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Lehighton HS moving to CL

As reported by the Times News newspaper in last Tuesday’s edition, the Lehighton Area School District’s Board of Education voted unanimously last Monday night to become a full-time member of the Colonial League.

The move from its nine-year membership in the Schuylkill League will take place in the fall of 2024.

Lehighton Athletic Director Kyle Spotts lauded the decision as a huge positive for Indian athletics.

“We have field hockey, tennis, and competitive cheerleading that had to play independent schedules because the Schuylkill League had no schools with those sports,” Spotts said. “For field hockey, the Colonial League offers us 12 opponents with this sport. We will no longer be forced to travel to Bloomsburg and Berks County to play games, and we will have the chance to qualify for the Colonial League postseason tournaments.”

Lehighton has moved from the Mountain Valley Conference to the Schuylkill League, and will now compete in the 13 school Colonial League.

“We’ve had a good relationship with the Schuylkill League through the years, but this move we think will better benefit our students and our community,” said Spotts.

Football coach Tom McCarroll - whose team plays in the hybrid Schuylkill-Colonial League - does not see much change in the scheduled opponents his Tribe will play in the future.

“We play our fair share of CL team’s now,” McCarroll said, “but with this move, we might lose Tamaqua, Blue Mountain, and Pottsville from our schedule. Geographically speaking, we are kind of an outlier school, so travel distance for our team might not make much difference than what we do now in the Schuylkill League.”

McCarroll pointed out that the amount of power points that can lead to postseason participation will depend on the student population sizes of the schools that are scheduled, which is how it works now.

“It’s premature to determine how this will play out,” he said. “I would hope that some the rivalries we’ve had with Schuylkill League teams will stay with us.”

Boys basketball coach Trevor Miller called the decision to change leagues “a great move” for Lehighton athletics.

“Our field hockey team now can play in a league that has a rich history in that sport,” Miller said. “Regarding our basketball program, I think there’s a distinct difference in the style of play between both leagues. The Schuylkill League is known for more of their physical defenses. Some team’s scores don’t get out of the 30s. It’s been hard for us to match the size and physicality of Pottsville and Blue Mountain, for example.

“Colonial League teams tend to spread out more and have more of a flow in their offensive style of play. That might suit us better due to the type of players we tend to get in our program.”

Miller believes there could be a significant effect upon travel distances that would benefit his team.

“It depends upon how the Colonial League will align their divisions,” he said. “If we are in the same division with Palmerton, Northern Lehigh, and Northwestern, they are all pretty close and we’d play them home and away every year. With certain schools who we might be scheduled from the other division, we’d play them just once every year.

“With distant schools like Palisades and Southern Lehigh, we’d only have to go their once every two years because on alternate years, we’d play them at home.”

Girls basketball coach Joe Berezwick is absolutely in favor of the move to the CL.

“I think we’ve always felt like an outsider in the Schuylkill League, and it’s been hard to get our teams motivated to play teams like Pottsville and Pine Grove,” Berezwick said. “That’s never a problem when we play Palmerton or Northern Lehigh. Our players tend to know some of the girls on these teams from recreation leagues and AAU. There’s much more spirit when we play them.”

Another issue Berezwick mentioned was that his players never get considered for the Schuylkill League All-Star Game.

“We‘re told we’re not from Schuylkill County,” he said.

Boys soccer coach and junior varsity girls basketball coach Dave Yob says the move to the new league will be better for the entire athletic program, but he foresees his job will be more difficult based on the quality of his soccer opponents.

“From top to bottom, the CL is a better league,” he said. “You have Moravian Academy, Northwestern, and Southern Lehigh. In girls’ basketball, due to the cyclical nature of small school sports, our program will have a chance to play for league titles.”

Lehighton had tried to become a member of the Colonial League in 1997, but was denied admission. This time, it received a formal invitation to join the CL and accepted.