Centennial League Realignment Chaos

Jon Grove, Videographer

Picture a fall Friday night in the Little Apple in 2019. A cool, crisp evening with the soft hum of the Friday night lights powering on across Manhattan. Bishop Stadium is filled with red on one side of the stadium cheering on for the Indians, while the other side is filled with the fans traveling just 20 minutes wearing blue. Fans on both sides witnessed what was without a doubt one of the best rivalries in Kansas, seeing the excitement that always delivers every year. 

There are many other great rivalries across northeast Kansas, with the majority of them coming from the Centennial League, with games such as the TPS 501 rivalry with Topeka High vs. Topeka West, Hayden vs. Seaman and Washburn Rural vs. Shawnee Heights. Now picture these games in 2022. While the traditional Silver Trophy game is still going, Topeka West has ended their long lasting rivalry with Topeka High and now they’re facing Piper High School in Kansas City. Other games would probably settle like this. Shawnee Heights is now hosting Basehor-Linwood, Seaman is traveling up to face Leavenworth and Highland Park is facing Atchison of all schools. 

From 2004-05 to the 2017-18 athletic campaigns, all seven Topeka schools, Manhattan, Junction City and Emporia called the Centennial League home. However, with the way the latest classifications have been aiming towards (plus probably getting their teeth kicked in every year) schools such as Shawnee Heights and Topeka West are joining new conferences to pair well with some of the other schools that are in the same classification. 

Now you would think at this point that the Centennial League is done. Shut the doors, and start fresh. However, the way I see it, I believe the Centennial League will be more competitive as a 6 team league.

Looking back at football history specifically, schools such as Junction City, Topeka and Manhattan have been constantly dominating the Centennial League, with one of the three teams winning a league championship every year since 2008. Meanwhile, the last time one of the 5A teams exiting the league won a championship was back in 2007 when Blake Pierce was leading the Seaman Vikings. 

In the last nine years, Highland Park has one win in 2014, and they haven’t won a conference game since Oct. 28th, 2011,  beating Topeka West and Seaman that year. 

Speaking of Topeka West, they’re in the bottom of the pile every year as well. If you take out their wins almost every year they beat Highland Park, the last time they’ve won a conference game was all the way back to September 30th, 2005 defeating Emporia 21-14. 

While those schools have been (and probably will forever be) in the cellar, losing an uprising Seaman football team will take a hit for the league competitively. The vikings went 7-2 last season including their first win over Manhattan since 2012, and they look to be a program on the rise in the next few years. 

Regardless of schedule issues and losing some rivalries, the football in the Centennial League will be way more competitive and exciting and it won’t feel like a cakewalk most weeks, losing the bottom feeders to other conferences.

Looking at some of the other sports, losing Highland Park and Topeka West would probably hurt the quality of basketball a little bit, but schools such as Washburn Rural, Hayden and Manhattan, being relevant in years, will patch it up. Losing Seaman will definitely be a tough blow competitively for baseball. The Vikings have been very successful out on the diamond winning eight state championships and 14 league championships. 

Some strengths of the league may be lost in other sports, but on the bright side, with the schools that are staying in the Centennial League, the league should still have the capability of hosting many league championships for the future years to come.

While they upset traditions, the changes to the Centennial League will make it more competitive athletically over the next few years with some of these schools leaving for new places. 

We’ll still have our hated rivals from Junction City that we’ll continue to play against every year, as well as some other conference opponents that will be more exciting and competitive instead of seeing the old 69-point blowout wins over Highland Park and Topeka West. If the people who work for the league feel it’s best to add some more teams, I don’t have any problems adding schools such as Salina Central, Salina South or De Soto to help with the football scheduling problems, but maybe a new scheduling alliance could possibly work with conferences such as the WAC to ease out the pains of having to contact other coaches. 

Think about it: you already have Manhattan vs. Garden City for next year. Other games would include Junction City vs. Hays, Topeka vs. Liberal, Washburn Rural vs. Dodge City and Emporia vs. Great Bend. 

Oh well, that’s a discussion left for another time.