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PREPS: Marshall leaving SWC in football

MARSHALL -- In 2014, the Southwest Conference will likely have six members playing high school football.

On Monday night, the Marshall Public Schools Board of Education voted to accept an invitation for its football program to join the Wright County Conference.

"There are several factors that go into making a decision like this," said Bruce Remme, Marshall's director of activities. "One of the factors was that we will be entering an even-team conference that can guarantee us eight football games each season."

The outcome of that vote was not known before press time to be included in today's edition of the Daily Globe.

The Wright County Conference is currently an 11-member league in football with six schools forming the East Division (Delano, Hutchinson, Holy Family Catholic, Mound-Westonka, Orono and Waconia) and five schools comprising the West Division (Annadale, Dassel-Cokato, Glencoe-Silver Lake, Litchfield and New London-Spicer).

Marshall is expected to be the sixth member of the West Division.

Before the Tigers can officially join WCC, the Marshall school board must send a written letter to league officials, accepting their invitation. In January, WCC representatives are expected to vote on confirming the Tigers at a league meeting.

"For a number of sports, the Southwest Conference is a perfect fit for us," Remme said. "Everybody plays within the same section in volleyball, baseball, softball, hockey, gymnastics, wrestling, etc. One of the main goals of scheduling is to play your section opponents during the regular season."

With the largest enrollment of any league member (699), Marshall isn't classified with the rest of SWC schools in the postseason tournament.

"In football, you only have eight games and two of them are against non-conference teams," Remme said. "Since the Minnesota State High School League has adopted the QRF formula and the seeding method that goes with it, it becomes more important to play teams within your section and your class."

Other football-playing members of the Southwest Conference are Worthington (563 students), Redwood Valley (353), Jackson County Central (310), Luverne (310), Pipestone Area (287) and Windom Area (247).

WHS Athletics/Activities Director Mike Traphagen said having a school as a member of a six-team football league creates a scheduling challenge.

"High school football in Minnesota presents a very difficult challenge in scheduling non-conference games," Traphagen said. "I think there are many conferences and many schools (today) that face that."

In 2012, every Southwest Conference football team played six league contests and two non-conference opponents.

Virginia, located about an hour north of Duluth, traveled to play at Jackson County Central in Week 1 last season. The Huskies defeated the Blue Devils 59-6.

Having 12 football teams in the WCC, Marshall will not have to find any non-conference foes. In addition to playing five league games against the West Division, the Tigers will also have three division crossover contests against East opponents.

Although there isn't an immediate rush to fill the void left by Marshall, Traphagen said the SWC is also not standing pat.

"This conference is looking into some other options that we have," Traphagen said.