PDT Sports Writer
The short tenure of Portsmouth High School as a member of the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League will soon come to an end as the Trojans were accepted Thursday to join the Ohio Valley Conference by a unanimous vote from OVC officials.
“We’re thrilled. It means a lot for our kids, it means a lot for our school and it’s going to mean a lot for the communities involved,” Portsmouth Principal Doug Poage said. “Our kids are going to be able to enter a league where their furthest trip is 51 miles away.”
PHS was the subject of the OVC’s plan to stay at a six-school membership after River Valley High School announced plans to leave after this school year for the Tri-Valley Conference. Originally scheduled as a presentation meeting, Poage — along with Superintendent Scott Dutey and Athletic Director Joe Albrecht — were surprised to hear of the swift decision on his way back to Portsmouth.
“Obviously that dominated the topic of discussion from there on out,” Poage said.
Coal Grove Athletic Director and OVC Secretary-Treasurer Bryan Mulkey said the decision to vote immediately was logical.
“Once we told them that we (were) done talking to them, I think all the schools felt that we might as well get this part out of the way,” Mulkey said.
The Trojans will have to maintain a contract with the SEOAL through the 2014-2015 school year. One of the most difficult switches in the transition will be in football scheduling as contracts are agreed upon years in advance.
“From the looks of our schedules, we’ve already started discussions amongst ourselves, trying to see what’s realistic as far as next year goes,” Dutey said. “A lot of it depends too on what happens (with) the SEOAL.”
Portsmouth rejoined the SEOAL in the 2006-2007 season after a period of independence. Coupled with the arrival of Ironton, the SEOAL grew to 10 member schools and created a North and South Division. Since then, the Fighting Tigers, Zanesville, Athens, Marietta and Chillicothe have all left either for different conferences or independence.
With this change in conference affiliation, the longest distance one-way for a Trojan athletic team to travel to an OVC school is to Fairland, which is listed as 51 miles according to Google Maps. Presently, a trip to Jackson is listed as 36 miles while a 52-mile trip to Gallia Academy are the closest drives for Portsmouth within the SEOAL.
Attendance figures also played a role in PHS’s decision to move to a different conference. The Trojans are teetering between Division V and Division VI in football, Division II in cross country, golf, swimming, tennis, track and field and Division III participation in baseball, basketball, softball and volleyball. In comparison, the four remaining members — Gallia Academy, Jackson, Logan and Warren — have enrollment figures that place them a division or more higher over Portsmouth in almost every sport.
Dutey said reaction towards the move has been that of excitement.
“They’re thrilled to be honest, just not to put our athletes to where we’re constantly competing against schools that are two and three times bigger than us,” Dutey said. “It’s what we’ve been facing and a lot of folks don’t realize that.”
An original member of the SEOAL in the 1920s, the Trojans have won three league titles — one each in boys basketball, boys tennis and girls tennis — since their re-entry.
PHS was not affiliated in a junior high league with the SEOAL, but will do so when the move to the OVC is complete.
“It will mean something, our junior high has never been in a league as long as I can remember,” Albrecht said. “They’ve never been in a league where they can claim a league title. That’s a great thing for kids. More than anything, I think Scott Dutey, our superintendent, and Doug Poage, our principal, were major factors in this occurring.”
Tennis is the only sport Portsmouth offers that is not in the OVC. Albrecht approached Trojans tennis coach Amy Keating about the move and she expressed her satisfaction with the switch despite not being able to compete for a conference championship. The SEOAL added Athens for tennis this season.
“It made for another long drive and they usually play on school nights,” Albrecht said. “So they go to Logan, they go to Warren and they go to Athens. They’re getting back at late hours and it was difficult.”
All three PHS officials expressed their gratitude to SEOAL officials and had nothing but compliments during their time. With this latest departure, SEOAL officials will now look for their newest replacement.
Mulkey said conference expansion could continue with talks involving Ironton starting as soon as next week. Talk of adding Gallia Academy or a school from Kentucky have also been in discussion but did not sound as optimistic.
Logan Daily News Sports Editor Craig Dunn contributed to the report.
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.