By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
By the end of the spring 2024 athletic season, the once 16-team Portage Trail Conference will diminish to just five member schools for the 2024-25 school year.
Southeast was the latest school to announce its departure, choosing to leave the league to join the Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference’s Grey Division. The division also includes Brookfield, Champion, Crestview, Garfield, LaBrae, Liberty and Newton Falls.
It marks the first time that Southeast will play outside of a county-based league since its formation as a high school in 1950, playing as a former member of the Portage County League and currently the Portage Trail Conference.
The five schools that will remain in the PTC are Lake Center Christian, Mogadore, Rootstown, St. Thomas Aquinas and Warren John F. Kennedy.
A group that the league is prepared to move forward with, while still actively searching for new member schools, according to Rootstown High School athletic director Keith Waesch.
“We have already formed schedules for several sports for next year,” Waesch said. “Obviously, the situation is far from ideal, but it still gives our kids a chance to play for conference titles.
“We keep trying to persuade schools to get back together and form a version of the ‘old PCL,’ but it is still a work in progress,” Waesch added. “There are just too many individuals in leadership roles around the area that don’t consider this a high priority right now.”
Southeast’s exit lifts the number of league departures to 12 since 2020, including the entire eight-team Metro Division to form the Metro Athletic Conference.
Additionally, Crestwood, Garfield and Valley Christian, along with the Pirates, round out the 12 exiting schools.
Crestwood moved to the Chagrin Valley Conference’s Valley Division, Garfield to the aforementioned MVAC Grey Division and Valley Christian to the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference.
The PTC officially began play in August 2005 and boasted two divisions — a larger-enrollment Metro Division and a smaller-enrollment County Division.
Prior to the mass exodus of schools in 2020, other former league members included East Canton (2005-13), Kent Roosevelt (2005-15), Waterloo (2005-17) and Windham (2005-13). All cited various reasons for leaving the league.