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CHS mulls invitation to join Cahokia Conference

  • Will the Yellow Jackets be playing in a new conference in the 2022-23 season?

    Will the Yellow Jackets be playing in a new conference in the 2022-23 season?
    Herald Tribune file photo/Jim Beers

By Jim Beers
Contributing writer
updated: 5/29/2020 9:46 AM

Officials with Chester Unit District 139 confirmed this week that the Chester High School Yellow Jackets have been invited to join the Cahokia Conference.

Neither Superintendent Brian Pasero, Principal Missy Meyer or Athletic Director Jeremy Blechle would comment beyond acknowledging the invitation has been made.

"We haven't had time to meet and discuss it," Blechle said. "We have been so busy dealing with the COVID-19 issues and finishing the end of the 2019-2020 school year that we haven't had time to process the invite."

Several of Chester's head coaches were also contacted with the invitation, but none of them wanted to comment for this story.

If Chester decides to leave the Black Diamond Conference it would join the Cahokia Conference in the 2022-23 school year. The Yellow Jackets have played in the Black Diamond West Division since 2010.

Cahokia conference officials have also invited the Sparta Bulldogs and Roxanna, East Alton-Wood River, and Okawville high schools to join.

So far, only Roxanna has accepted the offer but Sparta is seriously considering the move, according to Sparta Superintendent Gabe Schwemmer.

Schwemmer said the Sparta school board appears to be in favor of making the switch for more balanced competition.

The Cahokia Conference, founded in 1928, currently has 13 schools in Randolph, St. Clair, Monroe, Clinton and Marion counties: Breese Central, Carlyle, Columbia, Dupo, Freeburg, Lebanon, Marissa-Coulterville, New Athens, Red Bud, Salem, Steeleville, Valmeyer and Wesclin.

For all sports other than football the conference uses two divisions: The Mississippi Division for large schools and the Kaskaskia Division for small schools.

Joining the Cahokia Conference would cut back on the time and money the Yellow Jackets spend on travel, especially for football.

In the upcoming 2020 football season in the BDC, Chester will travel to Fairfield, Edwards County in Albion, Carmi-White County, Vienna and Sesser-Valier.

"This year we will have to travel about 1,200 miles for football alone," Blechle said. "That is quite expensive on the one hand and very draining for the players."

Several games are more than 100 miles away, like Edwards County in Albion, which is 132 miles in one direction. That's hard on players and coaches, and even fans.

The Cahokia proposal at this time would be to have two divisions in football, a Small School Division and a Large School Division.

If Sparta and Chester join the Cahokia Conference the proposal is for Carlyle, Chester, Dupo, Red Bud, Sparta and Trenton-Wesclin to play each other in conference play.

Each team would then have to schedule four more games of nonconference play. The farthest game in conference action would be Carlyle which is 68 miles, about an hour or so.

The Cahokia Conference would also have Chester playing schools of more similar size. This season Chester's enrollment was listed as 320 students. In all sports except track and field, cross country and golf, the Yellow Jackets would face Carlyle (319), Dupo (279), Red Bud (373), Sparta (342) and Trenton-Wesclin (386).

In track and field, golf and cross-country, Chester would additionally face Lebanon (144), Marissa-Coulterville (279), New Athens (164), Okawville (176), Steeleville (162) and Valmeyer (138).

In the 1960s Chester played in the Southwest Egyptian Conference. In 1993 the Yellow Jackets joined the newly formed River-to-River Conference and competed in the Mississippi Division. In 2010 the Jackets left the River-to-River Conference to play in the Black Diamond Conference West Division.