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Two more schools are leaving L&C Conference

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LAUREL — The decision by Laurel-Concord-Coleridge and two other area schools to leave the Lewis and Clark Conference is causing a bit of a domino affect.

LCC, Hartington-Newcastle and Plainview all voted last month to leave the Lewis and Clark in favor of a new eight-team league.

The new as-yet-unnamed conference, which will begin in the 202526 school year, will also include four Niobrara Valley Conference schools — Neligh-Oakdale, West Holt, Elkhorn Valley and Summerland — along with former independent, Lutheran High Northeast, to form.

The conference shift prompted some other schools to rethink how they fit in with the Lewis and Clark, which currently includes 17 schools ranging in size from Class C1 all the way down to Class D2.

Two of the bigger schools in the Lewis and Clark, Ponca and Wakefield, decided to seriously consider what was best for their respective schools.

Ponca was accepted to the Mid-State Conference by a vote of league members and Wakefield voted to accept an invitation to join the East Husker Conference.

“We’re excited for our students for sure,” said Wakefield Superintendent Matt Farup. “The East Husker will give us opportunities, and for us, it’s kind of going back home.”

Wakefield was one of the founding members of the East Husker back in the 1940s, according to Farup, and left there to join the Lewis and Clark in the 1970s.

Ponca also has a long alliance with the Lewis and Clark.

“We have mixed feelings here at Ponca,” longtime athletic director and coach Bob Hayes said. “I’ve played and coached in the Lewis and Clark for longer than I care to admit, but there are a lot of relationships and memories from that conference.”

In the same sentence, Hayes realizes the opportunity.

“We’re very excited to get into the Mid-State,” he said. “The schools are more our size and the talent in all aspects of extracurricular activities is really good; the fine arts, speech, drama and music is really, really good. The athletics, we all know about.

“There are no ill feelings towards the Lewis and Clark or any of its members,” he said. “We’ll miss a lot of people we have developed relationships with over the years; this was just too good of an opportunity to pass up for our kids and the school.”

The Ponca school board recently accepted an invitation to compete in the Mid-State beginning in the 2024-25 academic year.

“Ponca will be a great fit in all areas of fine arts, academics and athletics,” Cedar Catholic athletic director and head football coach Chad Cattau said. “They also provide a 10th team in the conference, which will help balance conference tournaments and other activities.”

Existing members of the Mid-State are excited to have Ponca join as well.

“They will fit into our conference,” Norfolk Catholic athletic director and head football coach Jeff Bellar said. “We’ve been a ninemember conference for a while and 10 is just a better number. I really think this will be better for us all.”

Cattau agreed. “Their school size fits well with all of our schools both right now and in the long term,” Cattau said. “They already play a lot of our schools in various sports, so that will be a pretty easy transition. Their facilities are also very good so it gives the conference another school to host events at a top-notch facility.”