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Maple Grove, Chautauqua Lake will split up in ’16

Maple Grove and Chautauqua Lake are going their separate ways for varsity football in 2016 as the former’s School Board opted to end the merger between the programs for just this season.

The vote to split came as a result of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s executive committee’s decision to deny the program’s appeal to be re-classified as a Class C outfit instead of Class B. Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake’s BED numbers used to determine class size of combined programs adds up to Class C. However, a Section VI committee on combined teams deemed that because the team has been so dominant locally in Class C, winning the past two Section VI titles, that it would compete in Class B.

The schools’ junior varsity program will remain a combined outfit playing Chautauqua Lake’s schedule in Class C because neither has enough players to form its own junior varsity team. It’s because of those numbers, or lack thereof, that the schools combined in the first place three years ago.

While the program considered remaining merged despite losing the appeal, Bemus Point School Board officials said Maple Grove parents supported ending the merger for just this varsity season and returning to Class D as a single program. The main reason, according to Red Dragons football coach Curt Fischer, was concern regarding the unknown future of the program. Parents worried should Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake reach the sectional final in Class B, what’s to prevent the committee from moving the program into Class A down the road?

Those worries seem unwarranted as Section VI combined school committee member Marisa Fallacaro said while the section would consider moving a dominant team up one class during the merger application process, it wouldn’t bump a team up two.

“It’s not something where they would keep getting bumped up to Class AA,” she said. “The committee felt they were showing dominance and that’s one of the factors the committee considers when two teams are combining.”

Maple Grove hopes to field a team of 25-27 players, while Chautauqua Lake hopes to have 30. CL athletic director Josh Liddell was hopeful the merger would remain intact since the reason the program combined, low participation numbers, still exists.