Friday, September 26, 2008

As MEGA falls, Downriver League and Northwest Suburban League Rises

The Northwest Suburban League looks like a strong candidate to come back to fruition in 2009-2010. Whether or not the schools in negotiation keep the retro moniker remains to be seen, but there's a historic union being forged and a couple rivalries to be saved by these discussions.

I've learned that Dearborn high schools Fordson and Edsel Ford would join Dearborn Heights' Annapolis, Crestwood and Robichaud along with Garden City, Redford Union and Redford Thurston in a league for the 2009-10 year. That Dearborn Heights and Dearborn could become neighbors in the same small, cozy league is quite a concept given the history of each city squabbling with the other. It's not the same as being in the MEGA, which by comparison was like 30 schools parking their respective cars in a massive shopping mall parking lot.

The high school football success this season for the neighboring public schools of Dearborn and Dearborn Heights is something not seen since the early 1990s when Tyrone Wheatley ran with All-State success for state champion Dearborn Heights Robichaud (1990) and Dearborn Fordson was building towards the 1993 Class AA championship under Jeff Stergalas, a product of the Riverview football tree of Don Lessner. Five of the six schools are enjoying some of their best football success in recent memory this year, with Edsel Ford (3-1) enjoying a significant revival and Dearborn High (3-1) and Fordson's Tractors (4-0) on a collision course for one another next week. In Dearborn Heights, Annapolis is having one of its best seasons in 25 seasons at 4-0 and Robichaud is holding their own at a very respectable 3-1. The possibility that all three Dearborn schools could qualify of the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) tournament along with two of the three Dearborn Heights teams is legitimate.

Now the two neighboring districts could be housed in the same, quaint league, an idea that was eased into serious discussion when the MEGA began to crumble last year and the Downriver League was formed. The original Northwest Suburban League folded in 1992-93 when the MEGA was formed under auspicious conditions. Those blessings quickly deteriorated into a quagmire of legal wrangling and overbearing travel requirements.

The obvious question is where does this leave Dearborn High School? In the past 18 months it was made clear to all three Dearborn schools from Dearborn Superintendent Brian Whiston that no one school could leave the other two schools behind with complete autonomy. With permission of Superintendent Whiston, Dearborn High School would be allowed to pursue membership in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association (KLAA) and form a division with Livonia's Stevenson, Franklin and Churchill, Wayne Memorial and Westland John Glenn. The KLAA is in need of one more school because Howell's Parker High School never opened due to financial constraints and enrollment issues.

There's a significant caveat to this possible new league alignment: Dearborn and Fordson would continue to play an annual football rivalry game, something that was promised by Whiston as a condition to Dearborn possibly joining the KLAA. In another twist, Ypsilanti High School joining the Southeastern Conference (SEC) would open the necessary date for Monroe High School to renew their long-standing rivalry with Fordson in 2010. The two rivals won't play next season because Monroe, which already agreed to accept membership for 2009-10 in the SEC, has no date to offer Fordson with the current alignment in the SEC.

That's good news for area football fans. One casualty of the MEGA's demise is the loss of Allen Park-Fordson game, one of the more compelling contests from the past handful of seasons. That the long history of the Monroe-Fordson game and the heated Pioneer-Tractor game could be salvaged keeps a lot of tradition going forward.

This news leaves the remaining schools from the ill-advised MEGA power conference to scramble to forge a union by the end of this year in this final, lame-duck season. The most likely scenario? A revival of the old Southeastern Athletic Conference (SAC) with Belleville, Highland Park, Romulus, Inkster, River Rouge, Ecorse and Willow Run.

~T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Football Rivalries, available now from, Barnes & Noble and Borders Books

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