When all the leagues got realigned for the 2013-14 high school sports schedule, the premise was to cut down on travel time and all leagues were based on geographic location.
For the Gowanda Panthers, it meant losing the rivalry it had formed over the last couple years with Fredonia and Dunkirk, along with games against Southwestern and Falconer. And, conversely, the Panthers are now traveling more miles this year than they were before the realignment.
"It was the same teams we had been with for the nine years I have been coaching," Gowanda coach Tim Smith said. "For guys like (Dunkirk coach) Frank (Jagoda) and (Fredonia coach) Vince (Gullo), the rivalry went back to their playing careers. I am a newbie to this. But the rivalry has been around for quite a long time. To end all that with the intention to save a couple dollars, I don't know if anyone is saving money."
Images like this won’t be seen this regular season as the Fredonia Hillbillies and Gowanda Panthers now play in different divisions because of the realignment which occurred before the school year. Instead of playing Fredonia,?Dunkirk, Southwestern?and Falconer like last year, Gowanda now plays teams such as Salamanca, Portville and Randolph.
Making it harder to stomach for Smith is the fact he has a solid team and was excited for the chance to see where his team stacked up against teams such as Fredonia and Southwestern, who are both projected to have solid seasons. Instead, Gowanda is playing teams such as Salamanca, which it defeated 25-1 and 28-0 last week in a doubleheader.
"I thought we would have been in right in the mix with the old league," Smith said. "The competition would have been right near the top."
"Gowanda has a good team this year," Fredonia coach Vince Gullo added. "I would rather take two close losses during the regular season than play a weaker team and win two games by a lot. You learn more about your team when you play better competition. We certainly have had some great games with Gowanda. When you play them, you know it's going to be a close game."
The Panthers, who compete in the Class B playoffs, will also be at a disadvantage when it comes to playoff seedings as they will be playing more Class C schools, which will hurt their power points, according to Smith.
"We are on the outside looking in, trying to gain as many points," he said.
Smith was hard pressed to find a positive of the new league.
"In a way, it's nice to play other competition. I don't know if that's a positive," Smith said. "Myself, I am a fan of what we had going. It's probably selfish from a baseball standpoint. I just hope they would consider taking a look to making changes back to the way it was. After one year, did they really save money? Was it worth it for each school district? If not, rethink it and let's go back to the old way."