2017-03-19 / Sports

Massive expansion: NCTL adds 10 teams

810-452-2655 • avandaele@mihomepaper.com

Dryden’s Sam Peyerk looks to get away from a Kingston defender during a football game on Sep. 1 this past season. 
Photo by Phil Foley Dryden’s Sam Peyerk looks to get away from a Kingston defender during a football game on Sep. 1 this past season. Photo by Phil Foley AREAWIDE – A wide array of new and old faces will be joining the North Central Thumb League (NCTL) starting with the 2017-18 sports season. Due to a lack of 8-man football teams in the area, the NCTL went through a massive 10-team expansion over the offseason to prepare for the upcoming football season. The expansion doesn’t just affect football, however, as six of those 10 teams will be staying in the NCTL for all sports.

New additions include Burton Madison Academy, International Academy of Flint, Lawrence, Morrice, Bay City All Saints and New Haven Merritt. Other additions to the league include bringing back Carsonville-Port Sanilac as well as Caseville after both schools left for the Mid-Michigan 8-Man League, and Akron- Fairgrove and Owendale-Gagetown will also be rejoining the league.

When both Caseville and Carsonville- Port Sanilac left the NCTL, the remaining schools found it hard to schedule enough football games throughout the regular season. The NCTL sprang into action and began to add teams with smaller school enrollments to ensure the competition would remain as fierce as always in the league. During the search, the NCTL brought back CPS and Caseville, and continued to add teams until it sat at a massive total of 16 teams. For football, this dramatically changed from the six-team total from last season.

“I don’t want us to seem like a bully and leave anyone out,” said NCTL Executive Secretary Jeff Kosal to the Huron Daily Tribune’s Paul Adams in a November 22, 2016 article. “We wanted to give them the opportunity to be in our league,” said Kosal of teams like Burton Madison, New Havin Merritt, Lawrence and Morrice.

The massive 10-team expansion is set just for the football season, as many of the schools are too far to compete throughout all seasons. One example of the reach of the new-look NCTL is the addition of Lawrence, which is a school on the western side of the state, about a half hour drive west from Kalamazoo. Lawrence, along with Morrice, New Haven Merritt and Burton Madison will be joining the NCTL to compete only during the football season.

Teams joining the NCTL for all sports include International Academy of Flint, Bay City All Saints, Akron-Fairgrove, and Owendale-Gagetown.

With the rapid expansion, the NCTL has split itself into two divisions based upon enrollment – a Stars and a Stripes division. For football, the Stars division includes Burton Madison, Deckerville, Dryden, International Academy of Flint, Kingston, Lawrence, Mayville and Morrice. The Stripes division will include Akron-Fairgrove, Bay City All Saints, Carsonville-Port Sanilac, Caseville, New Haven Merritt, North Huron, Owendale-Gagetown and Peck.

The new league will see football teams play a schedule of seven league games with two crossovers. All teams will have the option to schedule a non-conference opponent in place of the crossover games, though.

For all other sports, the divisions will still remain active, though they will be slightly shifted. The Stars division will lose Burton Madison, Lawrence and Morrice, but will take North Huron from the Stripes division. In addition to the loss of North Huron, the Stripes division will also lose New Haven Merritt, but will remain the same otherwise.

The schedules for those sports will include home and home games with division opponents as well as one crossover game per season. League championships will be determined solely on the division games.

“Starting the 2017- 18 season, we’re going big time,” said Kosal. “I’m very happy with the direction that we’re going. This gets us back to the roots of the NCTL.”

With the new additions, the NCTL has solidified its future while also ensuring its teams won’t have trouble scheduling games, especially in football, for quite some time.

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