Commentary

CCL could benefit from more football rivalries

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One aspect that makes the annual matchup between the DeSales and Watterson high school football teams a must-see event is the history between the programs.

Some families have been attending one of those two schools for generations, and their kids often grow up playing with or against each other, building emotional ties that help create a memorable atmosphere.

Wouldn't it be something if every game felt like that?

The more common something is the less likely it is to feel special, but there certainly wouldn't be anything wrong if the passion that is on display once a year between the Stallions and Eagles could occur more often.

For fans of central Ohio's five CCL schools, maybe the winds are starting to shift in the right direction to make that happen.

On Sept. 28, Hartley played Watterson for the first time since 1996, and there were about 4,000 in attendance at Hartley for what amounted to a midseason non-league contest.

Next season, the Hawks will play St. Charles in addition to another meeting with Watterson and their annual matchup against Ready.

Of course there are reasons -- namely enrollment differences and mismatches -- that the CCL was split into Gold and Silver divisions about two decades ago.

St. Charles traditionally has been the largest of the schools, and its enrollment of 501 heading into the 2011-12 school year topped CCL-Silver rivals Watterson (294 boys) and DeSales (289). St. Charles is in Division I, Region 3, with DeSales and Watterson both in Division III, Region 10.

Hartley and Ready were at 215 and 174, respectively, placing both in Division IV, Region 14.

Those enrollment figures would seem to leave Ready at a significant disadvantage and St. Charles with a huge benefit in terms of numbers, but that hasn't always played out on the field.

Ready hasn't played Watterson since 1989 and is just 1-24 in the series, with its only win coming in 1983 when it beat the Eagles 35-3 and went on to win the Division IV state title. DeSales holds leads of 19-5 over Ready and 16-7 over Hartley.

On the same night Hartley beat Watterson 28-14 to improve to 4-29 in the all-time series, St. Charles lost for the 36th consecutive season to DeSales -- this time by a score of 28-16 -- and fell to 3-38 in that all-time matchup.

St. Charles lost to Ready in 2001, the last time those teams met.

Although St. Charles doesn't have boundaries from where it can draw students as the other CCL schools do, its academic standards, according to coach Jeff Pharion, hold it back in terms of which students attend the school.

Hartley is smaller than DeSales or Watterson, but the athletes it has been able to attract from areas like the east side of Columbus, Bexley and Reynoldsburg is another factor that has evened the playing field between it and the larger schools.

Another thing to consider for each of the five schools is playing one another has built-in positives in terms of travel.

Hartley still has trips scheduled to play Ironton (Oct. 12) and Coshocton (Oct. 19) and already has gone to Akron Hoban and Proctorville Fairland. Ready goes to Lima Central Catholic on Saturday, Oct. 6, and last year made a trip to Coal Grove Dawson-Bryant.

Watterson travels to Ironton on Friday, Oct. 5, DeSales is playing Saturday, Oct. 6, at Cincinnati Aiken and St. Charles made a trip Sept. 14 to Toledo Rogers.

While some might argue that long trips prepare a team for the postseason, wouldn't it be more memorable for everyone involved if Ready was playing St. Charles this weekend instead of traveling to Wheeling, W.Va., to play Linsly?

If the five teams played in the same league, as they do in other sports, there inevitably would be blowouts. Every program goes through ups and downs, and Ready and Hartley have particularly strong teams this season.

The occasional mismatches would be offset by the enticement of more matchups that always seem to be worth it in terms of atmosphere and emotion.

Jarrod Ulrey is a ThisWeek sportswriter. Follow his blog, "On the Recruiting Trail," for the latest in central Ohio high school recruiting news.

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