Hatchets to face familiar GNC opponents next year following football conference realignments
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
TOMAHAWK – The Tomahawk High School football team will face familiar Great Northern Conference (GNC) opponents next fall following the realignment of the state’s football conferences.
On Tuesday, March 7, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) Board of Control approved most of the Conference Realignment Task Force recommendations for football and advanced five Constitutional amendments to the WIAA Annual Meeting, slated for Wednesday, April 26 in Stevens Point.
The portions of the plan approved by the board will be implemented in the fall of 2024.
In a release, WIAA said that after receiving and reviewing 10 appeals – representing 18 schools – on the football-only conference realignment plan recommended by the Conference Realignment Task Force, the Board approved the plan for all eight-player conferences and all but eight 11-player conferences, which were remanded back to the Task Force for further evaluation and consideration.
The conferences – and schools associated with those remanded – that will be re-evaluated by the Task Force include the Capitol, Dunn-St. Croix, Eastern Suburban, Heart O’ North, Lakeland, Southwest, Southwest Athletic League and Trailways, according to WIAA.
The Task Force will review the remanded conference plan at its Tuesday, April 11 meeting with a final proposal for those conferences impacted to be presented to the Board for final consideration at its Tuesday, April 25 meeting.
As part of the realignment, Tomahawk and Wausau East will move to the Great Northern Conference (GNC), joining Antigo, Lakeland, Medford, Merrill, Mosinee and Rhinelander.
Tomahawk competed in the Northwoods Conference last year, along with Clintonville, Coleman, Crandon, Crivitz, Menominee Indian, Northland Pines and Oconto Falls.
School District of Tomahawk Athletic, Recreation and Pool Director Scott Parsons said the district feels the move to the GNC is “good for many reasons.”
“Geographically, it is much more favorable than the Northwoods Conference setup, where two or three trips per year could be two and a half hours away,” he stated. “In that configuration, we were an outlier as the farthest western school in the grouping.”
Parsons noted that playing in the GNC “makes each conference game more meaningful, as most of these are schools we compete against in every other sport.”
“This isn’t a slight on any of the Northwoods schools, as we’ve enjoyed our relationships with them, but a Friday game against someone in the GNC would have a little more excitement, as they are more traditional opponents,” he said.
Parsons added that he anticipates the Hatchets’ home games will have higher attendance due to fans from GNC schools having shorter distances to travel than those of Tomahawk’s opponents in the Northwoods Conference.
“We feel the trajectory we’re on puts us in a spot where we can compete very favorably,” Parsons stated, adding that Tomahawk will be able to face all of its conference opponents in JV games, and JV2 opportunities may also be in the cards.
Other area schools impacted
The conference realignments will also impact other schools throughout the area.
Among the impending changes is the dissolution of the Marawood Conference. Abbotsford, Auburndale, Edgar and Pittsville are slated to move into the Central Wisconsin Conference-Small Division, joining Assumption, Iola-Scandinavia, Pacelli and Rosholt. Colby and Marathon will join Amherst, Loyal/Greenwood, Spencer/Columbus Catholic, Stratford, Weyauwega-Fremont and Wittenberg-Birnamwood in the Central Wisconsin Conference-Large Division.
Numerous area schools will compete in eight-player football next fall. Athens, Chequamegon Co-op, Hurley, Flambeau, Phillips, Prentice and Rib Lake will make up the Northwoods-East Conference, while the Northwoods West Conference will be comprised of Bruce, Mellen, Northwood/Solon Springs, Shell Lake, South Shore, Washburn, and Winter/Birchwood. A mandatory crossover for seventh conference game will be held, according to WIAA.
Full details available online
View the full details of the remanded and approved conference configurations for 11-player football at www.bit.ly/3K5WSjy and eight-player football at www.bit.ly/3TGd6CW.
Information on the conference realignment process is available at www.bit.ly/3TVSOFX.