Western Michigan D League Expanding, Adding Football

Another northern Michigan high school athletic conference is set to expand.

The Western Michigan D League recently announced that it will expand from eight to 10 schools for the 2018-19 school year, as Marion and Mesick depart from the Highland Conference and Northwest Conference, respectively.

In addition to expanding its membership, the Western Michigan D League will sponsor the growing sport of 8-player football, beginning with the 2017 season. Marion and Mesick will compete as football-only schools this fall and will be joined alongside Bear Lake, Baldwin, Brethren, Big Rapids Crossroads and Manistee Catholic Central. Baldwin announced at the conclusion of the 2016 season that would make the switch from the 11-player game, while Bear Lake is sponsoring a football program for the first time in school history after previously co-oping with Onekama, which is also dropping down to 8-player.

“Manistee CC, Brethren and Big Rapids Crossroads have found success and their kids have enjoyed it,” said Bear Lake athletic director and WMD league secretary Karen Leinaar on the league’s decision to support football. “Baldwin’s numbers were going down and everyone was kind of going down the same road. It all fell together at the same time.”

The 2017 8-player season will be the first for Mesick and Baldwin, while Marion embarks on its third season. The schools are three of 22 in the area that will field a team in the fall, with Atlanta, Suttons Bay and Central Lake also making the switch.

Due to growing interest in the 8-player game and a 20 percent increase in schools sponsoring the sport, the Michigan High School Athletic Association announced Thursday that it will conduct two four-week, 16-team postseason tournaments and crown two state champions in 2017.

Categories: Football