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Hop's Heresy: Break up the NHC!

March 11, 2011

NORWELL AND BELLMONT — Bellmont senior Kyle Lehrman goes up for a shot over a Norwell foe this season. Bellmont and Norwell are the two smallest schools in the Northeast Hoosier Conference, and could be in jeopardy of being sliced from the loop. (Photo by Jim Hopkins)

    A few weeks back, the IHSAA came out with their realignment package for the next two years, and there were some disturbing numbers.
    Tops on the list is 801, the number of students that attend Bellmont High School. That number continues to drop, with no end in sight.
    To boot, it's a "soft" 801, with a good chunk of the students who just aren't going to participate in sports, or any extra-cirricular activities.    Another alarming figure is 2,219, the number of students attending Homestead. In manny sports, most of the NHC schools can't compete with Homestead. Carroll has 1,925, and that number is only going up. DeKalb is at 1,275 and East Noble has just 10 fewer. Columbia City has 1,149. New Haven has 1,129, and could get a boost of 300 next year with the closing of Harding.
    Those for the status quo will argue that three years ago Bellmont won state in football and went 14-1, losing only to Homestead.
    It happened, and it could happen again. But it's not likely. Bellmont went through that season and two guys got hangnails. That's it. Plus, they had the two best players in 3A that year in Billy Baker and Nick Hall. Trent Busse, Caleb Meyer, Joel Bone, Carlin Hormann Josh Sefton and Grant Melcher were no slouches, and one of the all-time BHS greats, Daniel Meyer, was a sophomore runningback.
    Even a good Bellmont football team will be fortunate to go 6-3, and the beatings the players will take at the hands of schools three times their size will most likely prevent the Braves from making any kind of state run. Look at Eastbrook. The last two years the Panthers, with basically a 2A sissy slate, came into Bellmont fresh and had their way against injury-riddled Bellmont squads.
    The Bellmont basketball team went 0-7 in the league this year. Even a strong Bellmont cage team will be fortunate to go 14-6 with the schedule now in place.
    Bellmont will continue to do well in wrestling and volleyball, the two most decorated sports for the school. The baseball team competes well, as does the softball team. Drew Norby's swim teams did well this year in the NHC. Most of the rest of the sports teams get clobbered, especially in the individual competitions.
    The handwriting is all over the wall. Either the NHC undergoes some drastic changes — such as eliminating Carroll and Homestead — or Bellmont should get out. And Bellmont officials should remember the last time there was a conference change, 1989, and that year the old NEAIC tossed out the two smallest schools, South Adams and Bluffton. I'm sure there are Homestead and Carroll coaches wouldn't be sorry to see Bellmont leave the NHC. There would be two more sports available for the big boys to win. And they like winning ... everything.
    Of course, you just don't jump ship without another tug in the harbor. There are options, both to the North, with schools such as Leo, Woodlan and Heritage, and to the South, with Eastbrook and Jay County.
    I like the South option. Jay County is a soft 1,094 and also has a large group not participating because of the size of that county. Eastbrook is a strong 655, and the numbers will not go down. Blackford is at 617. Mississinewa has 708 students, Oak Hill 523, and Madison-Grant 501.
    Yorktown at 755 and Delta, at 863 are also possibilities. Neighbor Norwell has 855 students, the second-smallest NHC school.
    This is the best group of administrators Bellmont has had in many years. Hopefully, A.D. Dale Manis and Principal Scot Croner have their visionary glasses on. It's time to look down the road, to see what's best for Bellmont's hard-working athletes.
    It's time to plan a move.

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