By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD — The Valley Football Association has undergone a big change for the upcoming high school season.
The combination of Fox Valley Association and Wisconsin Valley Conference teams, including Marshfield High School, began play as the VFA in 2011 after Merrill left the WVC for football only to play in the Great Northern Conference due to its shrinking enrollment.
In 2016 Wausau East decided it had enough of the VFA as well after finishing winless the past two seasons. East will play an independent schedule this season.
After reaching the WIAA playoffs in 2011 and 2012, East went just 2-26 the past four seasons in the VFA and views it can no longer compete with the number of much larger schools in the conference. However, included in its 2017 schedule are games with Wisconsin Rapids and crosstown rival Wausau West.
The VFA, which consisted of two eight-team divisions the last six seasons, has now moved to three five-team divisions. Marshfield has been placed in the VFA West with its traditional Wisconsin Valley Conference rivals D.C. Everest, Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids, and Wausau West.
The North Division will be comprised of Appleton East, Appleton North, Appleton West, Kaukauna, and Kimberly, and the South will include Fond du Lac, Hortonville, Oshkosh West, Oshkosh North, and Neenah.
In addition to playing the four teams in its respective division, each school will play crossover conference games with teams from the other divisions based on enrollment size. This will be re-evaluated every two years after home-and-home series are completed.
This season Marshfield, as the smallest school in the West, will play the bottom two enrollment schools in the other divisions. The Tigers host Appleton West in Week 2 and Kaukauna in Week 4 from the North Division and will play at Hortonville in Week 3 and at Oshkosh North in Week 7 from the South Division.
Marshfield opens its season with a nonconference game against another VFA South school, playing at Oshkosh West on Aug. 18.
“We were behind the eight-ball with East leaving so late in the process,” Marshfield Athletic Director Nathan DeLany said. “We were originally going to play a nonconference game at the dome in Marquette, (Michigan,) but had to change things with the new schedule.
“This fall we will already be talking about the 2019 and 2020 schedules. With 15 teams, there are one to three teams (each week) that will have a bye to make it work, leaving you to find a team to match up with.”
DeLany said he is happy Marshfield will have the opportunity to play all four of the other natural Wisconsin Valley rivals again and to remain at eight conference games, allowing for teams to make the WIAA playoffs with .500 (4-4) records.
While there has been a backlash from a lot of Fox Valley Association fans to the new conference, DeLany said he thinks it has worked out for the best and that realignment was a necessity for the central Wisconsin teams, especially now with Wausau East leaving.
“Yes, there has been some resistance (from FVA teams), but rightfully so,” DeLany said. “They have a 10-team conference all basically within an hour of each other. But at the same time, we work very well together to try to find the best in the circumstance that we are in. If you look at how far teams (from the VFA) have made it, going deep in the playoffs on a year-to-year basis, it kind of speaks for itself on what a good conference it is.”
Marshfield Tigers 2017 football schedule
Fri., Aug. 18 *at Oshkosh West (Titan Stadium) 8:15 p.m.
Fri., Aug. 25 APPLETON WEST 7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 1 at Hortonville 7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 8 KAUKAUNA 7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 15 at Stevens Point (Goerke Field) 7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 22 WISCONSIN RAPIDS 7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 29 at Oshkosh North (Titan Stadium) 5 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 6 at D.C. Everest (Stiehm Stadium) 7 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 13 °WAUSAU WEST 7 p.m.
Home games in CAPS, at Beell Stadium, Marshfield Middle School