KVL welcomes Ward, bids farewell to De Soto
Breaking up is hard to do, but that is just what De Soto High School decided to do by leaving the Kaw Valley League.
De Soto, which has had a long history with the league, decided to join the Frontier League for the upcoming school year. The school's new league is comprised of 13 teams mostly Douglas County and eastern Johnson County, including Baldwin, Eudora and Paola.
The move also splits De Soto with its intradistrict rival Mill Valley. Mill Valley athletic director Matt Bohm said the move was a "surprise."
"I really don't know if anyone else was trying or what size of schools there are in the Frontier League, but the De Soto School District has had ties with the Kaw Valley League for a very, very long time and there are a lot of ties to the schools in the league," he said.
De Soto athletic director Roy Hawley said despite those ties the difference in growth between De Soto and other schools in the Kaw Valley League played a big part in the move.
"We were the second smallest school in the KVL and sometimes we were going against schools twice our size," he said. "Mill Valley is a 5A, Bonner Springs is a 5A, Lansing might be a 5A this year and Basehor-Linwood is growing a lot right now; we didn't see ourselves growing as fast as the rest of the schools.
"Perry-Lecompton is the only school that is smaller than us and they were looking to get out of the league. Suddenly we were looking at being the smallest school in the league."
Holley said even though the Wildcats and Jaguars will not play each other in league competitions for now, the rivalry between the two schools should improve and won't be negatively impacted because of the move.
"They've had a really good athletic program the past few years and we've had a hard time competing with them in some sports," Holley said. "In things like football, track, baseball and other sports we just didn't have the numbers to match up with them."
Bohm said the move sparked a mixed reaction from his coaches but that some bad blood between the schools could be cured by this split.
"Some (of the coaches) really want to keep the healthy rivalry going, but some think that it's going to be a good thing to get away from De Soto a little bit at this time," he said.
"I know that since the split there have been some hard feelings, and I think that it will be good to let those hard feelings go away. It may be a better situation if we don't have to play each other as often."
While the program as a whole will not be terribly affected by the split, one De Soto team that will have to make an adjustment is the boys soccer team that placed runner-up in the 4A state tournament last year. Only five teams in the Frontier League have boys soccer teams, so Hawley said adjustments will have to take place.
"They'll have a full schedule, but only five of the 13 schools in the league have boys soccer so they'll play each of them twice," he said. "But since all the teams in the Kaw Valley League had teams, there wasn't a lot of room in our schedule for teams outside the league. This way we'll be able to play teams we wouldn't normally have been able to in the past."
Another school affected by the De Soto move is Bishop Ward.
The 5A school located in Kansas City, Kan., was brought in as the newest Kaw Valley League school for this season and Ward's football coach John Muehlberger said that the move will help respark some old rivalries for the school.
"Bonner Springs is a big rivalry for us and I know that Piper is a huge rivalry on the baseball field and between the kids but it's been a while since we've played them in football," he said.
"We were looking at the history books and this season will be the first time in 67 years we've played Immaculata .... It's kind of neat to play some of the teams we played when we were first starting off as a program."
Bishop Ward's athletic department wasn't the only one excited by their arrival in the KVL.
Bonner Springs football coach Lew Kasselman said adding Ward to replace De Soto was a great move by the league.
"Ward comes in with a good football program, tough kids and a tradition of success in several sports," Kasselman said. "They will definitely be a good asset for us to have and I expect them to bring a lot of good things to the table."
While the move will take a little time to adjust to, Hawley said he thinks the athletes at De Soto will gain because of the split.
"We'll see new teams and go different places," he said. "It's a little more travel, and I think that's the big difference a lot of kids will notice at first.
"It's going to be fun and exciting."