The Big Rivers is about get a little bigger.
Orion, Rockridge, Sherrard and Princeton will join the conference starting in the 2013-14 school year. Spring Valley Hall will join for football only next year and for all other sports in 2013-14. Peru St. Bede, which already was a football member, will join the league for all sports.
Orion, Rockridge, Sherrard, Hall and Princeton, which have been part of the West Central conference, will be in the new South division with Kewanee and Peru St. Bede. The North division will be Amboy, Erie, Prophetstown, Bureau Valley, Fulton, Morrison, Sterling Newman and Riverdale.
"With those three and the three more southern schools they bring stability, which is the big thing," said Morrison principal and committee chair Scott Vance. "The size, especially for Orion and Rockridge, is a very good fit. They bring good athletic traditions. They bring good fan bases. They are similar to the school already in the Three Rivers conference."
Ottawa Marquette will move to the Big Northern conference starting next season, with Hall taking its place.
The Big Rivers was looking to stabilize its football conference once Ottawa Marquette asked to leave. That also was one of the priorities for Orion, Rockridge and Sherrard, Chargers athletic director Blake VanHolten said.
"I think the big thing is travel," VanHolten said. "It's a little closer to a lot of area teams we play in other sports as well."
The divisions were set up to maintain traditional rivalries, Morrison athletic director Gus Linke said.
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"They are very competitive in everything," Linke said. "They have a history and strong tradition. We've played them in other sports other than football and they're just strong programs. This will make us one of the strongest 2A conferences in the state. It already is, and the addition of those teams will make it even better."
The Big Rivers has produced that past three Class 2A football state champions in Morrison (2009, 2011) and Newman (2010). Orion coach Chip Filler said his team has enjoyed its time in the West Central and was looking forward to the upcoming challenges.
"Any time you can get in a league where you're playing a Morrison and Newman, the 2A champions the last three years, you have your work cut out for you," Filler said. "There's a rich football tradition there with Fulton and Erie/Prophetstown and Riverdale's really good. We're anxious and we're excited for that chance."