The high school sports scene on Highway 2 between Ansley and Litchfield will have a different look in the years to come.
This past Tuesday, the Nebraska High Schools Sports Activities Association (NHSAA) approved the cooperation of boys’ activities at Ansley and Litchfield High School, starting with boys basketball this winter sports season and all junior high sports.
Ansley and Litchfield will co-op in football starting next fall. However, Ansley will continue their long-standing co-op with Arcadia in wrestling.
Ansley and Litchfield High School are combining boys activities because both schools are experiencing decreasing enrollment, especially in boys sports and will join the likes of Arnold, Callaway, Sandhills, Thedford, Sargent and Loup County high schools that have already completed the cooperation process or in the middle of the transition.
First-year Activities Director Garrod Fernau believes the co-op is going to be beneficial for both communities and the co-op will appropriately serve the students.
“The driving force behind the co-op on our end is because of our numbers,” Fernau said. “We only have 12 kids out for football. In the years to come we might not have enough kids to field a team and if we did, we would be at eight or nine, which isn’t ideal.”
The situation at Litchfield is similar to Ansley and the time was right for Litchfield to co-op.
“The obvious factor is the numbers. Right now we have enough kids to field a football team, but a couple years down the road we would be running into trouble,” said Jeff Smith, first-year activities director. “We have five boys in eighth and seventh grade and only one in sixth grade. Something had to be done for our students.”
Carl Kucera, the School Board President for Litchfield Public Schools is looking forward to the co-op and believes they needed to act immediately.
“The opportunity was there for both communities,” Kucera said. “Both our numbers have been down for a while and we needed to do something in order to continue to field a competitive team and both communities will appreciate that. It’s worked for other schools; I don’t see why it can’t work for us.”
Even though it’s only been official since Tuesday, it’s been known the co-op was likely; Kucera and Farrnau have heard positive remarks from their respective communities and are confident the co-op will be embraced.
“When there’s change in anything it’s going to ruffle some feathers, but for the most part Litchfield has been receptive” Kucera said. “The community is excited to work with Ansley and field competitive teams.”
“Our kids will be excited,” said Fernau. “The kids all know each other and are looking forward to working with their new teammates.”
Both communities are currently exploring a full cooperation in boys and girls sports and will decide at a later date if that’s feasible.
Ansley will play under the Litchfield name this year in basketball, but will look at alternating the name.
“After basketball season we will decide the name of the boys’ teams,” said Kucera. “We will pick a new name or combine the two towns together. As for a co-op in girls sports, we are still researching and will make a decision at a later date.”