By Nick Hansen
Marshall’s Kenzie Beekman goes up for a kill during a state tournament game last season
MARSHALL- The Marshall High School athletics teams will see a few changes to their schedules this year. The Tigers, along with 12 other area schools, will be moving to the newly-formed Big South Conference.
The move is welcome change for MHS. "The Big South Conference is an exciting move for Marshall. The vision of the conference was to bring some stability to scheduling for schools and to provide some new and more competitive experiences for the kids," said MHS Activities Director Bruce Remme.
Most of the opponents will look familiar to the Tigers. All current members of the former Southwest Conference made the move to the Big South. These included: Jackson County Central, Luverne, Pipestone, Redwood Valley, Windom Area, and Worthington.
The other members of the conference are: Blue Earth Area, Fairmont, New Ulm, St. James Area, St. Peter, and Waseca.
Scheduling will be determined by various factors for different sports. Some sports will use east and west divisions to determine regular season opponents. Others will use school size to divide teams. For hockey and soccer, each team will face every other team once due to a smaller number of schools offering those programs.
There will also be a "crossover date" for some sports, where teams will face a school from an opposite division.
There will be some added benefits from the conference move. Some athletes and teams will be able to compete for conference awards. "Soccer can now compete for a conference championship," said Remme.
However, the football program will see some additional changes in the upcoming seasons.
The 2014 football schedule will look only slightly different for the Tigers. "Most of our schedule is familiar. Most years we have two new opponents, this year we have three," said football coach Terry Bahlmann. Those games are against Blue Earth, St.Peter, and Henry Sibley in a non-conference game. "We're excited about the new conference and seeing some new challenges in the Big South," said Bahlmann.
However, the football team, will be transitioning to a district-based schedule starting in the 2015 season, along with the rest of the state. A group of coaches, administrators, and Minnesota State High School League board members developed the plan, which was approved earlier this year. Marshall will be in the South Central District with 27 other teams. The district will be divided into sub-districts.
"The goals of district football were to ensure that everyone in this state gets games against same-sized schools, geography, and traditional rivalries," said Remme.
While the schedule is not finalized, Marshall will face Big South conference teams in addition to other schools which may include Albert Lea, Jordan and Belle Plaine. Schedules for 2015 and 2016 for every school in the state are expected to be finished by Nov. 1 of this year, according to the MSHSL website.
Remme said that the new plan will involve some travel, but that teams have become used to that aspect of the game. "I'm a supporter of district scheduling. I believe it will be good for high school football in the state of Minnesota," he said.