Willman reflects on end of MAL hoops

The final chapter of the Midland Athletic League has been divided into three parts.

Part One concluded after Week 10 of the 2013 football season.

Part Two ended Friday, with the conclusion of the boys basketball regular season.

Part Three, like most trilogy finales, likely is to be in pre-production for awhile (look at the weather and think about when baseball, softball and track can start, not to mention tennis).

Sometimes I find myself thinking of MAL schools as a bunch of kids on a scavenger hunt. Everyone starts at the same place, but eventually everyone splits off into groups.

Old Fort, New Riegel, St. Wendelin and St. Joe all grouped up and are heading to the Sandusky River League.

Carey, Mohawk and Seneca East are all going to the N10.

North Baltimore and Hopewell-Loudon are going to the Blanchard Valley Conference.

So, everybody has a buddy, or in this context, a natural rival. A familiar face as it starts anew.

Well, except for one school.

It’s the one school that’s going it alone, all by itself, in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference.

Calvert boys basketball coach Ted Willman, a Seneca East graduate, played ball when the league was fledgeling and has been involved with it as a coach for most of the years after that.

“There were good battles amongst teams,” Willman said after Calvert beat Lakota Friday night. “And sometimes, when it comes to league championships, it came down to that last Friday of the year.”

It happened last year, when Old Fort was state ranked and came into its game against New Riegel with a chance to win the league title outright. But if the Blue Jackets won, they’d share the title. Meanwhile, if St. Joe beat Carey, it’d also get a piece of the championship.

I covered the New Riegel-Old Fort game last year. Memories of what happened on the court have faded (New Riegel and St. Joe won their games, creating a three-way tie), but the atmosphere from the game was unforgettable.

When I arrived at 5:30 p.m. that evening – roughly two hours before tipoff – a parking spot was hard to find. When I finally did get in the building, there already was an intensity that you could feel.

And the JV game hadn’t even started. When it did, the crowd reacted to it like it was varsity.

It was crazy.

To Willman, it was what the MAL was about. And it’s ending.

“It’s sad to see, because if you think about it, the schools in that league were for the most part – besides (Calvert) – rural type of schools that had kids who came up all the way through the system,” he said. “You knew the coaches, you knew the players year in, year out. You knew them from one sport to another because a lot of them were three-sport athletes.

“Now it’s almost like we’re graduating. It’s like a senior in high school, it’s almost graduation,” Willman said. “Now teams are going their different ways.”

None, though, are going as far as Calvert.

Where this season some of Calvert’s league road trips to barely more than 15 minutes, next year, in the TAAC, it will go against three schools that are located in Toledo.

A little longer trip.

And with the TAAC being a big league that plays a home-in-home schedule in basketball, some familiar Calvert opponents will be left off the schedule.

“Some of those games, rivalry games you had for 27 years, no longer exist,” Willman said.

But Willman said Calvert – and everyone else – will embrace the future.

“It’s change,” he said. “Some people don’t like it, but you have to embrace it, because it’s not going to change.”

Another part of the story has ended.

A new chapter awaits.

Zach Baker is the sports editor of The Advertiser-Tribune.

Contact him at:

zbaker@advertiser-tribune.com or on Twitter @Zachthewriter