includes Aspen, Basalt, Cedaredge, Coal Ridge, Grand Valley, Gunnison, Hotchkiss, Olathe, Rifle and Roaring Fork.
Not only does the higher enrollment give schools more athletes to choose from, Simon said, but the schools have bigger budgets for the athletic programs.
“It has been tough with budget cuts in every program, whether it is academic or athletic,” he said. “At our school, we survive off corporate sponsorship, and whether it has been the effects of the economy or some losing seasons, some sponsors have backed out.”
In the new league, traveling distances will be further.
The closest 3A WSL opponent is Rifle, which will be on the edge of possibly moving back to 4A when their new number comes out.
The Bulldogs furthest league opponent in the 4A WSL was Delta, which is just more than three hours away.
Olathe, Cedaredge and Hotchkiss each are more than three hours traveling time while Gunnison is pushing five hours.
Simon said there has been talk of the 3A WSL creating a north and south division to help cut down on traveling.
Still, Simon said, he will look into trying to continue to play Steamboat Springs even if the two schools aren’t in the same class.
“We want to play Steamboat any chance we can get,” he said. “We always have great games against them that are very close and they are one of our closest opponents.”
Matt Ray, the MCHS girls varsity basketball coach, said he is in favor of continuing a rivalry with Steamboat because the two schools have competed against each other for many years.
However, Ray said, he is glad to see the move in classification, with effects being seen come playoffs.
“When we get to the 4A playoffs, we are going up against Longmont and Broomfield, which are schools almost three times our size,” he said. “Right now, we are a small fish in a giant pond. (With the move), we can be the same size fish and be competitive.”
Still, when it comes to the postseason, it will always be tough, Ray said.
“Rifle dropped a class a few years ago and they did well during the regular season, but come playoffs, it was still a struggle,” he said. “We know the league is still going to be tough, this just allows us to be closer in school size and have a similar student body to choose from.”
Simon said he would try to petition CHSAA to allow MCHS to play 2A football when presented with the steady decline in recent years and the fact that the average daily attendance is about 585 students.
While the football team will return about 16 juniors next year as seniors, head coach Kip Hafey said schools such as Palisade and non-conference opponent Kennedy have more to work with.
“Schools that are twice our size can have anywhere around 25 seniors returning to a team,” he said. “We just missed the cut, so we just have to do everything we can in the offseason to compete with the bigger schools.”
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