Conference looks similar to Mid-Lakes
When the new Ozarks Highlands Conference begins operations in the 2018-19 school year, Buffalo’s 458 students will represent the largest enrollment in the league. That could change if a larger school is allowed to join the conference.
In sharp contrast, in the current COC Small Division, Buffalo has the lowest enrollment when Springfield Catholic’s enrollment is reconfigured. Catholic has 395 students, but in Missouri sports competition, private-school enrollments are reconfigured upwards. In Catholic’s case, that means 534 students.
Tom Stokes, the Bison’s activities director (and girls basketball coach), and superintendent Tim Ryan have led the way in putting together a six-team conference. More schools may join the conference before it begins play, especially now that it is definite that there will be such a league.
In the current COC Small Division, Marshfield has the largest enrollment, with 940 students - more than double that of Buffalo. Bolivar is next with 804. It seems like only a couple of years ago that Reeds Spring’s enrollment was about the same as Buffalo’s, but it has skyrocketed to 621. Hollister’s enrollment was quite a bit smaller than Buffalo’s a few years ago, but now it is 491.
Right now the new conference looks more like the Mid-Lakes Conference, enrollment-wise, than the COC Small Division. Average enrollment for the Ozark Highland Conference is 339 - only 316 if you take away Buffalo. Average enrollment in the COC Small is 630 and the Mid-Lakes is 279.
Currently the Mid-Lakes Conference looks to be stronger than the new Ozarks Highlands Conference in football and probably both girls and boys basketball. This year, for example, El Dorado Springs’ football team lost to three MLC teams - Stockton, Skyline and Fair Grove.
However, power seems to run in cycles to a certain extent. Three years ago El Dorado Springs’ girls basketball team won the state championship in Class 3, and two years ago the Lady Bison made it to the final four in Class 3.
In football, Warsaw and El Do, both with strong football traditions, are down from where they have been in the past, but no doubt they will rise again. Butler, one of the teams in the new conference, is scheduled to play in the class 2 district finals Friday against Summit Christian Academy.
Of course, the MLC has plenty of bragging rights, too. Strafford girls won the Class 3 state championship last year, and Strafford boys placed second two years ago. Skyline girls have made it to the Final Four the past four years in Class 2, finishing second three of those years. Fair Grove boys and Skyline boys both made it to the quarterfinals last year in Class 3 and Class 2.
Enrollments are listed as follows:
Current COC Small Division
Reeds Spring 621
Springfield Catholic 395 (534)
Ozark Highlands Conference
El Dorado Springs 351
Cole Camp 280
Fair Grove 386
Ash Grove 234
Pleasant Hope 211