New conference provides more foes for 8-man teams

M&O, Northern Lakes, Packerland combine forces

Chris Caporale,

As part of a major conference realignment in Northeastern Wisconsin, the Gresham/Bowler and Menominee Indian football teams will each have two new foes this fall.

The Marinette & Oconto, Northern Lakes and Packerland conferences have been combined and then divided into MONLPC-Large, Small and eight-man conferences for football only.

“I think it’s a real good idea, and I think it will work out really well,” Menominee Indian head coach Chris Clache said.

Gresham/Bowler and Menominee Indian, which were previously in the Great-8 North Conference, will face many of the same eight-man teams as last year, including Sevastopol, NEW Lutheran, Gibraltar, Lena/STAA and Oneida Nation. The new additions to the group are Gillett and Wausaukee, which are converting to the eight-man game this fall.

Gillett made the playoffs in 2014 and 2015 before a winless season last year. With football numbers dropping in both schools, a switch was necessary to keep the programs afloat.

“It’s really nice because they are smaller schools, and it just gives them the opportunity to keep their football programs alive,” Gresham/Bowler head coach Eric Peebles said.

Previously, Menominee Indian had to play Sevastopol twice just to fill up its schedule before a crossover game with the Great-8 South, which required even more traveling.

Gresham/Bowler played an extra nonconference game to avoid facing a conference opponent twice, but the new conference will allow the team to play a more normal schedule, similar to teams in 11-man conferences.

Clache said the realignment will allow for movement among the conferences. If the Eagles’ roster stabilizes in the 35 to 40 range, for example, the team could move into the MONLPC-Small with little disruption to other teams.

“I think with us having some smaller success the past few years and getting close to .500, and I know we have another decent shot at a good season this year, I think we’re on the verge at some point of coming back to 11-man,” Clache said.

The change will go into effect with the 2017 season, which opens Aug. 17 when Menominee Indian hosts Lena/STAA.

“I think it’s a really good move,” Clache said. “Aside from the long name, I mean. I think they could have come up with something a little better than that.”

The MONLPC-Large consists of Algoma, Coleman, Kewaunee, Oconto, Peshtigo, Southern Door and Sturgeon Bay.

The MONLPC-Small consists of Crandon, Crivitz, Elcho/White Lake, Florence, Northern Elite (Niagara, Goodman, Pembine), Suring, Three Lakes/Phelps and Wabeno/Laona.