The Shelby County League makes a statement, sends two teams to title games

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Anna and Fort Loramie look to deliver two state titles Saturday for the Shelby County League. (Gary Housteau)

There aren’t many small school conferences in the country that can
compete with the Midwest Athletic Conference. The Shelby County League however is one of them. Located right in the MAC’s own backyard, the SCL contains just
seven small rural schools. Two of them are playing for state titles
Saturday
. The MAC? They’ll be watching like you and I.


The mere mention of it made Fort Loramie head coach Carla Siegel and her players – senior Janel Olberding and Tori Maurer – chuckle.

“Yeah, the MAC is a great conference as well,” Siegel said. “And we play six of those teams in the regular season. They are a good conference but this is bragging rights for the Shelby County League – finally.”

There aren’t many small school conferences in the country that can compete with the MAC. The SCL however is one of them. Located in west central Ohio and right in the MAC’s own backyard, the SCL contains just seven small rural schools. Two of them are playing for state titles Saturday. The MAC? They’ll be watching like you and I.

Siegel’s Fort Loramie club plays defending champion Harvest Prep in the Division IV state final at 2 p.m. Three hours later, Anna takes on the Elyria Catholic-Oak Hill winner in the D-III final at 5:15 p.m.

“It’s awesome,” Siegel said. “We have a small league and we have two teams here. I just think it says a lot about the caliber of basketball in that area.”

The caliber of basketball in Shelby, Auglaize, Mercer, Allen and Darke counties is as good as it gets in Ohio. And the MAC has a ton to do with that. But so does the SCL.

MAC teams have won 18 combined boys and girls basketball state titles. The SCL has won seven combined – for now.

And both affiliations can thank the other for the titles they both have  and don’t. Regular season non-conference games often find SCL and MAC schools squaring off in playoff-type atmospheres and contests that make both better. Deep tournament runs also mean along the way you’re going to see one another. It’s a double-edged sword, and one the leagues often use to slay postseason opponents once they get to Columbus. This year is no different – well maybe a little.

Friday, Anna beat MAC member Fort Recovery in Columbus in the state semifinals. Fort Loramie exercised its MAC demon in the regional semifinals with a win over neighboring rival Minster.

“The only thing I was worried about (was eventually facing a MAC team),” Anna head coach Jack Billing said. “Loramie beat Minster in the regional and I thought whoever was going to win that game was going to get to the state championship. We get here and we have to face a MAC team. When we knew we had to play Fort Recovery we knew it was going to be tough and go down to the wire.”

Anna’s football team actually plays in the MAC since five of the SCL’s schools don’t field football teams. The other that does – Fort Loramie – plays football in the Metro Buckeye Conference. Anna’s football program has made nine playoff appearances in the 11 years it’s fielded a team. Fort Loramie’s football program – just six years old – made the D-VI regional finals in 2009 and the postseason again this past fall.

Anna’s volleyball team won a D-III state title in 2006. It’s boys basketball team made the D-III Final Four in 2008.

Fort Loramie’s baseball team is the reigning D-IV state champion and has two titles in the last four years. Its girls cross country team is a perennial power.

The SCL carries serious credentials and Saturday hopes to add two more.

“(Having two teams in state finals is) great for the Shelby County League,” Billing said. “We wish Loramie well. We play them twice during the year and it’s always a very competitive game when we play each other. It would be great for our league to bring home two state titles.”

Said Olberding: “We’re ready. We want it. It’s our grand finale.

“Saturday is it.”

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