The North Bend Eagle


 

EHC - Platte Div
EHC - Elkhorn Div

New-look EHC taking off

by Nathan Arneal
Published 9/5/12

The newly expanded East Husker Conference is now open for business.

As recently as two years ago it looked like the EHC was in trouble, with some schools talking about merging or co-oping and others in talks with neighboring conferences. Instead of watching its membership shrink, the East Husker took a proactive approach and added four new teams from the disbanded Cornhusker Conference: Twin River, Howells-Dodge, Humphry and Clarkson/Leigh.

The current fall season marks the new schools’ first as official members of the league and brings EHC membership up to 14 teams. Clarkson and Leigh remain separate schools and will compete separately in certain activities such as band and speech. The two schools will combine for all sports under the Patriots mascot.

Over the past year, several discussions have taken place to decide how the 14-team conference will operate.

East Husker Conference logo

For volleyball and basketball the conference will be broken into two 7-team divisions based on enrollment. The divisions are named after the Platte and Elkhorn rivers, two prominent geographical features within the East Husker footprint. The larger schools will be in the Platte Division with the smaller schools in the Elkhorn. The divisions will be reviewed and changed as needed every two years.

North Bend Central superintendent Dan Endorf, who serves as president of the conference this year, said the divisions are necessary to ensure competitive balance in a conference that now swings from Class C-1 to D-2.

“The superintendents spent a lot of time working on that with input from the ADs,” Endorf said. “In the end we went with a big school/small school format. We did that partly because some of the schools joining the conference were fearful of taking on the larger schools. At the same time the larger schools wanted to play JV games and freshman games and there aren’t enough schools left in our conference that are capable of doing that.”

For at least the next two years, the Platte Division will consist of Logan View, North Bend, Stanton, Tekamah-Herman, Twin River, West Point-Beemer and Wisner-Pilger.
Competing in the Elkhorn Division will be Clarkson/Leigh, Howells-Dodge, Humphrey, Lyons-Decatur, Oakland-Craig, Pender and Scribner-Snyder.

Each team will be required to play all the teams in its division. Playing conference teams in the other division will be optional.

“Some schools, like North Bend Central, will choose to play some of the Elkhorn Division just because of proximity, tradition and rivalry,” Endorf said.

In basketball, NBC will play every East Husker team except for Humphrey.

The East Husker Conference will recognize two regular season conference champions in volleyball and basketball, one in each division. Only division games will count in the regular season conference standings.

However, when it comes to tournament time, all 14 teams will get thrown in together. The two highest seeds will receive byes, while the rest of the teams will be seeded into the first round. A vote of coaches will determine the seeding.

Tournament hosts will rotate among schools with the required facilities. This school year North Bend will host the EHC wrestling and track meets.

Only West Point-Bemer, Wisner-Pilger and Logan View, each with two sizeable gyms, will be able to host the conference basketball tournament semi-finals and consolation games. The EHC decided to go with a neutral site for its basketball tournament championship game. Central Community College in Columbus will host the basketball finals and third place games.

Softball and wrestling will see little change to their formats, with only one new team joining each sport. Howells-Dodge adds a wrestling team, giving the EHC ten wrestling programs. Softball adds Twin River to bring its total up to six teams, the minimum required for the conference to sponsor a championship.

The EHC also decided to eliminate its wrestling dual tournament.

With the growing number of teams and participants, the East Husker will also expand its all-conference teams. Previously basketball and volleyball recognized first team and second team all-conference squads as well as an honorable mention group. Now, a third-team all-conference team will be added.

“There was a lot of discussion about that,” Endor said. “Is it more prestigious to leave them the way that they were? In the end we felt like it was best for the kids if we proportionately grew the conference awards selection.”

In all, 35 athletes will receive all conference recognition in volleyball, with 30 being honored in basketball.

In cross country, wrestling, golf and track and field, all East Husker teams will compete in one championship tournament or meet.

The EHC will also sponsor several activities: honor band, honor choir, play production, quiz bowl and speech.

The honor band is new to the East Husker, though many conferences, including the old Cornhusker Conference, hold such events.

Students wishing to try out for honor band will submit a recording which will be judged. Up to 64 student musicians will be invited to participate in the EHC honor band.

“We felt like as we were growing it would be an excellent opportunity for students if we added a band component,” Endorf said. “Thus the honor band was created.”
The EHC has had a conference choir in the past where each school sent its entire chorus. The new honor choir will be made up of the top 30 percent of each school’s choir.

Both the honor band and choir will participate in clinics that will end with an evening concert.

“I really believe that’s really healthy for our conference,” Endorf said of the musical additions.

The new and improved East Husker Conference kicked off the year with a conference-wide meeting at North Bend Central last Wednesday with over 200 representatives attending.

After a welcome by Endorf and NBC student council president Marissa Hoops, the attendees split into groups according to activity. Endorf said it was a good chance to meet the people from the new schools and to get on the same page.

“In many aspects, that was the first time some of those groups had ever had an opportunity for conversation about our by-laws, tournaments and so forth,” Endorf said. “It was somewhat unprecedented, to have all those different groups together at one time, but we felt it was necessary with all the changes taking place in the conference.”

So far, things have gone as smoothly as could be expected, Endorf said. The larger conference should escalate competition and increase the prestige of an East Husker crown.

“What excites me,” Endorf said, “with no disrespect to a 10-team conference, but to say I’m a champion of extemporaneous speaking in a 15-team conference, I think that’s pretty incredible. You’ve really done something.”

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